Reading Life

Book Review: The Riot Grrrl Collection edited by Lisa Darms

The Riot Grrrl Collection by Lisa Darms

The Riot Grrrl Collection by Lisa Darms

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This is as close as having an appointment to view a library’s special collections wing as one can have in book form, specifically with archived DIY flyers, zines, and other materials created during the Riot Grrrl punk movement in the 1990s on the west coast. While the introduction gives great orienting comments, I was hoping for more of a guided tour throughout the text to help me better understand the background of each piece. That being said, the collection fittingly invites readers to take each artifact as they will, or don’t, who cares, be the revolution and make it whatever it means for you–and that’s how they were originally intended. A great immersive look into a unique moment of creative and political energy.



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Book Review: The Rose and the Beast by Francesca Lia Block

The Rose and the Beast by Francesca Lia Block

The Rose and the Beast: Fairy Tales Retold by Francesca Lia Block

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I will always love this book. I read it so many times as a teenager at the turn of the millennium and the enchantment it held for me then is a lasting spell. Block’s writing is fearlessly stylized and she navigates the dark with so much love and tenderness. Her voice as a writer is very recognizable, and not for everyone: the feelings and the beauty she wields are supersaturated. For me, the stories here are still captivating and a crucial portal to my own awakening as a writer. I re-read it with so much gratitude.



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Book Review: The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie

The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie

The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Ann Leckie is not afraid to really push narrative point of view beyond the expected, and that’s what I respect most about this dark fantasy. The story itself is nothing new–how many times have we seen kingdoms at war, leaders vying for power, and a simple farmboy swept up in it all? (Also, big Hamlet vibes.) But the relative familiarity of the plot is not where the secrets lie, because the story itself is told from a perspective that we don’t expect, and sometimes that we don’t even know is there. This book reimagines storytelling in a new way, and I enjoyed that. My favorite character wasn’t even close to human.



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Book Review: On Monsters by Stephen T. Asma

On Monsters by Stephen T. Asma

On Monsters: An Unnatural History of Our Worst Fears by Stephen T. Asma

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This volume is erudite in every sense of the word, and to be perfectly honest, it’s just not very readable. However, I did learn some new and fascinating things and enjoyed the teleological arguments posed by the author against the backdrop of, well, all of recorded history. The biggest thing that made this read a slow one for me was the focus on “monstrous” humanity for the majority of the book. I tend to think of monsters more along the creature or supernatural lines, which are certainly mentioned, but I would say the majority of the book focuses on an academic analysis of history’s response to human deformities, differences, monstrous desires, and antisocial impulses rather than the godzillas and ghosts I was hoping to find.



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Book Review: Get in Trouble by Kelly Link

Get in Trouble by Kelly Link

Get in Trouble: Stories by Kelly Link

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Oh, this collection is so insane. And delightfully so. Kelly Link is a high profile player in a group of contemporary voices who have taken the traditional literary scorn of genre fiction and turned it into a dare. This kind of no-rules, dark, and playful prose is thrilling and fresh. Link’s tongue stays firmly in-cheek throughout this journey of weird, but it’s captivating, bold, and beautifully unrepentant.

My favorites in this collection:
The Summer People
The New Boyfriend
*Two Houses



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Book Review: The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery

The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery

The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I read this book at my cousin’s recommendation during the 2020 U.S. election–a stressful week-plus of national tension that required pure escapist fantasy. L. M. Montgomery (of Anne of Green Gables fame) was a master of such tales, and this one is as dramatic, witty, romantic, and treacly as they come. This novel does what every Hallmark movie is forever trying to equal, and it did it first. I came to be swept away and was! May we all have such happy endings and affirmations of our truest selves.



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Book Review: Passing for Human by Liana Finck

Passing for Human by Liana Finck

Passing for Human: A Graphic Memoir by Liana Finck

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Liana Finck’s distinctive style of drawing makes her graphic memoir feel as if it’s being told to you from the other end of the couch, while sharing a kettle of tea. The story is gently carried on the back of metaphors that allow her images to range free. It’s a beautiful memoir. Reading it feels like meeting someone for the first time, and knowing that they’re going to become important to you. Hard to describe. But you’ll know it when you see it.



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Book Review: Whiskey When We’re Dry by John Larison

Whiskey When We're Dry by John Larison

Whiskey When We’re Dry by John Larison

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


John Larison breathes new life into the Western with Whiskey When We’re Dry, a book with a new edge on the genre that smells like gunsmoke and lets us fully into the body of an American person who represents so many of us, past, present, and future. Jesse’s voice explores so much–what we do or don’t owe our family, our gender, our employers, our friends, our lovers. A remarkable, whip-smart read that feels vintage and fresh at the same time.



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Book Review: The Grace Year by Kim Liggett

The Grace Year

The Grace Year by Kim Liggett

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


The Grace Year is powered by plot. This is a delightfully twisty and genuinely frightening plot for a YA title, and that makes it a rapid, careening ride. The character development and motivation is definitely a little more on the two-dimensional side, but for the younger reader who is looking for a thrill, this novel will deliver with its high-voltage mix of survival narrative, romance, mean girl comeuppance, and minor gore. This book would make a great stepping stone to The Handmaid’s Tale.



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Book Review: The Rain in the Trees by W.S. Merwin

Rain in the Trees

Rain in the Trees by W.S. Merwin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Merwin was an absolute master and is one of my favorite poets. This collection from 1988 is not as transcendent and timeless as some of his others for me, being very much of its own moment.

Still some gems, though:
– “After School”
– “Empty Water”
– “Waking to the Rain”
– “Anniversary on the Island”
– “The Solstice”
– “Travelling Together”
– “The Rose Beetle”



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