May-July Reviews

Welp, I’ve done it again 😀 It’s been a little over three months since my last review. To be clear, I have been reading between then and now, I just have not had the time to write or post reviews.

Two wonderful things have happened in the past year to keep me busy and away from my book review blog. First, I started a new job back in September of 2016, and I LOVE IT! But, it takes up a ridiculous amount of my time. Second, I met my BF back in April. You know, the last time I posted a review. That’s not a coincidence. *blushes*

When I’m not busy with work, I’m busy with him and our blended fur family — Sherlock, Adler, and Vincent. Yes, Vincent. He named his adorable, but oh-so-hornory beagle, Vincent. *shrugs* It’s after some sort of gaming character. IDK.

But I digress…back to the blog. Since I left off, I’ve read (links are to my activity updates/reviews on Goodreads) The Martian, by Andy Weir*; Unwind (Unwind #1), by Neil Shusterman*; Carry On, by Rainbow Rowell*; Labyrinth Lost (Brooklyn Brujas, #1), by Zoraida Cordova*; The Lost Gate (Mither Mages, #1), by Orson Scott Card; Alchemy, by Jade Kennedy**; The Gate Thief (Mither Mages, #2), by Orson Scott Card; Hollywood Homicide (Detective by Day, #1), by Kellye Garrett; and Shantytown, by César Aira*.

I’m currently reading: Gatefather (Mither Mages, #3), by Orson Scott Card; A Clash of Kings (A Song of Ice and Fire #2), by George R. R. Martin; and Among Wolves (The Children of the Mountain, #1), by R.A. Hakok**.

If you’re still reading, thanks so much!!! If you’re still querying for reviews, please be patient with me!!! Thanks errbody!

*Read Harder Challenge 2017

Fossilized Gods by J. Simon — A Review

fossilized godsFossilized Gods by J. Simon

RaeleighReads rating: cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3

Where to begin with this one? I’ve seen people refer to this as absurdist. And it is absurd in the Merriam Webster sense: illogical and ridiculous. But in philosophical terms, the absurd is the conflict that arises between trying to find meaning in life and not finding any. I don’t really think that’s what’s going on here.

Perhaps one could argue that the relationship between Samantha and Professor Harrington satisfies the philosophical requirements for absurdism — Harrington seeks meaning through someone to love, a daughter. And maybe Samantha fills this role for him, but the unfortunate circumstances that follow their meeting cancels out their finding each other in the first place. I dunno.

That said, while I was reading this I could not get Salvador Dali and Magritte out of my head. The surreal imagery and schizophrenic dialogue of the gods in this book made me picture melting clocks, desert landscapes, and apple faces.

I didn’t like it. A surrealist painting is one thing. It’s still, and the mind has time to take in and parse out its various elements, but this book was chaotic and decidedly lacking in terms of a plot. A group of gods is playing cards in the in-between and suddenly they’re pulled down onto some sort of earth-like terrain except the rules are wonky. They end up at a college, with a museum full of dormant gods. There’s a necromancy department on the campus, and it is apparently possible to resurrect dead things. But the dialogue is very difficult to follow, and for the first 50% of the book I was wondering what the point was.

The only reason I’m giving this three coffee cups is because many of the lines were indeed quite funny. Simon has a wonderfully ridiculous sense of humor. The problem is there is no restraint. Witticisms are only effective when used sparingly. Otherwise, the writing comes across with an everything-including-the-kitchen-sink affect. For a better idea of what I was thinking and feeling while reading this, check out my updates.

This book isn’t my taste, but I would encourage you to read some other reviews on Goodreads or elsewhere because many people really enjoyed it.

I received this novel in exchange for an honest review.

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George — A Review

littleparisbookshopThe Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

RaeleighReads rating: cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3

“He wanted her to sense the boundless possibilities offered by books. They would always be enough. They would never stop loving their readers. They were a fixed point in an otherwise unpredictable world. In life. In love. After death.”

Oh my gosh, this book was so sweet!!! I had all the gushy, fuzzy feelings reading this. Following are my various GoodReads updates, complete with gifs.

Around 18%:

This book warms my heart!

something in my eye

Around 25%:

I had no idea a simple caress could be so scintillating. Whew!

fanning myself

Then for the rest of the book:

This book makes me feel a serious range of emotions. So. Many. Tears!!! I’m enjoying every minute of it!

my heart can't take it

Okay, if you made it this far, this book is so incredibly moving. I don’t normally like books that are so overtly romantic and sentimental, but I didn’t want to put this one down. It made me grin. It made me giggle. It made me blush. And it made me CRY! Like, a lot!

I read this as part of the Read Harder Challenge 2017, #3, Read a book about books. I mean, it was pretty much guaranteed that I would like this challenge. I ❤ reading books about books!

❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤

2017 Read Harder Challenge Stats: 8/24

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie — A Review

americanahAmericanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

RaeleighReads rating: cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3

“She rested her head against his and felt, for the first time, what she would often feel with him: a self-affection. He made her like herself.”

So. This book took me for-ev-er to finish. Over a month in fact. Normally, for me, that indicates that I don’t really like the book. In this case, that is only partly true. And before you jump down my throat, hear me out.

The first three quarters of this book were incredibly slowly-paced, and I tend to read right before I go to bed. So, sleepy me plus slow book equals not a great combination. However, during that slowly-paced adventure, the main character in this novel, Ifemelu (Ifem), goes through quite an incredible journey.

You may already know this, but the book begins just before the end. Ifem is in the States and is preparing to move back to Nigeria. Then the book jumps backward in time to when Ifem was growing up in Nigeria. Her transition to the States was not easy at all. She faced many hardships, and I don’t think she ever truly felt she belonged. Having never been an ex-pat, I have no idea what it must feel like to try to make somewhere foreign feel like home. To adjust to new customs, new foods, new language. On top of that, Ifem could not work legally and her money problems were no joke. It’s amazing that she didn’t completely implode under all that pressure. Eventually she finds her feet and starts a blog about race. It’s incredibly popular, and she’s able to make a living writing and giving talks at universities.

As much as I was impressed by her character, I was often disappointed. It seemed like her whole worth was wrapped up in her relationships. And that was just irritating.

The meat of the book starts with Ifemelu’s relationship with Blaine. At this point we start to read the majority of Ifem’s blog posts. The blog posts really elevate this work for me. They get at the heart of her experience as an immigrant and as a black woman — of what it means to have to deal with race/ the way someone looks every single day. That is something I, as a white woman, will never fully understand. But it is something I can be more aware of and not shy away from, as I think many white people are inclined to do.

There’s a point in the book where Ifem is talking about how no one wants to talk about race, and that is so true. It’s uncomfortable and we all shove it down. I know I’ve avoided it before, but that doesn’t help anything. Avoidance never solves anything.

Here is a quote from the section of the book I mentioned above:

And we don’t want them to say, Look how far we’ve come, just forty years ago it would have been illegal for us to even be a couple blah blah blah, because you know what we’re thinking when they say that? We’re thinking why the fuck should it ever have been illegal anyway? But we don’t say any of this stuff. We let it pile up inside our heads and when we come to nice liberal dinners like this, we say that race doesn’t matter because that’s what we’re supposed to say, to keep our nice liberal friends comfortable. It’s true. I speak from experience.

I hope to the gods that I’m never one of these “nice liberal friends”. I never want a friend of mine to feel uncomfortable talking about something that matters to them, makes them uncomfortable, makes them upset.

Let’s keep the conversation going. But on top of that, let’s be active participants in the things we believe in.

This book is insightful, and it’s certainly a conversation starter. It’s more than worth the read, even if it is slow. 🙂

I read this as part of the Read Harder 2017 Challenge, #5 read a book by an immigrant or with a central immigration narrative, and I also read it in one of my Goodreads groups, Diversity in All Forms.

2017 Read Harder Challenge Stats: 7/24

A Gathering of Shadows by V. E. Schwab — A Review(ish)

gatheringofshadowsA Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

OMG how dare you end on a cliff hanger when I don’t have the next book yet!!!! Must. Know. What. Happens. To. Kell. And. Rhy. And. Lila.


If you haven’t started reading this series (Shades of Magic) from Schwab yet, you seriously need to check your priorities. I swore up and down that I would not start this, the second volume, until the third volume had been published, but the pretty pretty cover…it called to me.

So I cracked the spine, devoured the words, and here I am, left utterly unfulfilled. Please don’t take that to mean I didn’t like the book. To be clear, I LOVED this book. But she ends the darn thing on this horrible cliff hanger that made me turn the book upside down to see if more pages might fall out. They didn’t. So I thrashed around on my bed like a three-year-old screaming NOOOOOO!!! How can you do this to me!?!?!?! (I’m not exaggerating. I literally screamed those exact words.)

Best fantasy series I’ve read in a while. And that’s saying something.

Neeeed the next book now. Kthnxbai.

View all my reviews

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling — A Review

sorcerers-stoneHarry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

My rating: cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3

What can I possibly say that hasn’t been said before?

I just love these books. J. K. Rowling did something truly extraordinary with this series, and re-reading this first book was so satisfying. It brought back all of those fuzzy, warm childhood memories/feelings I had when I first read this many, many, many moons ago 😉 Yep, I was almost eleven when they first came out. You could say Harry and I grew up together. (I still blame Errol for losing my letter.)

My heart is full and my soul is satisfied. The only problem? Now I want to re-read the whole series!

Part of the Read Harder Challenge this year is to: “Read a book you’ve read before.” (#9) and “Read a book that has been banned or frequently challenged in your country.” (#16) Harry Potter fit both of those requirements for me.

2017 Read Harder Challenge Stats: 6/24

Happy reading!

What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding by Kristin Newman — A Review

what-i-was-doing-travel-memoirWhat I Was Doing While You Were Breeding by Kristin Newman

RaeleighReads rating: cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3

“I wanted love, but I also wanted freedom and adventure, and those two desires fought like angry obese sumo wrestlers in the dojo of my soul.”

I think the above quote pretty well sums up this book. Newman longed for freedom and adventure and probably a little bit of escape from her single-girl life in L.A., and she found those things by vacationing anytime she had free time.

My initial reaction was that this was clearly written by a witty, hilarious, fun-loving person that it might be fun to attend a boring dinner party with. The further I read though, the more irritated I became with Kristin-Adjacent, Newman’s name for herself when she was on her travels. Now, I’m all for carpe dieming the shiz out of life, but for me the behavior described on these trips was just so foreign to me. I’m shy, an introvert, and I would much rather read or write on a beach or in a quaint coffee shop while on vacation than go out and meet new people or party/drink a lot. That’s just not my idea of a good time. So, what I had here was a real disconnect with the author of this book.

To be sure, Newman describes a lot of zany, fun adventures that most people would probably be envious of. I’m just not one of them. For this reason, I was bored while reading most of this memoir, left wondering what was the point of it all? I loved hearing about the various locales she visited — Argentina, Columbia, Russia, Israel, New Zealand, etc., and the various lessons learned. I just got a little non-plussed about the constant descriptions of drunken hook-ups. Again, just not my idea of a good time. ZERO judgement about it. I know some people really love to go out and meet people. I’m an awkward home-body 🙂 .

Toward the end of the memoir Newman really shifted gears (because she was growing up, duh!), and the focus became much more about personal development and creating real and honest relationships with other people. That’s when I started to care a bit more. The last bit of the book is really tender and sweet, and I’m so happy that it ended the way it did.

I think people who are very into adventure and meeting new people/living vicariously through a clearly vivacious and fun-loving character will love this. It’s probably not a great book to read while on vacation lest it make your vacay pale in comparison.

I read this as part of the 2017 Read Harder Challenge. This memoir fulfills #8, “Read a travel memoir”.

2017 Read Harder Challenge Stats: 4/24

Happy reading!

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson — A Review

devilinwhitecityThe Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson

RaeleighReads rating: cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3


Okay, my initial reaction was, “OOoooo, I think I really like this!” But then a few days passed, and now I’m leaning more toward, “Umm, this really isn’t non-fiction.” :/

Now, I don’t typically read non-fiction. I spent the better part of a decade immersed in academia only to come out of it as an academic librarian. My whole day is consumed by research, problem solving, and technical jargon. So, when I read I lean toward YA fantasy, so as not to overtax my already overtaxed brain.

That said, the academician lurking in my breast just can’t be satisfied with this. It’s too speculative. It’s too fabricated to truly call itself non-fiction. Larson did an AMAZING amount of research, and I believe he strung together two different narratives — the creation of the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, Chicago and the horrifying story of Dr. H. H. Holmes and his “Murder Castle” — fairly well. BUT. He inserts himself too much into the facts of these events, giving people gestures and thoughts and motivations that can’t possibly be verified. Frequently I found myself withdrawing from the book because he would state that so-and-so felt a certain way or must have thought a certain thing.

I’ve been trained to eschew this type of speculation from my academic (non-fiction) writing, but Larson’s book runs rampant with it. Unfortunately for me, the more I think about it the less happy I am with the book.

I will say this in Larson’s favor, this is the only “non-fiction” book I have read quickly and thoroughly that was not required reading for my studies or my profession. So, kudos for that! Also, I will likely try one more of his books. I find his writing style compelling just not convincing or academically rigorous.

This book was the January read with the group Diversity in All Forms on Goodreads.

Stay tuned for a review of our February read, Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Fail to the Chief by W. T. Fallon — A Review

failtochiefFail to the Chief by W.T. Fallon

My rating: cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3

Seriously Laugh Out Loud funny! OMG, I don’t know if Fallon is psychic or just more in tune with the ridiculous nature of humanity than the rest of us. This is a must read. After the recent election events, I’m sure readers will get an eery spine tickling feeling while reading this.

My favorite character, hands down, is Bryan Seafoam…poor guy. Give it a go guys!

For readers who like political satire and who are so terrified at current events that they need a good laugh to get them going again.

*laugh-cry emoji*

I received a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

View all my reviews on Goodreads.

Tree of Codes by Jonathan Safran Foer — A Review

treeofcodesTree of Codes by Jonathan Safran Foer

RaeleighReads rating: cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3

“Reality is as thin as paper. Only the small section immediately before us is able to endure.”

It feels wrong somehow to give this book a rating. It is highly conceptual — a narrative derived from removing parts of another work. Safran Foer achieved this surreal and architectural feat by erasing chunks from his favorite book, The Street of Crocodiles by Bruno Schulz. Literally whole chunks are missing from the work so that when you look at the first page you can see bits and pieces of the rest of the work through the holes.

Many passages gave me the same untethered and slightly mad feeling I had when I read Charlotte Perkins Gillman‘s The Yellow Wallpaper. Though I don’t believe madness, at least not of that sort, has anything to do with this story. Essentially, this is a narrative about a man’s death, but I don’t think anyone who has read it would say that is all that this is. It hints at worlds beyond sight and touch. It alludes to life after death. And amidst it all, there is such a sense of pain and suffering and some great something left unspoken.

I’m afraid I don’t possess the necessary language to express how profound this book feels. I’m also afraid it may be slightly outside of my intellectual grasp.

Safran Foer has achieved something remarkable here, and everyone should at least give it a peek.


I read this work as part of the Read Harder Challenge 2017. It serves as my challenge #21, “Read a book published by a micropress.” Okay, so my copy wasn’t published by a micropress but I read somewhere that it originally was, so, ummm, shhh!