Posted in Book Reviews, General Books, Non Fiction

Hunger by Roxane Gay – BOOK REVIEW

Goodreads: Hunger
Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir, Feminism
Rating: ★★★★★

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At the start of every year, I always say to myself that this is going to be the year you read more Non-Fiction. I think I’ve been saying this for the past three years now and the most I manage to read is still about 1-2 NF books. It’s not that I don’t like NF, I just have a wildly wandering mind, and the writing needs to flow like fiction in order for it to keep my attention. I honestly have nothing against NF and I honestly wish that it wasn’t so difficult for me to focus, but my mind is definitely less keen on “facts and figures” and more on using my imagination. Hunger was my first NF for 2019 and I swear, if all NF could be this immersive, I would likely never stop reading it!

Synopsis (Goodreads)

From the bestselling author of Bad Feminist: a searingly honest memoir of food, weight, self-image, and learning how to feed your hunger while taking care of yourself. In her phenomenally popular essays and long-running Tumblr blog, Roxane Gay has written with intimacy and sensitivity about food and body, using her own emotional and psychological struggles as a means of exploring our shared anxieties over pleasure, consumption, appearance, and health. As a woman who describes her own body as “wildly undisciplined,” Roxane understands the tension between desire and denial, between self-comfort and self-care. In Hunger, she explores her own past—including the devastating act of violence that acted as a turning point in her young life—and brings readers along on her journey to understand and ultimately save herself. With the bracing candor, vulnerability, and power that have made her one of the most admired writers of her generation, Roxane explores what it means to learn to take care of yourself: how to feed your hungers for delicious and satisfying food, a smaller and safer body, and a body that can love and be loved—in a time when the bigger you are, the smaller your world 

Review

“This is a memoir of (my) body because, more often than not, stories of bodies like mine are ignored or dismissed or derided. They think they know the why of my body. They do not.”

Since I finished reading this, there hasn’t been a day that goes by when it doesn’t pop up in my mind–whether it’s an errant thought about it or something more poignant that Roxane Gay wrote that’s currently being reflected in my life. I don’t know how to put into words how much I loved this book. It felt as if Gay reached into my head and plucked out one thought after another, put all those thoughts on paper and turned it into this incredibly painful but beautifully bold memoir. I don’t know if any review that I write for this book will do it justice, but I will do my best to share my thoughts on it.

Trigger/Content Warning: Sexual Assault, Eating Disorders, Abuse

In Hunger, Roxane Gay writes and shares a painfully raw memoir of her body. She recounts a sexual assault that happened when she was a child, and how she ultimately turned to food as a way to cope by building this barrier between herself and the world. This has resulted in the “wildly undisciplined” and “unruly” body that she lives in today. With brutal honesty, she shares her experiences with body image and her life as a “super morbidly obese” woman living in a world that values small bodies. She talks about how the bigger you are, the more your body becomes a “commodity” that everyone owns and can freely comment and give opinions on. She is unapologetic about her intimate and turbulent relationship with food and how it has become a comfort and a crutch.

“In yet another commercial, Oprah somberly says, “Inside every overweight woman is a woman she knows she can be.” This is a popular notion, the idea that the fat among us are carrying a thin woman inside. Each time I see this particular commercial, I think, I ate that thin woman and she was delicious but unsatisfying. And then I think about how fucked up it is to promote this idea that our truest selves are thin women hiding in our fat bodies like imposters, usurpers, illegitimates.”

Although I know my own situation is in many ways not comparable to Gay’s, her struggles with body image and hunger (not just for food), is something I relate to so very much. I think that her experience with body image and societal expectations is something that so many women and men can relate to. While I know I’m sure everyone’s experiences varies to different degrees, I think that many of us have felt the pressure and the difficulties of living up to it. What I appreciate the most about this memoir is how raw and honest Gay is about her experiences and thoughts. She really doesn’t censor anything, and while this sometimes makes what she has to say uncomfortable to read/hear, it’s also very much the truth. She doesn’t share anything with an ulterior motive, she’s not trying to squeeze any particular emotion from you and she’s not asking for your sympathy, she’s simply telling her story as it is. But she does make you think about things that you may take for granted every day — the things that you don’t think twice about, but for someone who lives in a bigger body doesn’t stop thinking about.

“To be clear, the fat acceptance movement is important, affirming, and profoundly necessary, but I also believe that part of fat acceptance is accepting that some of us struggle with body image and haven’t reached a place of peace and unconditional self-acceptance.”

If there’s anything to critique is that at a certain point the chapters got a little repetitive. I would read certain sections or chapters and realize that I had just read this, although it was worded slightly differently, in the previous chapter(s). I wondered if that was done intentionally, but I read that she essentially copy/pasted some of her Tumblr posts to formulate this book, so perhaps it was just overlooked in editing. There were also chapters in the latter half of the book that I felt were so full of anger and blame (towards society and others) and I didn’t agree with them, as they seemed a bit hypocritical. I saw them as the author releasing pent up rage and resentment, more than adding anything constructive to her narration. But again, this is her memoir and who am I to judge what she has to say about her life? That said, I didn’t find that these points detracted from my enjoyment of the book, and neither did it take any power away from her story.

I bought the paperback of Hunger while in transit at the airport, but started reading it as an Audiobook that I purchased on a whim (and I’m so glad that I did!). Following along with the audio, listening to Roxane Gay narrate her story, made me feel even more intimately connected with her, compared to if I had just read it. Listening to her speak is really like listening to a friend! Her writing is personable and moving, and she tells her story in such a straightforward, matter-of-fact way that makes it all the more powerful, in my opinion. Also, I don’t think I’ve ever made as many notes for quotes in any other book, as I did with this one. If you look at my copy, I’ve marked sticky notes on perhaps 85% of the pages; it’s honestly like a transcript of my mind!

This is a solid five star read that has undoubtedly worked its way onto my list of all-time-favorite books; I certainly won’t be forgetting it any time soon. Of course, I highly recommend this one (if it isn’t obvious yet)!

Have you read Hunger or another book by Roxane Gay? Do you plan to or is it just not for you? Let me know in the comments below and let’s chat books!

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Posted in Book Reviews, Crime-Thriller-Mystery, General Books, Romance

Verity by Colleen Hoover – BOOK REVIEW

Goodreads: Verity
Genre: Thriller/Mystery, Suspense, Romance
Rating: ★★★★ ½  (out of 5)

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Synopsis (Goodreads)

Lowen Ashleigh is a struggling writer on the brink of financial ruin when she accepts the job offer of a lifetime. Jeremy Crawford, husband of bestselling author Verity Crawford, has hired Lowen to complete the remaining books in a successful series his injured wife is unable to finish. Lowen arrives at the Crawford home, ready to sort through years of Verity’s notes and outlines, hoping to find enough material to get her started. What Lowen doesn’t expect to uncover in the chaotic office is an unfinished autobiography Verity never intended for anyone to read. Page after page of bone-chilling admissions, including Verity’s recollection of what really happened the day her daughter died. Lowen decides to keep the manuscript hidden from Jeremy, knowing its contents would devastate the already grieving father. But as Lowen’s feelings for Jeremy begin to intensify, she recognizes all the ways she could benefit if he were to read his wife’s words. After all, no matter how devoted Jeremy is to his injured wife, a truth this horrifying would make it impossible for him to continue to love her.

Review

It has been a hot minute since I read anything by Colleen Hoover–I think the last time I read a book by her was in 2016. There wasn’t any particular reason for it, I think I just overloaded on romance novels and decided to read more fantasy. That said, this book got caught on my radar in December 2018 and it was already getting some serious hype on bookstagram. I read the blurb and it definitely caught my interest, but I picked it up when I saw it randomly on Kindle Unlimited (UK). I was in a serious reading slump for all February, but this book took me right out of that!

“What you read will taste so bad at times, you’ll want to spit it out, but you’ll swallow these words and they will become part of you, part of your gut, and you will hurt because of them.”

To say that Verity is a little different from CoHo’s other novels would be a serious understatement. That would a little like comparing puppies and rainbows to axe wielding maniacs–only slightly different 😜 Although I guess you can classify this as a romance, it has a fairly dark plot that CoHo has filled with many twists and turns that leave you gaping at the end. At least, that’s what it did to me. Just when I thought there surely couldn’t be another plot twist, CoHo certainly proved me wrong with the final pages of the novel.

Right from the start, Verity has a very somber and a slow creeping sinister feeling to it. I was certainly put on edge and the discomfort only grew incrementally when Lowen moved into the Crawford’s home. My mind was often leaping to one conclusion after another as the the story progressed. I wasn’t very taken with any of the characters in this novel — I didn’t particularly like Lowen, I couldn’t quite place whether Jeremy was an innocent party or not, and I developed a fiery hatred for Verity almost from the moment her unfinished autobiography is introduced. While this usually deters me from reading a book, I found myself unable and unwilling to put it down until I knew what happened–it was really that good! It was actually quite refreshing to read parts of the story from the ‘villain’s’ perspective, even from as dark and twisted a mind as Verity’s was.

I honestly don’t think I can say anymore about this story without giving key plot points away. I will just say that it definitely had me gripping my bedsheets as I read in bed at night. There were definitely some parts that gave me serious goosebumps and made me want to squeal in fright– I’m thinking about one particular moment involving a patio scene during the day time! Overall, I thought this was a pretty screwed up suspense/thriller, obviously in the very best way! If you like being creeped out, I highly recommend it!

Have you read Verity yet or are you planning to? Did it successfully creep you out or was it just ‘meh’ for you?
Let me know in the comments and let’s chat books!

Posted in Book Reviews, Contemporary, Crime-Thriller-Mystery, General Books

The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld – BOOK REVIEW

Goodreads: The Child Finder (Naomi Cottle #1)
Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Suspense
Rating: ★★★★☆

Synopsis (Goodreads)

Three years ago, Madison Culver disappeared when her family was choosing a Christmas tree in Oregon’s Skookum National Forest. She would be eight years old now—if she has survived. Desperate to find their beloved daughter, certain someone took her, the Culvers turn to Naomi, a private investigator with an uncanny talent for locating the lost and missing. Known to the police and a select group of parents as The Child Finder, Naomi is their last hope. Naomi’s methodical search takes her deep into the icy, mysterious forest in the Pacific Northwest, and into her own fragmented past. She understands children like Madison because once upon a time, she was a lost girl too.  As Naomi relentlessly pursues and slowly uncovers the truth behind Madison’s disappearance, shards of a dark dream pierce the defenses that have protected her, reminding her of a terrible loss she feels but cannot remember. If she finds Madison, will Naomi ultimately unlock the secrets of her own life? 

Review

“This is something I know: no matter how far you have run, no matter how long you have been lost, it is never too late to be found.”

It’s been a few days since I’ve finished this book and for some reason I’m still not really sure what to say about it; but I know I did really enjoy it. This wasn’t a fast paced thriller but more of a slow burn mystery that explores the dark depths of humanity and the effects of abuse on children/adults.

Despite the dark and heavy tones and topic of this novel, Rene Denfeld writes in such a beautifully descriptive way that it oftentimes felt like I was reading a fairytale. The author incorporates the surrounding nature and environment of the Pacific Northwest into her story very well, and I think it really added to the genuine feeling of loneliness, and desperation of the characters, town and situation. There was a certain magical quality to the writing that makes it feel like you’re reading through a dream. I thought this was fitting because the story covers the ways in which a person, specifically a child, can deal with traumatic events that happen. One of the coping mechanisms that’s cited is that they’ll often create a magical (fairytale) world that essentially protects them from the reality of their situation. This novel really dives into the psychology of abuse and delivers a powerful story that’s full of emotion. Through many parts of the book I felt such a profound sadness and teared up at various emotionally touching scenes.

“She said we are all part of a secret club. Someday, she said, we will take over the earth. It will be people like us that save the world, she said: those who have walked the side of sorrow and seen the dawn.”

Rene Denfeld also surprised me with the way she chose to narrate this story. I was expecting to only explore one character’s perspective, but Denfeld introduces a very unique perspective that made the story all the more emotionally gut-punching. I don’t want to give more away by going into it, but I definitely think it made it more hard-hitting and impactful. I really enjoyed Naomi’s character. She’s strong, but at the same time, she is delicate and often has a childlike naivety to her interactions with certain people. It’s a clear example of how trauma and abuse in childhood can impact a person well into adulthood.

“Everyone needs faith: faith that even though the world is full of evil, a suitor will come and kiss us awake; faith that the girl will escape the tower, the big bad wolf will die, and even those poisoned by malevolence can be reborn, as innocent as purity itself.”

That said, while I enjoyed the many perspectives, I also wondered if it was necessary for certain characters because I felt their narratives did not really add anything substantial to the story — if these narratives weren’t included, I honestly don’t think it wouldn’t have made a big impact in the plot. There were times that I also found parts of the writing too abstract and a little too existential for my tastes. This was especially so for sections of Naomi’s narration, when she’s reflecting on her present and past, and I didn’t feel that it added anything of significance to the story. It just left me feeling slightly confused — was I missing something important in not understanding how to read between these lines? I didn’t think so, in the end!

Overall though, I really enjoyed this one. There will be a second book in the Naomi Cottle series coming out in October 2019, and I can’t wait to read it! 😊 I am also excited to read the author’s first book The Enchanted, which I’ve heard is a beautifully written and enchanting (ha) story, although ti does have a lot more magical realism in it.

Have you read anything by Rene Denfeld? Do you plan to?
Let me know in the comments — let’s chat books!

Posted in Book Reviews, General Books, Monthly Wrap-Up

My February Wrap-Up!

I know, I’m a little late to the party, but I thought I’d share my February wrap-up anyway. February was a pretty tough month for me and my mental health state was the worst it has been in a while. I know when it’s really bad because not only does it affect my daily life more than usual, but I also struggled to read anything. I was trying out 3-4 different books each week, trying to find a story that would pull me in but towards the end of the month, that rarely happened. Anyway, without further ado, these are the books that I got through last month (with mini-reviews for each)!

In total, I read 4 books: 3 Physical books & 1 Audiobook

My February Wrap-Up!

*I just realized that the book reviews that I’ve posted on my blog so far cover the books that I’ve read in February! I’ll link the mini-reviews to the full-length reviews, in case any of you are interested to know more.

Matchmaking for Beginners by Maddie Dawson
Goodreads | Audible Audiobook | Book Depository | Kindle (UK)
Genre: Romance, Comedy, Chick Lit, Contemporary
Rating: ★★★★☆

This was my first ever audiobook and I was not disappointed. This was a seriously charming book! The characters are endearingly quirky and the situations they find themselves in are emotional and heartfelt, but not without comedy injected here and there to lighten the mood up a little bit. It’s also endlessly quotable! It was a little corny at times, what with all the feel-good love stuff, but I finished this one feeling happy and comforted, and sometimes there’s honestly nothing more you need from a book 😉 I thought the narrators did a wonderful job in reading the story and capturing all the heartbreak and hilarity in it.

History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera
Goodreads | Book Depository | Kindle (UK)
Genre: Young Adult, LGBTQ+, Contemporary
Rating: ★★★★★

This book had my breaking out in crying jags until the very end! This was such a heartbreaking and touching story that explores friendship, love, heartbreak, loss, and grief between four boys. Silvera has written a book that’s filled with such deep sadness and longing, but with enough humorous and lighthearted moments between the characters that it doesn’t bog you down. What I enjoyed most about it was that it’s relatable AF; everyone has had a first love and a heartbreak that completely shatters you. First love is definitely a fragile thing 💔

Vox by Christina Dalcher
Goodreads | Book Depository | Kindle (UK)
Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopia, Feminist Fiction
Rating: ★★★☆☆ (rounded up)

Honestly, this one was a bit of a let down. When I heard it was similar to The Handmaid’s Tale, I knew I had to read it because that’s one of my all-time favorite novels and I’m always looking to read more science fiction/dystopia! However, while I thought this really had the potential to be great, I felt that the characters were underdeveloped, there was a lot of ‘info dumping’ from the 50% mark onwards, and the final showdown was not only incredibly rushed but unsatisfying too. All the problems were resolved too smoothly and the conflict between the characters were also wiped away so easily. I wanted more, but this didn’t deliver for me. I’d recommend it for those who are curious about sci-fi. IMHO, this is more commercial than it is serious science fiction.

My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
Goodreads | Book Depository | Kindle (UK)
Genre: Romance, Comedy, Contemporary
Rating: ★★★☆☆

I was a little bit torn with this read. It was a little hyped on bookstagram so I was really excited to dive in — I mean, if we’re just looking at covers and book titles, this one is a tick on both fronts! While the concept of the story was intriguing and Braithwaite did an amazing job exploring a very messed up relationship between sisters, the characters were so incredibly unlikeable (imo) that it made it difficult for me to really enjoy this book… I was surprised with the ending because Braithwaite chose the seemingly predictable conclusion that I wasn’t hoping for, but there was a question left hanging in the last sentence, which I guess left part of the conclusion open to interpretation? Best things about this one was the realness of the sisterly relationship/bond and the satire.

Ongoing February Reads…

I also started reading The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt in February and it’s such a tome of a book, that I haven’t finished it yet… I’m not disliking the character driven plot, but the reason I’m still reading it as I write this is because once I put it down, I don’t feel particularly compelled to pick it up again. I don’t know what it is — Is it the size? Is it my mood? I’m not sure. This is my first Tartt book and while I was warned that it moves at a fairly slow pace, I wasn’t expecting it to be this slow… But since February was such a tough one for me, I’m hoping with my fresh-kick in March, I’ll be able to finish it by the end of the month! 🤞🏽

Another book I started at the end of the month was Beartown by Fredrik Backman. This one is so well-loved and incredibly hyped on bookstagram, so I was ready for it to hit me with all the feels at the start. But while I found it interesting and I was curious to find out what happened, I also ended up putting it down at some point and not picking it back up again. I’m definitely blaming my fickle February mood for not continuing with it right now and it’s another read that I hope to finish in March — I am not giving up on it! 🤓

Hope you’re having a lovely weekend!
How are your March reads coming along? Let’s talk books 🙂

Posted in Book Reviews, Crime-Thriller-Mystery, General Books

Wolfhunter River by Rachel Caine – BOOK REVIEW

Goodreads: Wolfhunter River (Stillhouse Lake #3)
Publish date: 23 April 2019
Genre: Thriller, Mystery
Rating: ★★★★

Thanks to Netgalley, the author and publisher Thomas & Mercer for providing me a free e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis

What would you do if you found out that your husband and the father of your children was a serial killer who tortured and brutally murdered countless women under the same roof you lived in? Would it be impossible to believe that you had absolutely no clue that all of this was taking place? What if you were implicated as a partner to his crimes? How far would you go to keep your life together and your children safe from the thousands of people who don’t believe in your innocence? That is the reality Gwen Proctor and her two kids have to live with. After escaping his clutches and saving her family, Gwen tries to create a life of normality for her children’s sake. However, try as she might, she is unable to escape the sick internet “vigilantes” that want nothing more than to see revenge for her ex’s crimes. Then one day, she receives a call from a frightened woman asking for help, which leads Gwen and her family to a remote forest town near Wolfhunter River, that turns out to be rotten to its core. As enemies come crawling out of the darkness from all sides, the fight for their safety and their lives begins once more.

Review

This is the third book in the Stillhouse Lake series by Rachel Caine. Just as with the first two books, I simply could not put this down and stayed up late to finish it in the wee hours of the morning. Was the creep factor high? Definitely. But not so high that I couldn’t fall asleep after reading it.

This fast paced read delivers endless high intensity scenes one after another. Caine does an awfully good job at highlighting the depravity of human beings and often times it’s a little distressing to read about the extent of cruelty we so easily inflict upon one another–especially when we believe we are acting with justice. The author goes to prove the dangers of the “pack mentality” and how easy it is for strangers, and even those who were your friends, to turn with the tide against you. In protesting against someone’s innocence, others can come to think and act just as cruelly as the murderers themselves—“an eye for an eye”, and all that.

While reading I couldn’t help but shout in anger and grind my teeth in frustration at the situations Gwen and her family are placed in. My heart ached as they continually tried to find peace in a world that wishes them nothing but ill, and even death. One of my favorite things about this series is the strength of Gwen’s character. She’s smart, fierce, and although incredibly paranoid, she proves time and again just how far she’ll go to protect her family and the people she loves. She’s truly a badass that rises up time and again, when it would be simple to take the easy way out. Her children are also strong resilient characters as a result of having to deal with a life that has been so cruel to them.

The plot of Wolfhunter River was less straightforward than the first two books, with various storylines being introduced and the connection between them only revealed in the last 20% of the book. I actually felt that it was just a little bit too much to be plausible, but it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the story. You definitely have to pay more attention to keep it all straight though! It was gratifying to have some of my theories be correct—and I had many theories as I read! Rachel Caine does a great job intertwining the various storylines into jaw-dropping reveals and delivering a satisfying final showdown.

I highly recommend this if you’re looking for a good, quick, and thrilling read! Although I definitely think reading the first two books would be better than jumping straight into this one, you can still following along, as the author incorporates the backstory quite well; but you’d be missing out on a lot, and where’s the fun in that?

Have you read the Stillhouse Lake series?
Be sure to keep an eye out for when this book is published in April!

Posted in Book Reviews, Dystopia, Science Fiction

Vox by Christina Dalcher – BOOK REVIEW

Goodreads: Vox
Genres: Science Fiction, Dystopia
Rating: ★★½ – ★★★

Synopsis

Vox takes place in an America where the female population is given an allotted 100 words per day. The consequences for disobeying or going over the limit are not pretty. Worse still, if you’re LGBTQ+, an adulterer, or just generally disobey, you get sent to camps in the countryside where your daily allotted word count is 0. On the day women all over America have the counters fixed on their wrists, they not only lose their voices, they lose their jobs, and are no longer allowed to read or write. In “Pure Girl Schools” they are still taught numbers, but really, you don’t need to know anything else to run a household; because that is what the religious fanatics who call themselves the “Pure Movement” aim to do. They want to “bring society to rights” by putting women back where they belong—as homemakers and caretakers, the loving presence in the home with the children, silent . Dr. Jean McLellan, a cognitive linguist, whose life work focused on finding an antidote for those who suffered damage to the area of the brain that causes speech impairment, is one of these women. That is until one day she is the one being sought for help by the government and the Pure leader. In accepting to help, Jean regains freedom for herself and her daughter, and reunites with her science team, although she knows that once the job is finished, there’s no question she’ll go back to being voiceless. Through scandals, an underground resistance, and the revelation of life-altering government secrets, Jean will have to decide just what she is willing do to stay free.

Just so you know, according to Google, women speak up to 20,000 words per day compared to men’s 7,000 words. 

Review

When I learned about this book I knew I had to read it. Having heard that Vox is similar to The Handmaid’s Tale, which is one of my all-time favorites, I was eager and ready to love it based on the premise alone. Yet, while I did enjoy it, I didn’t love it. I felt this book had the potential to be great, but it left too many aspects of the plot unexplored and the characters sorely underdeveloped. I wanted more depth but didn’t get it and when we reach the end, I felt a little miffed that it ended so abruptly and without explanation.

”Evil triumphs when good men do nothing. That’s what they say, right?”

This book started out strong and hooked me in from the first chapter. I felt my anger and disbelief stir to life inside me at the injustices being done against women. Perhaps the most terrifying thing about this book was that, although it’s a horrifying, unfathomable dystopia, there were elements that were seemingly cut out from our current socio-political-religious climate that made the story all the more easy to imagine happening. All you have to do is take a look at some of the people who are sitting in positions of power to see that the “Pure Movement” beliefs are already echoed, although thankfully to a much lesser degree.

As I read on, I became steadily more enraged at the expansive role of religion in law and politics, and wonderment at the entitlement of people to decide that half the population should be stripped of their basic human rights just because they are females. However, aside from these larger emotions, the writing didn’t evoke much else from me. Even in the moments that should have been fraught with them, such as when Jean worries for the safety of her children, I don’t feel any particular stirring of emotions. My biggest case in point would be the big revelation between Jean and Patrick, which was flat and unbelievable.

The relationships were too easy and seemed to lack any heart. The characters seemed to be “bare boned” without any meat to prop them up. I think the only character who experiences any growth is Patrick, but even that is only minor and happens in the last few chapters of the book. Most of the characters were also fairly unlikeable and the more I think about it, the more I realize that I didn’t like Jean very much. She’s far from the worst character, but I found her so mired in confusion and guilt that she became extremely weak willed. What I find ironic is that despite ‘hating’ her husband (for being weak) and her son (for being a sheep), she basically leant on the men in her life to give her strength and to ‘save the day’.

I thought the plot also lacked depth. There were many elements that, if explored further, had the potential to make this a great book, but because it stayed on a very shallow/surface level, it just didn’t get there. The pace also yo-yo’ed throughout the novel, bouncing from an overload of scientific information, followed by quick thoughts and side events. The latter half of the novel was so jam packed with facts, moved so quickly from one event to the next, and was basically all over the place, that I didn’t have time to savor the build up to the end; which was what disappointed me most.

Just like the relationships, the ending came so easily and the story wrapped up so neatly that it was in no way believable; it honestly made the climax feel very anti-climactic. There are allusions to events that happen once the showdown is over, but the details are so vague, it gave me the impression that the ending wasn’t very well thought out and the author wanted to end the story as quickly as possible.

So while I enjoyed reading this for the most part, I am disappointed with it overall. It was good, but it could have been much better. I would recommend this to readers who don’t normally choose to read science fiction or dystopian stories, as it’s an easy and commercial introduction to the genre. I can definitely see this being made into a popular movie in the future!

Have you read Vox? If yes, what did you think of it?
Do you feel the same way I do about it?

Posted in Book Reviews, Contemporary, Crime-Thriller-Mystery

My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite – BOOK REVIEW

Goodreads: My Sister, The Serial Killer
Genre: Crime-Thriller-Mystery, Africa, Contemporary Fiction
Rating: ★★★½ (out of 5)

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Synopsis

One evening, Korede gets a call from her younger sister Ayoola asking for her help. It’s a call she hoped she’d never receive again but, you know, life. Ayoola has killed another man and so Korede takes her cleaning supplies and goes to help her sister cover up a crime she claims was an act of self-defense. Does Korede believe her sister—even after three men have now died by Ayoola’s hand—or does she do something about it? Korede loves Ayoola, but she also wonders how her sister ended up this way–does she have more of their abusive father’s blood running through her veins, compared to Korede? Although she is fraught with worry about being found out, Korede is convinced the police don’t need to be involved; that is, until the day Ayoola attracts the attention of the man Korede loves and she finds herself torn between obligation to her sister, and a moral duty to not only protect the man she loves, but all the menfolk of Nigeria.

Review

“Have you heard this one before? Two girls walk into a room. The room is in a flat. The flat is on the third floor. In the room is the dead body of an adult male. How do they get the body to the ground floor without being seen?”

I want to start by saying that I love the title and cover of this book. Not only is the cover eye-catching, but the title definitely piqued my interest and these elements alone were enough to convince me to read it! I had also seen it a few times on bookstagram this year, so there was additional interest generated from positive reviews, and I was definitely ready to pick it up.

Oyinkan Braithwaite writes a compelling novel that explores the complicated relationship between sisters, the moral dilemmas that come from being complicit in a crime and male impropriety that spans across cultures. The big question she was posed though was: Just how far would you go to protect the one(s) you love?

This was a fast and easy read filled with lots of dark humor, which left me laughing out loud just as often as I’d mumble with disappointment at Korede’s enabling and be appalled at Ayoola’s remorseless and sociopathic tendencies. I found the novel’s exploration of male impropriety rather amusing, actually. All the men in the book had little to no character outside from being caught in Ayoola’s orbit. She was the ‘centre of everyone’s universe’ and it didn’t matter that she was fickle, narcissistic, a cheater, and cared for little other than herself, men loved and wanted her because she was beautiful. Ayoola had it right, “all they want is a pretty face”, but this pretty face knew that and used it to her advantage, and clearly, to their detriment. Although, to be fair, even the women were enraptured by Ayoola’s beauty, so maybe the issue is more about society’s acceptance of beauty on the outside, excusing the ugly on the inside? Because in this book that outer beauty literally lets you get away with murder.

The most enjoyable part of the book for me was in the realness of sibling relationships, particularly between sisters. No matter how much you care for your sibling and no matter how well you get along, there are always feelings of insecurity, jealousy, and bitterness, but also of love and the overpowering need to protect and defend. Korede’s struggle to reconcile her morals with being a big sister whose instinct is to protect her little sister, captured the complexity of these relationships very well. As much as she felt bitterness and jealousy towards Ayoola for her beauty and for having a relationship with the man she loved, Korede never seriously thought of exposing her sister to the public, no matter how desperate she was to do so. That said, their relationship was very messed up and there was a lot of underlying resentment and obvious manipulation between the two.

What I struggled with the were the characters because I didn’t particularly like any of them. I wonder if that was done purposefully because they all had highly unfavorable character traits that made it difficult to find any redeeming qualities in them. Most of the times I wanted to slap them really hard in the faces and shake them “awake”.

Ayoola, as princess of the family, has gotten away with everything her whole life because of her looks. She’s conceited, narcissistic, and selfish (also, a serial killer) and takes everything for granted. It was astounding that even in the face of getting caught, she so vehemently denied any wrongdoing by spinning absurds tale that everyone seemed to believe because of her extraordinary beauty. Korede’s character was even worse because of how she enabled Ayoola by falling into the same ‘trap’ she criticized everyone else for. Despite knowing the manipulative nature of her sister, she still allowed herself to be taken advantage of and constantly stepped on. Although at times I felt sorry for her because of that, Korede had such a cold and impersonal, ‘holier than thou’ attitude towards everyone—boxing herself off from those who could have potentially been her allies—that it rubbed me the wrong way and made it difficult to feel sympathy for her character. The men, especially dreamy Dr. Tade, were thoughtless and shallow. Apparently, all men really care about are your looks and you can cheat, act crazy, be cold and heartless until it suits you to be warm, as much as you want as long as you’re beautiful. Even a brilliant, charming doctor is not exempt.

“We are hard wired to protect and remain loyal to the people we love. Besides, no one is innocent in this world. …’The most loving parents and relatives commit murder with smiles on their faces. They force us to destroy the person we really are: a subtle kind of murder.’”

I honestly thought that Korede would take a different route, especially after the (unsurprising) climax, so that was a bit of a let down. But despite the unlikeable characters, I still enjoyed this read—which is rare for me to say because characters are everything! I do still feel like certain elements could have been explored better to give the book some more meat. Overall though, I thought this was a great debut by Braithwaite, that presents a daring, funny, but dark family drama that explored larger elements which other readers can perhaps relate to.

If you’ve read this, what were your thoughts on the book?
If not, is it on your TBR list?