Review: Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare

My Rating: 5 / 5 stars

Verdict: Buy Borrow Bypass

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

In the first in Tessa Dare’s captivating Castles Ever After series, a mysterious fortress is the setting for an unlikely love . . .

As the daughter of a famed author, Isolde Ophelia Goodnight grew up on tales of brave knights and fair maidens. She never doubted romance would be in her future, too. The storybooks offered endless possibilities.

And as she grew older, Izzy crossed them off. One by one by one.

Ugly duckling turned swan?

Abducted by handsome highwayman?

Rescued from drudgery by charming prince?

No, no, and… Heh.

Now Izzy’s given up yearning for romance. She’ll settle for a roof over her head. What fairy tales are left over for an impoverished twenty-six year-old woman who’s never even been kissed?

This one.

My Thoughts:

The storyline in Romancing the Duke felt fresh. It was great to read about Izzy fighting for her inheritance and learn how to reclaim what is rightfully hers. I think Tessa Dare does a great job of putting her own twists on some stock romance plots. This book resolves quite nicely in the end and I hope Tessa Dare revisits these characters in a later novel. In addition to the inheritance storyline, Romancing the Duke also focuses on fandoms, their usefulness, and their innate desire to hope. Many parts of this book felt like an ode to fans and to those who love to fully embody a story they love.

I loved Izzy as a heroine. I was impressed by her determination, courage, and, most of all, her imagination. It’s her imagination that makes a twenty-six-year-old woman fear the dark. It’s what made her accept the fantastic stories of knights and devilish rogues. And it’s what made Izzy visit a strange decrepit castle only to discover she’s know the owner, not Duke Ransom. Also, there are some details about Ransom that I won’t get into here because it would spoil a pretty major plot point! The foils between Izzy and Ransom are fantastic and I loved reading their witty banter. I especially loved that they both grew up throughout the course of the story. This is not a one-sided development. Rather, Izzy and Ransom ultimately learn to work together and to help one another.

Additionally, the side characters in Romancing the Duke were very fun! Ransom’s valet, Duncan, was delightfully devoted, competent, and desperate for some real work. The vicar’s daughter, Miss Pelham, is romantic, determined, and easily excited. There is also a local troupe who enjoys re-enacting scenes from their favorite stories. All in all, these side characters liven up the page and attempt to steal the show. Tessa Dare clearly writes great characters across the board, and does not relegate side characters to mere plot devices.

Wrap Up:

Overall, I loved this book! Romancing the Duke broke me out of my reading rut. I flew through this story and loved every minute of the ride. There were a few plot twists that I definitely did not see coming. Tessa Dare is quickly becoming one of my favorite romance writers! I also loved one of her more recent books, The Duchess Deal, and you can read my review here. I would highly recommend this book, especially for fans of Julia Quinn.

This book is…

laugh out loud funny

charming

surprising

steamy

a quick read

Publisher: Avon

Genre: romance

Page Count: 370

ISBN: 0062240196

Available here from IndieBound.

Have you read Romancing the Duke? What historical romance would you recommend?

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Review: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

My Rating: 5 / 5 stars

Verdict: Buy Borrow Bypass

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Generations of readers young and old, male and female, have fallen in love with the March sisters of Louisa May Alcott’s most popular and enduring novel, Little Women. Here are talented tomboy and author-to-be Jo, tragically frail Beth, beautiful Meg, and romantic, spoiled Amy, united in their devotion to each other and their struggles to survive in New England during the Civil War.

It is no secret that Alcott based Little Women on her own early life. While her father, the freethinking reformer and abolitionist Bronson Alcott, hobnobbed with such eminent male authors as Emerson, Thoreau, and Hawthorne, Louisa supported herself and her sisters with “woman’s work,” including sewing, doing laundry, and acting as a domestic servant. But she soon discovered she could make more money writing. Little Women brought her lasting fame and fortune, and far from being the “girl’s book” her publisher requested, it explores such timeless themes as love and death, war and peace, the conflict between personal ambition and family responsibilities, and the clash of cultures between Europe and America.

My Thoughts:

One of the things I love about Little Women is that the story follows the March family through many years of their lives. Over time, we see the March family experience all sorts of different situations as they grow up together. Their trials run the gamut from sisterly quarrels, standing up for oneself, disagreeing with a husband, and learning to love. I find Little Women to be such a comforting book, for Alcott crafted the March family with considerable care and love.

Each and every character in Little Women is well rounded, charming, and fun to read. I always love reading Jo’s struggle to overcome her quick temper. As I myself suffer from the same fiery tongue and easily provoked emotions. I think many people would benefit from taking Mareme’s advice to heart, and think before speaking. Jo is often the favorite of the March sisters, but I’m also a big fan of Meg. She is bright, well mannered, and kind. But more importantly, I love Meg for her faults and how she tries to overcome them. The March family is poor and Meg, despite her overflowing love for her family, is tired of being poor. She wants to have nice things and not have to worry about paying for them. I really appreciate reading Meg’s struggles with this as I think that it’s a common feeling for most people. We all want the luxury to buy nice things when we want without breaking the bank. Meg works hard to be more patient and considerate when it comes to making purchases.

At times this book can feel a bit preachy with some of its religious overtones. But the lessons learned in this book are always well intended, helpful, and more about having a bigger heart, loving one another, and honoring one’s family. I enjoy these lessons, even as an adult. I think many of the lessons preached in this book could be beneficial to many people and there’s always something to learn from Little Women.

Wrap Up:

Overall, I loved this book! This was my second time reading Little Women and I loved it even more the second time around. I think this book is a classic for good reason and is definitely a book that everyone should read. This story would also make an excellent read aloud!

This book is…

heartwarming

lovely

enlightening

touching

endearing

Publisher: Penguin

Genre: classics

Page Count: 504

ISBN: 0143106651

Available here from IndieBound.

Have you read Little Women? What classics would you recommend?

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Review: The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware

My Rating: 5 / 5 stars

Verdict: Buy Borrow Bypass

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

On a day that begins like any other, Hal receives a mysterious letter bequeathing her a substantial inheritance. She realizes very quickly that the letter was sent to the wrong person—but also that the cold-reading skills she’s honed as a tarot card reader might help her claim the money.

Soon, Hal finds herself at the funeral of the deceased…where it dawns on her that there is something very, very wrong about this strange situation and the inheritance at the center of it.

Full of spellbinding menace and told in Ruth Ware’s signature suspenseful style, this is an unputdownable thriller from the Agatha Christie of our time.

My Thoughts:

I really enjoyed the plot of The Death of Mrs. Westaway. While there were some elements that I didn’t fully understand as they were revealed, Ware did a great job of tying everything together in the end and explaining all. I also loved that the reader was piecing the story together along with Hal, who makes for a great protagonist. Hal is determined, realistic, and likeable. I liked Ware’s take on the unlikeable hero as the reader knows what Hal is doing is wrong, but still wants her to succeed anyway.

The pacing in this book is interesting. At first, the story moves along slowly. The pace does pick up a bit and become more engrossing towards the middle and definitely keeps the reader engaged in the end. But for me the beginning lagged a bit. Additionally, this is one of the few stories I’ve read in which I wished for an epilogue. I wanted to know more about Hal’s next steps and what would happen with the Westaway family. This is left up to the reader’s imagination. Usually I prefer when an author doesn’t spell everything out for the reader but I do think this book needed it.

I loved that this mystery really revolves around the women in the Westaway family. Ultimately, this story is about choices. Sometimes we make good choices and sometimes they’re bad. But The Death of Mrs. Westaway is about making choices and living with the consequences. I believe that every character in this story is suffering under the weight of the consequences of their actions. I found it fascinating to read how decisions can play out within one family and several generations.

Wrap Up:

Overall, I loved this book! The Death of Mrs. Westaway felt different than Ware’s previous novels. There’s no active murder investigation and much of the action revolves around conversations. In a lot of ways, this book actually reminds me of an Agatha Christie novel. I love Agatha Christie, so the slower pace was not a problem for me. But it might be something to keep in mind if you need more of an action driven plot. I would highly recommend this book, especially for fans of more traditional mysteries and Old Hollywood Movies.

This book is…

surprising

clever

well-written

engaging

old-school

Publisher: Scout Press

Genre: mystery

Page Count: 384

ISBN: 1501156217

Available here from IndieBound.

Have you read any of Ruth Ware’s books? Are you excited to read The Death of Mrs. Westaway?

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Review: Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo

My Rating: 5 / 5 stars

Verdict: Buy Borrow Bypass

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Yejide and Akin have been married since they met and fell in love at university. Though many expected Akin to take several wives, he and Yejide have always agreed: polygamy is not for them. But four years into their marriage–after consulting fertility doctors and healers, trying strange teas and unlikely cures–Yejide is still not pregnant. She assumes she still has time–until her family arrives on her doorstep with a young woman they introduce as Akin’s second wife. Furious, shocked, and livid with jealousy, Yejide knows the only way to save her marriage is to get pregnant, which, finally, she does, but at a cost far greater than she could have dared to imagine. An electrifying novel of enormous emotional power, Stay With Me asks how much we can sacrifice for the sake of family.

My Thoughts:

This story will give you all the feels. Yejide and Akin experience such a rollercoaster of emotions and situations, and Adebayo brings you right along for the ride. While many couples struggle with infertility, Stay With Me tells the story of a couple willing to do whatever it takes to conceive. And in Nigeria, “whatever it takes” has a whole new meaning. Both Yejide and Akin make sacrifices for one another’s happiness, and these sacrifices brought their own challenges. This story is told so beautifully that the reader cannot help but empathize with this young couple and want nothing more than their happiness. This plot has quite a few surprises along the way, which just made the novel more impactful and interwoven.

I really enjoyed learning so much about Nigeria. Adebayo is Nigerian, and she writes so beautifully about the culture and lifestyle in Nigeria in the 90s. I always love reading a book by an #OwnVoices author, which means that a writer is writing about a community and way of life of which they’re a part. I learned a lot about the political climate during this time, as well as customs and traditions that are meaningful to this community.

I loved the title of this book, Stay With Me. At the end of the day, that’s exactly what every single character wanted and, ultimately, I think that’s what everyone wants. No one wants to be alone. And in this story, ‘stay with me’ was said by husbands and wives, parents and children, brothers, and friends. ‘Stay with me’ is also the name of a character in this story, which really drives this theme home. Connection can disappear in so many ways, and sometimes, ‘stay with me’ is a plea, a command, and a wish all in one.

Wrap Up:

Clearly, I loved this book. I was astonished at how quickly I became engrossed in the story and felt all of the feelings for these characters. I love reading stories about the inner workings of a family, and this book absolutely delivers. I cannot recommend this book enough, especially if you’re looking for a story that really zeros in on one particular family.

This book is…

heartbreaking

beautifully written

powerful

a quick read

illuminating

Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group

Genre: fiction

Page Count: 260

ISBN: 0451494601

Available here from IndieBound.

Have you read Stay With Me?

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Review: The Mothers by Brit Bennett

My Rating: 5 / 5 stars

Verdict: Buy Borrow Bypass

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

A dazzling debut novel from an exciting new voice, The Mothers is a surprising story about young love, a big secret in a small community—and the things that ultimately haunt us most.

Set within a contemporary black community in Southern California, Brit Bennett’s mesmerizing first novel is an emotionally perceptive story about community, love, and ambition. It begins with a secret.

“All good secrets have a taste before you tell them, and if we’d taken a moment to swish this one around our mouths, we might have noticed the sourness of an unripe secret, plucked too soon, stolen and passed around before its season.”

It is the last season of high school life for Nadia Turner, a rebellious, grief-stricken, seventeen-year-old beauty. Mourning her own mother’s recent suicide, she takes up with the local pastor’s son. Luke Sheppard is twenty-one, a former football star whose injury has reduced him to waiting tables at a diner. They are young; it’s not serious. But the pregnancy that results from this teen romance—and the subsequent cover-up—will have an impact that goes far beyond their youth. As Nadia hides her secret from everyone, including Aubrey, her God-fearing best friend, the years move quickly. Soon, Nadia, Luke, and Aubrey are full-fledged adults and still living in debt to the choices they made that one seaside summer, caught in a love triangle they must carefully maneuver, and dogged by the constant, nagging question: What if they had chosen differently? The possibilities of the road not taken are a relentless haunt.

In entrancing, lyrical prose, The Mothers asks whether a “what if” can be more powerful than an experience itself. If, as time passes, we must always live in servitude to the decisions of our younger selves, to the communities that have parented us, and to the decisions we make that shape our lives forever.

My Thoughts:

At its heart, The Mothers is a coming of age story for three teens. But it’s about growing up when you’re not sure of yourself, your choices, or what could have happened. This novel does some interesting things with choices and regrets. Decisions that one person makes can have serious ramifications for others, and Bennett does not shy away from exploring these painful moments. Every character in this book is still processing events in their past and learning to live with the reality of their pain.

“Oh girl, we have known littlebit love. That littlebit of honey left in an open jar that traps the sweetness in your mouth long enough to mask your hunger. We have run tongues over teeth to savor that last littlebit as long as we could, and in all our living, nothing has starved us more.”

I found the characters in this book to be very compelling. Through the omnipotent Mothers, we learn so much about almost every character, and I really enjoyed this use of dramatic irony. Bennett does a great job of exploring the ramifications of decisions and its interesting to watch it all play out. It was these moments that felt incredibly real to me. As human beings, we can never truly predict all possible outcomes of our decisions, and sometimes we must learn to live with our actions. And that’s what the characters in The Mothers do. I also enjoyed the changing relationship dynamic between Nadia and Aubrey. Their lives remain parallel for a long time before finally overlapping and it was interesting to see how their friendship changed because of that.

“We see the span of her life unspooling is colorful threads and we chase it, wrapping it around our hands as more tumbles out. She’s her mother’s age now. Double her age. Our age. You’re our mother. We’re climbing inside of you.”

I found Bennett’s use of the Mothers compelling. Throughout this book, there is a group of elderly women from the church who are referred to as the Mothers. And they function as an almost all-knowing Greek chorus. But the title of this book also refers to Nadia, Aubrey, and their own mothers. Through this book’s title, Bennett is establishing a rhythm of life and a comfortable track for these women to follow, which also lends weight to the book’s central themes of decisions and regret.

Wrap Up:

Overall, I loved this book. I flew through it and found myself frequently pausing to appreciate the language better. This book is lyrical at times, and I found the central themes to be relevant to my life, and I’m sure many others. I highly recommend this book, especially if you enjoy quiet stories about the dynamics and relationships between a set group of people.

This book is…

heartbreaking

mature

poignant

character driven

accessible

Publisher: Riverhead Books

Genre: fiction

Page Count: 288

ISBN: 0399184511

Available here from Book Depository.

Have you read The Mothers? Do you think the “what if” can be more powerful than real life?

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Review: This Will Be My Undoing by Morgan Jerkins

My Rating: 5 / 5 stars

Verdict: Buy Borrow Bypass

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

From one of the fiercest critics writing today, Morgan Jerkins’ highly-anticipated collection of linked essays interweaves her incisive commentary on pop culture, feminism, black history, misogyny, and racism with her own experiences to confront the very real challenges of being a black woman today—perfect for fans of Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist, Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists.

Morgan Jerkins is only in her twenties, but she has already established herself as an insightful, brutally honest writer who isn’t afraid of tackling tough, controversial subjects. In This Will Be My Undoing, she takes on perhaps one of the most provocative contemporary topics: What does it mean to “be”—to live as, to exist as—a black woman today? This is a book about black women, but it’s necessary reading for all Americans.

Doubly disenfranchised by race and gender, often deprived of a place within the mostly white mainstream feminist movement, black women are objectified, silenced, and marginalized with devastating consequences, in ways both obvious and subtle, that are rarely acknowledged in our country’s larger discussion about inequality. In This Will Be My Undoing, Jerkins becomes both narrator and subject to expose the social, cultural, and historical story of black female oppression that influences the black community as well as the white, male-dominated world at large.

My Thoughts:

This is a powerful read. It is a memoir but told as a collection of essays, discussing racism, sexism, prejudice, Michelle Obama, education, and more. This book is about sharing experiences, both good and bad. This is a story about connection and is simultaneously a cry to be heard and a beacon of hope for how to do better. You must read this book.

“You should’ve known I was coming.”

I highly recommend taking your time with this book. Jerkins clearly took the time to craft each story brilliantly and so each one deserves to be savored. These essays can also be difficult to read at times. They are uncomfortable because Jerkins is allowing us inside her life as a voyeur, and as such, her story is not everyone’s story. These essays can also be uncomfortable because anyone who is not a black woman will likely find themselves challenged to do better, to think more constructively, and to work to eliminate prejudices. For me, this book felt like a call to action just as much as it felt like an intimate portrait of one woman’s life. I think my favorite essay was “Who Will Write Us?” The themes of this essay are issues that I often consider myself. While the mainstream media is doing a better job of showing diversity and allowing for more representation, they could always do better. And I think this essay does a great job of allowing for conflicting emotions regarding seeing representation and wanting it to be better.

“My black womanhood does not cancel out my humanity.”

I think this book is an important reminder that intersectionality is essential. It is impossible to separate Jerkins from her womanhood, her blackness, or the fact that she exists as a black woman. She cannot choose to live one day as black and the next as woman. Our identities are all coexisting at all times and we need to remember that these various identities both enrich our lives and open us up to more prejudices. Jerkins does a fantastic job of allowing us to witness her navigating these identities as they play out in her day to day life.

“Why can’t we be wild? Because we are already wild. Why can’t we enjoy sex? Because we are already sexed without clothes ever having been peeled away from our bodies. Why can’t we be free? Because we were never free.”

Wrap Up:

Overall, I loved this book. This was challenging to read at times because Jerkins’s lived experiences were and are vastly different from mine, but that just makes this book that much more important to read. I think reading the perspectives of someone who doesn’t look like you or live like you is extremely important, especially when we are living in such volatile times. I cannot recommend this book enough. I also do suggest buying a hard copy if you can, as you’ll likely want to flag poignant lines and want to refer back to this text in the future. I know I will.

This book is…

eloquent

intelligent

emotional

powerful

necessary reading

Publisher: Harper Perennial

Genre: memoir

Page Count: 258

ISBN: 9780062666154

Available here from Book Depository.

Have you read This Will Be My Undoing? What memoir have you read recently?

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Review: The Broken Girls by Simone St. James

My Rating: 5 / 5 stars

Verdict: Buy Borrow Bypass

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Vermont, 1950. There’s a place for the girls whom no one wants–the troublemakers, the illegitimate, the too smart for their own good. It’s called Idlewild Hall. And in the small town where it’s located, there are rumors that the boarding school is haunted. Four roommates bond over their whispered fears, their budding friendship blossoming–until one of them mysteriously disappears…

Vermont, 2014. As much as she’s tried, journalist Fiona Sheridan cannot stop revisiting the events surrounding her older sister’s death. Twenty years ago, her body was found lying in the overgrown fields near the ruins of Idlewild Hall. And though her sister’s boyfriend was tried and convicted of murder, Fiona can’t shake the suspicion that something was never right about the case.

When Fiona discovers that Idlewild Hall is being restored by an anonymous benefactor, she decides to write a story about it. But a shocking discovery during the renovations will link the loss of her sister to secrets that were meant to stay hidden in the past–and a voice that won’t be silenced…

My Thoughts:

I can’t say enough good things about the plot of this novel. The chapters alternate between the past and the present, keeping the reader on their toes and slowly putting all the puzzle pieces together. I enjoyed the ghost story elements much more than I expected and was continuously impressed with how eerie I found this story. St. James does a fantastic job of ultimately tying the two storylines together and making this mystery about some much larger themes. I’m really hesitant to share too much about this book’s plot because it is just so surprising and I don’t want to spoil anything!

I was really impressed with all of the characters in this novel. Fiona is strong, smart, and determined to uncover the truth. She’s definitely a flawed protagonist, but I think that makes her all the more compelling. I particularly enjoyed the relationships between the four roommates during the 1950 storyline. Their friendships felt so real to me and I loved seeing them lean on each other and work together to solve their own mystery. The men in this story are very much pushed to the sidelines and were really only around to support Fiona in her investigation.

Honestly, I think the title of this book is awful. There is probably a adjective to describe these girls and the struggles they’ve endured then calling them “broken.” I think that word oversimplifies the incredible journeys they undergo in this novel. I also think the representation in this book could be stronger. All of the characters are white, heterosexual, and able-bodied and I think St. James could have done a better job of diversifying her characters.

Wrap Up:

Overall, I loved this book! I was really impressed with how well St. James blended the ghost story with the more modern mystery storyline. I think this book would make a fantastic movie. This book won’t be out in the U.S. until March, but I would highly recommend this book, particularly to fans of ghost stories, Hitchcock films, and anyone who loves Tana French’s books. This was my first book by St. James but it definitely won’t be my last.

This book is…

haunting

a page turner

well-written

surprising

clever

Publisher: Berkley Books

Genre: mystery

Page Count: 336

ISBN: 0451476204

Available here from Book Depository.

Are you excited for The Broken Girls? What mystery have you read recently?

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Review: A Rogue By Any Other Name by Sarah MacLean

My Rating: 5 / 5 stars

Verdict: Buy Borrow Bypass

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

A decade ago, the Marquess of Bourne was cast from society with nothing but his title. Now a partner in London’s most exclusive gaming hell, the cold, ruthless Bourne will do whatever it takes to regain his inheritance—including marrying perfect, proper Lady Penelope Marbury.

A broken engagement and years of disappointing courtships have left Penelope with little interest in a quiet, comfortable marriage, and a longing for something more. How lucky that her new husband has access to such unexplored pleasures.

Bourne may be a prince of London’s underworld, but he vows to keep Penelope untouched by its wickedness—a challenge indeed as the lady discovers her own desires, and her willingness to wager anything for them… even her heart.

My Thoughts:

I thought the plot was quite engaging. I quite enjoyed the arch of the fallen hero, attempting to regain what he lost. Within this particular story, I especially appreciated the numerous references to Lucifer, hell, and angels. I thought it added an additional layer to this book. I was more interested in Bourne’s attempts to repair his relationship with Penelope than with his attempts to regain his lost property. Bourne and Penelope went through just the right amount of hurdles and made up just enough times to make this a very satisfying relationship.

The characters in this story are fantastic! From heroes, villains, and hilariously awkward side characters, I think MacLean did a great job of making this world come to life. Bourne is, without a doubt, a star. I actually teared up at some of his heartfelt confessions. He is devilishly handsome and complicated and I adore his relationship with Penelope, who is equally fantastic. She has such tenacity, strength, and humor. I honestly wish she were real because I think we’d be great friends!

Wrap Up:

Overall, I loved this book! I already put the second book in this series on hold at the library. I was very pleasantly surprised by this book, even more so because I picked it up on a whim at the library! I think it’s important you know that I actually delayed the blog post I originally scheduled to go live today in order to publish this review as soon as possible. This book is just that good! This was my first book by MacLean but it will certainly not be my last.

This book is…

delightful

sexy

surprising

intriguing

engaging

Publisher: Avon

Genre: romance

Page Count: 386

ISBN: 0062068520

Available here from Book Depository

Have you read A Rogue By Any Other Name? What’s your favorite pleasure read?

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Review: Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado

My Rating: 5 / 5 stars

Verdict: Buy Borrow Bypass

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

In Her Body and Other Parties, Carmen Maria Machado blithely demolishes the arbitrary borders between psychological realism and science fiction, comedy and horror, fantasy and fabulism. While her work has earned her comparisons to Karen Russell and Kelly Link, she has a voice that is all her own. In this electric and provocative debut, Machado bends genre to shape startling narratives that map the realities of women’s lives and the violence visited upon their bodies.

A wife refuses her husband’s entreaties to remove the green ribbon from around her neck. A woman recounts her sexual encounters as a plague slowly consumes humanity. A salesclerk in a mall makes a horrifying discovery within the seams of the store’s prom dresses. One woman’s surgery-induced weight loss results in an unwanted houseguest. And in the bravura novella Especially Heinous, Machado reimagines every episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, a show we naively assumed had shown it all, generating a phantasmagoric police procedural full of doppelgangers, ghosts, and girls with bells for eyes.

Earthy and otherworldly, antic and sexy, queer and caustic, comic and deadly serious, Her Body and Other Parties swings from horrific violence to the most exquisite sentiment. In their explosive originality, these stories enlarge the possibilities of contemporary fiction.

My Thoughts:

Each of these stories was masterfully crafted. Each one could stand on its own but combined, these stories relate powerful themes. I cannot choose a favorite story, but especially enjoyed “The Husband Stitch” for its commentary on respecting boundaries and men’s preoccupation with controlling women’s bodies, “Especially Heinous” for its horrific retelling of the television show Law & Order: SVU, and “Eight Bites” for its commentary on women, their eating habits, and daring to take up space.

These stories can be difficult to read as they do not shy away from violence, particularly against women. And that’s the point of this collection. Women suffer and endure a tremendous amount of violence enacted on their bodies, both by their hands and by men’s hands. By giving literal shape to much of this violence, these stories take on an eerie and ethereal tone.

I think my favorite thing about these stories is that I’m thinking about them days later. These are not stories, themes,or characters that will wrap up neatly inside a box. After reading this collection, I find myself paying more attention to how and when we listen to women. I’m paying more attention to what language women and men use to talk about women’s bodies and other women’s actions. The messages in these stories are present in our daily lives, making the horror in this collection that much more real.

Wrap Up:

Overall, I loved this collection. I highly recommend taking your time with these stories and read one every few days. Each one deserves to be savored, both for its artistry and so the messages and themes can be better processed.

This book is…

haunting

feminist

shocking

memorable

well-written

Publisher: Graywolf Press

Genre: short stories

Page Count: 248

ISBN: 155597788X

Available here from Book Depository.

Have you read Her Body and Other Parties? What sorts of short stories do you like to read?

I am an affiliate with Book Depository and as such, receive a tiny commission should you choose to click through any of the above links and purchase the book(s). Thank you for supporting A Word is Power!

Review: Tell Me Everything You Don’t Remember by Christine Hyung-Oak Lee

My Rating: 5 / 5 stars

Verdict: Buy Borrow Bypass

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

A memoir of reinvention after a stroke at age thirty-three.

Christine Hyung-Oak Lee woke up with a headache on the morning of December 31, 2006. By that afternoon, she saw the world—quite literally—upside down. By New Year’s Day, she was unable to form a coherent sentence. And after hours in the ER, days in the hospital, and multiple questions and tests, her doctors informed her that she had had a stroke.

For months afterward, Lee outsourced her memories to a journal, taking diligent notes to compensate for the thoughts she could no longer hold on to. It is from these notes that she has constructed this frank and compelling memoir.

In a precise and captivating narrative, Lee navigates fearlessly between chronologies, weaving her childhood humiliations and joys together with the story of the early days of her marriage; and then later, in painstaking, painful, and unflinching detail, the account of her stroke and every upset—temporary or permanent—that it caused.

Lee illuminates the connection between memory and identity in an honest, meditative, and truly funny manner, utterly devoid of self-pity. And as she recovers, she begins to realize that this unexpected and devastating event has provided a catalyst for coming to terms with her true self—and, in a way, has allowed her to become the person she’s always wanted to be.

My Thoughts:

The non-linear structure of this memoir is extremely well done. It reminded me of memory and the ways in which we remember our lives. It then makes sense that Lee would bounce back and forth in time as she connects events and draws connections and parallels within her life. Lee writes about memory from both a scientific standpoint and a personal one. Yes, memory is science, but it also feels emotional and very unscientific.

As someone who has survived a couple traumatic events, I appreciated the ways in which Lee writes about trauma and survival. I particularly related to Lee’s husband as he transitions to a caretaker role following her stroke. The job of a caretaker is a difficult and thankless one and I greatly respected the eloquent ways in which Lee describes this new role for herself and her husband. Lee writes that this stroke both ruined and saved her life, and as someone who has survived trauma, I agree with that statement.

Being a writer, Lee frequently writes about her writing as a way of coping and recovering after her stroke. She especially mentions Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut and makes beautiful use of his phrasing, “and so it goes.” This theme repeats throughout Lee’s memoir, and I found myself relating strongly to this phrasing and her use of it. When tragedy strikes, life moves on. The world keeps turning. It is up to us to determine how to move forward, how to get up and live another day. “And so it goes.”

Wrap Up:

Overall, I thought this book was fantastic. Lee writes beautifully about her recovery, the high points and the low ones. It was fascinating to learn more about strokes and the science behind both the stroke itself and the recovery process. In the few days it took me to read this memoir, I found myself slightly panicking everytime I couldn’t immediately think of a word! Clearly, this memoir hit home for me. I highly recommend this quick read.

This book is…

haunting

lyrical

profound

memorable

well-written

Publisher: Ecco

Genre: memoir

Page Count: 272

ISBN: 0062422154

Available here from Book Depository.

Have you read Tell Me Everything You Don’t Remember? What sorts of memoirs do you like to read?

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