Review: Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

Thank you, Gallery Books, for my free copy of Queenie in exchange for an honest review.

To be completely honest, the jacket of this book does it a disservice. Queenie is so much more than a combination of Bridget Jones’s Diary and Me Before You . There are, of course, similarities, but I did not expect Queenie to affect me in the way it did, but I closed the book feeling so much for Queenie and the story I’d just read.

Queenie follows the life of Queenie Jenkins as her life begins to “fall apart”. Following a break-up with her long term boyfriend, Queenie enters into sexual relationships with many different men who begin to undermine her self-worth and confidence. From her career to her family to her sexual relationships, Queenie questions who she is, what she’s doing, and who she wants to become.

Candice Carty-Williams‘ prose was honest and modern. She wrote with the voice of a young woman who truly understood the struggles of someone searching for meaning in the world and feeling as though it’s not there for them. I struggled with the prose at first and found myself having to reread passages in the beginning to understand the British slang and different dialects Carty-Williams’ wrote in occasionally, but after the first couple chapters I was absolutely hooked. Queenie’s voice was one I really identified with even though the character/author and I have not had the same life experiences.

The personalities of the female characters absolutely jumped off the page. They were all nuanced and human. There was nothing cookie-cutter about any of these characters and I loved that. There have been some books I’ve read where all the female characters are the same people on the inside and they’ve ignored what makes women so amazing — their humanity. Carty-Williams celebrated her female characters and their emotions and that made my heart soar while reading this book.

My favorite parts of Queenie’s story, however, were near the end.

Spoilers ahead!

The support of Queenie’s friends as she suffered through anxiety and, potentially, depression was truly the shining light in this book. Carty-Williams’ wrote about healthy female friendships and support networks that modern women today (especially those with mental health struggles) really need. My heart was so full near the end when Queenie’s friends constantly showed their support and love for her.

I also felt that Carty-Williams’ did an incredible job showing Queenie’s journey through therapy. She showed how difficult it can be and how even when you’re feeling better, you can still relapse into panic or struggles. She made the therapy experience for Queenie so real and I admire her ability to have done that.

Spoilers over!

I cannot recommend this book enough. I loved the characters, the prose, and the story more than I thought I would. I think this book is important for everyone to read, but especially young women of color. Queenie is truly a great read and I give it five out of five stars.

Okay, now that you’ve read me singing its praises, go read Queenie!

Top Audiobooks of 2019 (so far…)

It feels like it’s been 84 years since I’ve written anything on this blog and it may actually have been… Earlier this year I took a long break from bookstagram to focus on bettering myself as a person and professional, but I’m back writing about what I love and am itching to tell you guys all about what I’ve been up to!

Before I even get into that though, I want to tell you about the top audiobooks I’ve listened to this year because I have been listening to quite a few on my commutes to and from the office.

So let’s get into my top four audiobooks of 2019, so far…

4. West Cork

So, technically West Cork is not an audiobook, but an Audible Original. It is formatted like a serial podcast with themes/focuses for each chapter or episode. That being said, it is absolutely riveting.

West Cork is a true crime audio series detailing the events and investigation of the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier. Sophie was a french woman vacationing in West Cork Ireland when she was found murdered outside of her vacation home days before Christmas in 1996.

Investigative journalist, Sam Bungey, and documentarian, Jennifer Forde, take listeners through the details of the unsolved murder and it’s haphazard investigation. They provide evidence from the original investigation and present-day interviews from major players, including the prime suspect.

I was completely entrenched in this audiobook. As a true crime fan, West Cork had everything needed to be interesting without being too gruesome or upsetting. It also had perspectives from everyone involved in the investigation of Sophie Toscan du Plantier’s murder so there was nothing one-sided about the story. West Cork is an average length audiobook at 7 hours and 50 minutes so it’s perfect to listen to a chapter or two on any commute!

3. Emma

If you’re a fan of audiobooks with a full cast Audible’s Original Drama of Jane Austen‘s Emma is for you.

I’ve never been one for classics. I’ve always found my attention wandering whenever I’d try to read them for school and there are so many other modern books to read that I felt like I never had time to explore the classics! Well, lo and behold, the full cast edition of Emma was the perfect introduction. It featured Emma Thompson as the main narrator with other audiobook narrators to read and act out all of the dialogue between characters. It honestly felt a bit like listening to a movie without having to worry about missing anything on screen.

Emma tells the story of a young woman named Emma Woodhouse and the trouble she gets into when trying to play matchmaker for the many people in her life. The narration sucked me into this audiobook, but the story made me stay. I had so many moments where I was kicking myself for not getting into a classic sooner because I had so much fun. I even purchased the Audible Original Drama of Northanger Abbey because I have come to  love the full cast audiobook world of Jane Austen thanks to Emma. This audiobook comes in at the standard length of 8 hours and 21 minutes.

2. Evil Has a Name: The Untold Story of the Golden State Killer Investigation

Is anyone shocked to see another true crime audiobook on this list? No? Just me?

Evil Has a Name is the perfect follow-up to I’ll Be Gone in the Dark. It dives into more detail about the investigation of the Golden State Killer and the prime suspect, Joseph DeAngelo. It’s narrated by the primary investigators on the Golden State Killer Case, Paul Holes, Jim Clemente, and Peter McDonnell.

This audiobook was such an interesting behind-the-scenes look into a case that gave me nightmares last year. It was amazing to hear the science behind how Joseph DeAngelo was caught and how the case was reopened by complete accident thanks to Paul Holes. I had intense emotions while listening to this book. Anger. Heartbreak. Vindication. And everything in between (especially when Paul Holes talks about Michelle McNamara).

I highly recommend this audiobook to anyone who has read I’ll Be Gone in the Dark or anyone who has the slightest interest in true crime. It is absolutely worth listening to and it’s on the shorter side at 6 hours and 13 minutes.

1. Becoming

Finally, the best audiobook I’ve listened to so far this year (and probably the best all year), is Becoming by Michelle Obama. I have very few words to describe how incredible of an experience it was to listen to Michelle read her life story, but it was incredible.

I have the greatest admiration for the former first lady and hearing her journey to that position was an experience I will always love. Hearing her voice from my car speakers on my morning commutes or when stuck in traffic was something I looked forward to every day.

I had so many great takeaways and life lessons from this memoir. Michelle Obama eloquently describes her struggles, triumphs, “swerves” in a way that I could only imagine being able to do.

If you’re in need a good memoir that makes even the most elegant human (yes, Michelle Obama is the picture of elegance in my eyes) seem truly human, then you need to listen to Becoming. A fair warning though… this audiobook is long. It clocks in at 19 hours and 3 minutes, but every minute is so worth it.

So, that’s all I’ve got for audiobooks I’ve listened to this year! I want to hear about your favorite audiobooks now so hop into the comments and let me know!

“I think you got him, Michelle.”

Open the door. Show us your face.

Walk into the light.

— I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, Michelle McNamara

I want to talk about I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer. In light of the Golden State Killer’s recent arrest, this book is incredibly timely and informative.

Prior to hearing the recommendation for this book on My Favorite Murder I had not heard of the Golden State Killer (also known as: East Area Rapist and Original Night Stalker). As a lover of all things true crime though, I impulsively purchased this book and let it sit on my shelves for a little while. Then when I heard of the GSK’s arrest, I knew I had to read this.

And I am so glad I did.

Don’t get me wrong, this book is terrifying. Reading about the things the GSK did and how heinous his crimes were made me paranoid and constantly double check my locks at night. I was disgusted that someone so sick and disturbed was walking around freely and hadn’t been caught for 40 years. However, I am grateful I read this book after his arrest because it gave me some level of comfort to know that the committer of these rapes and murders was locked up and would be tried for his crimes.

What makes this book great though is Michelle McNamara’s writing and dedication to this search. You can tell by the narrative that she’s written that her life had been dedicated to putting this man behind bars. Her writing is strong and kept me on my toes throughout the entire book. She balanced describing the GSK’s crimes with sections about her life and her search. This gave the reader’s much needed breaks from the descriptions of the GSK’s attacks and provided some insight into why she wrote this book. I never felt like I was being buried with facts because McNamara weaved her own thoughts into the book and described where her search took her. There were many sections that described how she worked with current and former investigators to get a deeper understanding of the case and the Golden State Killer.

Every time I turned a page in this book, I got chills from how terrifying the crimes were and how McNamara described everything about this case. I never wanted to put it down and, even though I finished it last night, I’m still thinking about this case and want to dive in to do my own research.

My favorite part of this book is the afterword and epilogue. After a tense telling of the Golden State Killer, Patton Oswalt’s afterword left my heart in pieces. He described his life with Michelle and how dedicated she was to solving this case. He wrote about how desperately he wanted to see the cell doors shut behind the Golden State Killer and that somehow he hopes Michelle knows. It is because of Oswalt that this book was finished because he, “…knew that [he] wouldn’t be able to live and go on with life if this was left undone” (USA Today). How supportive Oswalt was of Michelle’s work in life and death broke my heart, but made me feel so honored that I was given the opportunity to read this book.

I hope that the Golden State Killer goes to jail and rots there forever. I hope one day Patton Oswalt gets to talk to him and asks him all of the question McNamara wrote in her “Letter to an Old Man” (the epilogue to I’ll Be Gone in the Dark).

I think everyone should pick up this book. It is one of the best books I’ve read (despite the disturbing content).

Here are some pieces about the Golden State Killer and his recent arrest that I found interesting:

A review of The Oracle Year by Charles Soule

Huge thank you to Harper Perennial for providing me a copy of The Oracle Year in exchange for an honest review.

As a fan of David Wong, I knew The Oracle Year by Charles Soule would be a great fit for me.  It sounded like a adventure full of questions and bizarre situations and it did not disappoint. The Oracle Year tells the story of Will Dando, a bassist living in New York City, after he wakes up with exactly 108 predictions in his head. Will, with the help of his friend, sets up a site where he can publish these predictions and make more money than he thought possible. Unfortunately, with the power Will has been given he ends up making a lot of enemies. Among them: the president of the United States, a nationally renowned televangelist, and a warlord with a live nuclear bomb.

As the world is falling apart around him, Will learns he is the only person who can put it back together. Enlisting the few people he can trust, Will’s journey takes him on an adventure that spans the globe while taking the reader on a really wild ride.

I think my favorite part of this novel is the idea that a person considered to be a “nobody” is entrusted with power on such a large scale. I also love the specificity of the predictions he receives. Starting with the number, to some of predictions themselves, Soule really created an interesting web of predictions. I like how Soule weaved everything together from beginning to end. Nothing mentioned in the beginning was not left out from later in the novel. It showed me that Soule gave great care to the world he created and didn’t want to leave a single thread hanging.

Of course, that is, for the biggest thread there is. There are many questions in this book that are answered, but there is one that isn’t. I won’t say which one so as not to spoil the novel for anyone interested in reading it, but it definitely left me wondering. That being said, I don’t think the big question not being answered detracted from the novel at all. The Oracle Year is about Will’s journey and what Will did with the knowledge he received. I cared more about that than the logistics or science behind the story.

Another thing that was great about this novel was the humor. Soule was great a bringing humor to the novel in a great way – through his characters. The humor was not too much or barely there. Soule was masterful about the way he incorporated funny remarks or actions from his characters. He created a serious novel with humorous undertones and that is hard to do.

My only complaint is that the beginning is a little slow. It took me some time to get into the novel and actually want to dive headfirst into Will’s world. It’s the only thing I wish was different.

Overall, The Oracle Year gets three and a half out of five stars from me! It was funny, intriguing, and a really interesting take on the ideas of power and faith.

Make sure you get your hands on this book when it comes out on April 3! 

Stacks on deck: My March to-be-read pile

After a very YA heavy February (I was slumping and needed some easy reads to push my through my slump), I decided to focus on some adult fiction this month.

The star of March is definitely The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. I have heard nothing but good things about this book and, even though it scares me, I’m going to dive into it headfirst. Not only have I heard great things from friends about it (bookstagram friends, work friends, etc.), but the amazing Lin-Manuel Miranda is executive producing a TV series for it. Once I heard that I knew I had to read the books before it aired. I’m hoping to get started on it this week when I take the train to Chicago and have plenty of uninterrupted reading time.

My current read for March is The Oracle Year by Charles Soule. I was graciously sent a copy by Harper Perennial in exchange for an honest review. According to Harper Perennial, The Oracle Year is for fans of Joe Hill, David Wong, and other humorous sci-fi/fantasy writers. This novel follows Will Dando, a twenty-something bassist living in New York City, after he wakes up with 108 predictions in his head. Will, with the help of a close friend, takes these predictions and monetizes them becoming the most famous, most loved, and most hated person in the world. I’m about halfway through and loving every minute of it. It’s funny, it’s intriguing, and most of all it’s incredibly well written.

If you’re interested in this book, look for it at your local bookstore on April 3!

PS. It looks like The Oracle Year is being made into a TV show too!

Another book I’m really looking forward to this month is The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah. Kristin Hannah’s books seem to be big hits with a lot of people and The Great Alone is not exception. I’ve been seeing multiple five-star reviews for this book all over bookstagram and Goodreads which makes me so excited to dive into this one. Another great thing about reading this book this month is that I will be reading it with some great people on bookstagram! While I’ve been impatient with buddy reads in the past, I think this book will be great to discuss with friends.

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller also made my March hopeful pile this year. I’m reading it in anticipation for Circe because I really want to get a feel for the author’s writing and her take on Greek mythology. It also helps that I am a huge fan of Greek mythology and any modern take on it really interests me.

Finally, the book I think I’m going to finish out the month with is The House of Impossible Beauties by Joseph Cassara. There are so many reasons I hope that I will love this book. The biggest one being that one of my best book friends gave this book a solid five-star review. I really respect her reviews and seeing her thoughts on this book made me want to read it even more. I cannot wait to get into this book, but I really want to end March on a strong note and I think this book will be that for me.

That’s my March to-be-read pile! It might change a bit because I picked from great books from Book of the Month this month and might dive into those. What are you planning to read this month?

Review of Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

“Sometimes the world don’t give you what you need, no matter how hard you look. Sometimes it withholds.”

— Sing, Unburied, Sing, Jesmyn Ward

While beautifully written, I don’t think Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward was the book for me. Knowing that Ward is a fellow University of Michigan alum and that Sing, Unburied, Sing was on Barack Obama’s 2017 reading list, I desperately wanted to love this book, but I only liked it.*

*Which, I should note, is still a good thing and I do recommend this book if you are a fan of literary fiction!

Sing, Unburied, Sing tells the story of one family, their struggles, and their strengths. The story starts with Jojo, a thirteen-year-old boy who idolizes his grandfather and wants to be a man just like him. Jojo’s mother, Leonie, is struggling even more. With her children’s father in jail, past traumas haunting her, and a drug addiction, Leonie is not equipped to raise Jojo or her daughter.

The bulk of this story revolves around the journey of the family as they go to pick up the children’s father from jail. On the road, the family face more struggles that challenge their ways of thinking and makes them question the lives they are living.

There was no question that this book was beautiful and heartbreaking. As a literary fiction, it excelled. However, some logistical problems kept me from fully falling in love with this family’s story.

Just to quickly list them out:

  • The timeline was unclear. 
    There were times when it was obvious there was a flashback happening, but other times the flashbacks or memories were nestled into the chapters. This threw me off at times and I found myself having to go back and reread sections to figure out where in time I was.
  • I didn’t truly understand the character of Richie.
    While I know Richie was a very important part of Pop’s backstory, I don’t know why he had to be included in Jojo’s story. It seemed like Jojo was not at all receptive to Richie or his message. It didn’t seem like Richie served much of a purpose except to weave some supernatural elements throughout the story.
  • The magical realism wasn’t clear.
    The magical realism throughout this novel is what left me confused most of the time. It was never clear if the “ghosts” the family were seeing were actual ghosts or hallucinations or something else entirely. While Ward wrote these moments beautifully, I didn’t quite understand how the family was seeing these supernatural occurrences and why.

My biggest issue with this novel is that, by the end, I didn’t understand why I was told this story. The issues presented at the beginning were not resolved by the end. A lot of this novel could have been removed and the ending would have stayed the same. While I felt Ward’s prose was masterful, I felt like it didn’t progress the story at times.

Despite those negatives, I do think Sing, Unburied, Sing is an important novel that needs to be out in this world. It doesn’t shy away from racism or drug abuse. It talks about these issues and doesn’t glamorize them. It shows how racism has caused many of the family’s struggles. From Pop’s time in prison to the murder of Given to Leonie’s children having a white father, the family in this novel has always faced struggles due to racism. Sing, Unburied, Sing also shows how drug use has kept Leonie from being a mother to her children and how it has pulled them away from her. This novel takes the ugly things from this world and writes about them lyrically, which left an unsettled feeling in my stomach.

Overall, I liked this book. It gets a solid three out of five stars from me.

Review of Bird Box by Josh Malerman

“How can she expect her children to dream as big as the stars if they can’t lift their heads to gaze upon them?

— Bird Box, Josh Malerman

*Note: Bird Box is the middle book in this photo. The other two novels were pretty great too!

If you’re in need of a chilling, horrifying novel, Bird Box by Josh Malerman is absolutely something you need to pick up. It didn’t matter what page of this book I was on, there was always something terrifying that took place.

Bird Box tells the story of a post-apocalyptic world in which it is not safe to open your eyes. If you do open your eyes, you risk going mad. The world is filled with “creatures” that the human mind can’t comprehend and their presence has completely changed the way the world works. Bird Box centers around Malorie who has just found out she’s pregnant as the world is falling apart around her. Five years later, Malore is trapped in an abandoned house with her two children. Her children have been raised and trained for the perfect moment to leave the house in search of a safer life. One foggy day, it’s time.

This book chronicles Malorie’s and the children’s journey down the river to safety as well as Malorie’s life leading up to this moment. Each chapter alternates years and events, but stays centered on Malorie’s story.

The premise of this novel was different from the other post-apocalyptic novels I’ve read and I thought Malerman did a phenomenal job of creating such a chilling world. He weaved tension and anxiety throughout each of the pages expertly. I was kept on my toes with each page turn, unsure of what was about to happen next. Bird Box was the perfect length. Malerman edited his book so that each word was crucial to the story and nothing was lost.

I enjoyed this read immensely and the chills stayed with me for days. Also, Josh Malerman is a metro-Detroit native just like myself so he gets even more props for that! He’s also in a local band, check out The High Strung!

A solid 4 out of 5 stars for Bird Box. If you need a chilling, horror novel then you need to pick this book up!