Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

How I Read It: Audiobook/Print

Dates Read: 1/27/20-1/30/20

How I Found It: Book of the Month

This book marks off the “A Fantasy Novel” badge on the 40 Book Reading Challenge from Once Upon a Book Club

When this was a choice for the November 2019 box, I had originally chosen it. While it had been on my TBR list for the past few weeks, I ultimately chose it more for its length than any concept of the story (I need some long audiobooks to listen to while at work). Going into it, I assumed by the cover that it was probably in the fantasy genre and probably was going to be dark, but there wasn’t a lot of dark moments. It actually was funny at times.

Galaxy Stern (nicknamed Alex) was the sole survivor of a murder rampage and drug overdose. She was given the opportunity to go to Yale University with the promise that she would be the Dante in a magic society called Lethe. She was being trained by a man named Darlington, who ended up disappearing, leaving Alex to figure out how to be Dante by herself.

A ritual goes wrong, leading to the death of a young girl. Alex then starts investigating the murder initially to make her report, but soon she keeps looking after being turned away from the leaders of Lethe. Switching between the past and the present, we learn about the history of Lethe and the houses within, the magical tricks they use, and the power of ghost magic (yea, did I mention lots of ghosts in this one?).

I was surprised how into this book I got. While I have not experience any of the same things as Alex, I felt like I really felt her character (which makes sense because normally I am attracted to the bad*ss character in most novels), and her sense of humor. It also was more of a suspense novel with a fantasy element IMO, which falls into my favorite genre. According to the author, there will be a sequel, and you best believe I will be sharing that with all of you as soon as I can get my hands on it!

One of the cooler parts of the audiobook is that they did an interview with the author. In that interview, the author revealed that many of the aspects of the book are real, minus the magical elements of course (although now that I think about it, she never said that the magic wasn’t real, so maybe there is some stuff going on in New Haven, CT), including the houses in mausoleums. In fact, she revealed that she was part of one of the houses, which is super dope.

One of the other bigger projects that I want to get into from her is the Grishaverse. I have been told that I should give it a chance, and now that I know that I like her writing style, I might try it out. My major concern is that this book was not targeted to young adults, and I’m not sure if the style I experienced will match her other works. I would give this book 4.5 out of 5 stars, and I look forward to the sequel!

If you guys have any thoughts or ideas, feel free to leave a comment, find me on the social medias at @elizabooksblog, or email me at elizabethslick@elizabethsbookstore.blog. And as always, I’ll see you all in the next book!

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James

How I Read It: Print

Dates Read: 1/11/20-1/14/20

How I Found It: Book of the Month

Welcome back everyone! This book is full of supernatural and crime scene investigations, so if either freaks you out or are triggering, read at your own discretion (Side note: I have never seen a trigger warning for supernatural stuff, but as someone who has been terrified to the point of tears over supernatural things when I was younger, I feel like I need to warn it for the people like me).

Switching back and forth between 1982 and 2017, this story follows Viv Delaney and her niece Carly Kirk as they work in the Sun Down Motel as the night clerk in Fell, NY. Throughout this story, we learn more about the murders that have occurred in this town and piece together what has happened in the years leading up to 1982. When Viv disappeared out of the blue in 1982, Carly comes to Fell to figure out what happened, and gets more than she was hoping for. Add in the assorted ghosts of the Sun Down, and you are in for a wild story.

I had plans this weekend, so I wasn’t able to finish it until a few days later. When you are all the way into it, this book goes so fast and is super enjoyable. However, when you are away from it, something in it changes that makes it less enjoyable. But I read close to 200 pages in one day just because it was so good and enrapturing. If you have a day that is away from people and you like true crime stories, you probably will love this book. I would give this book 4 out of 5 stars, which would probably be 5 out of 5 if I had finished it without a break.

If you guys have any thoughts or ideas, feel free to leave a comment, find me on the social medias at @elizabooksblog, or email me at elizabethslick@elizabethsbookstore.blog. And as always, I’ll see you all in the next book!

Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano

How I Read It: Audiobook/Print

Dates Read: 1/14/20-1/15/20

How I Found It: Book of the Month

This book marks off the “A Book Set on an Airplane” badge on the 40 Book Reading Challenge from Once Upon a Book Club

I remember thinking when I saw the cover that this book was going to be big. But I did not expect for it to blow up as much as it has, including getting featured on Jenna Bush’s book club (and mentioned on the Today Show). To give you some perspective on how into this book I was, I average about 4.5 hours of listening while at work, and yesterday I listened to about 5.5 hours of my 6.5 hour work day. Lots of numbers, but essentially, I listened to this book A LOT. And I couldn’t get enough. This book is totally worth the hype. Okay, sales pitch over, let’s get into the synopsis:

The Adler family is moving to LA from NYC. 15-year-old Jordan and 12-year-old Eddie are just trying to deal with this huge change. For Jordan, that means challenging his parents, including going vegan, refusing the scanner thing at the airport security, and dating the girl at the deli. For Eddie, that means refusing to face the change. The family boards flight 2977 to start their new lives.

Eddie, now known as Edward, wakes up to learn he is the lone survivor of the Flight 2977 crash. At 12-years-old, he has to deal with survivor guilt, grief, PTSD, insomnia and a bunch of other mental health issues. Following his life over the next 3 or so years, we watch Edward grow up and come to terms with his past.

Switching between the passengers on the flight and Edward’s new life post-crash, we watch the plane crash and Edward grow in a beautiful juxtaposition.

I don’t have a lot more I can say. This book is beautiful in its openness. And while I don’t recommend reading this on a plane (for obvious reasons), I do recommend learning about Edward and what he had to overcome.

As for the cultural significance: this story is based off of 2 plane crashes, one of which where the only survivor was a 9-year-old boy. We have this tendency to wonder “what happened to them?” after a tragedy strikes someone, and this story discusses what it’s like to be that person. But even more so, it shows how broken people are when tragedy strikes, and how we need someone, anyone, to be able to show our pain. All I’ll say is read it, love it, enjoy it, and never let it leave you. I give this book 5 out of 5 stars, and I will never not encourage you to read it.

If you guys have any thoughts or ideas, feel free to leave a comment, find me on the social medias at @elizabooksblog, or email me at elizabethslick@elizabethsbookstore.blog. And as always, I’ll see you all in the next book!

The Great Pretender by Susannah Cahalan

How I Read It: Audiobook

Dates Read: 11/20/19-11/24/19

How I Found It: Book of the Month

I’ll be honest, I’m not a psychologist. At all. In fact, I got a C in Intro to Psychology when I took it as a freshman in college. To me, psychology is not that interesting in the abstract, but I find particular case studies interesting. For example, the Stanford Prison Experiment (which was created into a movie in 2015) and Pavlov’s experiments have always interested me. This book discusses a study called Being Sane in Insane Places by David Rosenhan. In this study, Rosenhan gets 8 mentally healthy people to go into an insane asylum and initially convince them they are insane, then trying to prove their sanity to get back out. Within this book, we learn about the people that were involved, especially Rosenhan, and how mental health analysis has changed both in connection to this study and as our view of mental health has changed.

Firstly, let’s start with Cahalan. When she was in her twenties, she was hospitalized with symptoms of schizophrenia. While many people with that diagnosis would be stuck in psychiatric wards, her parents fought for another reason. Eventually, a thoughtful doctor found the illness was autoimmune encephalitis, which is when your body attacks the brain. The disease was caught just in time, and Cahalan was able to fully recover. Another woman had the same disease but it was not caught early enough, and now she is forced to live in a hospital for the rest of her life. Since she could have easily been the woman, Cahalan shared her story in a memoir, called Brain on Fire (which has been adapted into a Netflix movie in 2018).

In Rosenhan’s study, 9 people (including Rosenhan himself) went into a mental hospital intake area saying that they heard voices that said something along the lines of “empty”, “thud”, and “hollow”. According to his results, 8 of the pseudopatients were given a schizophrenia diagnosis, with one pseudopatient receiving a manic depression (now called bipolar disorder) diagnosis. Most stays lasted between 10-30 days, while some pseudopatients stayed in hospitals for as long as 3 months (over multiple stays). According to Rosenhan, all pseudopatients left the hospital against medical advice “in remission”. (One of the pseudopatients was not listed in the original study, but rather in a supplemental report. This supplemental report was important because the patient, according to Rosenhan, could not be counted because he lied about other aspects of his life that could result in a mental health disorder.)

When Rosenhan reported the study in 1973, along with Rosemary Kennedy’s lobotomy, mental health reform came to the US. But this study received A LOT of criticism. One of those problems was the small number of pseudopatients, which causes a lot of extrapolation. Also, Robert Spitzer wrote a response on Rosenhan’s experiment calling it “logic in remission”. He believed that there was misreporting within the study that led to fabricated results.

Cahalan got Rosenhan’s notes from his time on Being Sane in Insane Places after his strokes. Using these notes and his friends from that time period, Cahalan tried to piece together who the pseudopatients were hoping to find out more information about Rosenhan’s study. What she found questions the entire validity of the study, with many of the pseudopatients being impossible to track down, or the ones that can be found giving different testimonies than reported.

I found the book a little repetitive, but I think the amount of research that went into the book is INSANE. I think that there are a lot of things that don’t add up, and sadly, we can’t ask Rosenhan about them. I think that he was a man that wanted to prove his point, and gain notoriety along the way, even if he has to cut corners to get there. But obviously my opinion is slightly biased because I have just listened to 11 hours of one side. So let me know what you guys think and if you think Rosenhan’s study was valid or not.

In terms of rating, I would probably give this one 4.5 out of 5. While completely out of my usual, I did listen to it whenever I had a chance to, which means it is pretty good. There were a few things that bothered me, but otherwise I thought it was easy for someone who didn’t know anything about the study (like me) to be able to read and understand this book.

(P.S. I totally think that a movie called Being Sane in Insane Places needs to happen)

If you guys have any thoughts or ideas, feel free to leave a comment, find me on the social medias at @elizabooksblog, or email me at elizabethslick@elizabethsbookstore.blog. And as always, I’ll see you all in the next book!

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

How I Read It: Audiobook/ Ebook

Dates Read: 12/5/19-12/6/19

How I Found It: Amazon/ Book of the Month

In a moment of feeling cooler than I really am, I am happy to report that I had bought this book back in May, almost 6 months BEFORE BOTM decided to make this book one of its suggestions. At that point, I was just picking random books on Amazon whose cover I was attracted to (and if you have never done that then you are lying to yourself), and all those books ended up getting lost in all the other books on my Kindle app. But as soon as BOTM announced it, I hopped right on that bandwagon. Thankfully, the universe was on my side, and this book got chosen right away by the lucky wheel app. As fate would have it, I put the other book I was reading on the back burner so I could continue to cry and laugh throughout this one.

Alright, so we follow Alex, the First Son of the United States (FSOTUS) and future politician, as he attends the Royal Wedding. Upon seeing his arch enemy, Henry, aka the Prince of Wales, they get into a heated debate that leads to the two of them falling into the wedding cake. In an effort to get a more positive image, they are forced to become best friends to the media.

As the become fake friends, their real friendship begins to take off as well. Soon, they begin talking to each other all the time, often with insults, but at least it is talking. And then one faithful New Years Eve party (and a chasten kiss) changed everything. Soon they are actively taking each other’s pants off at any moment they can get. But being the FSOTUS (dumbest acronym) and the Prince of Wales does not a public relationship make, so they have to figure out how much they mean to each other before announcing to the world their feelings.

But also, people suck. That’s the story. People suck, but only cruddy people. The rest are pretty cool. And also, love your friends and family regardless of gender, sexuality, race, or any other bs label that people develop phobias of.

Okay, ignoring the negative comments about society, I really enjoyed this book! And I mean, there is a lot more that happens, but that’s the basic backbone. While at one point I was concerned that this was some surprise smut, it is just a normal book with a lot of sex but many of those details left out. And while I wouldn’t necessary recommend it to my grandmother (because in my mind she is celibate), I would totally recommend it to any of my friends (well, not “any”. Yay for racism and homophobia in America, amirite?) because it is genuinely just fun to read. I would ultimately give this book 4.5 out of 5 stars, and a little magic well wish that this become a limited series on Netflix (but not movie, because if we are getting Henry, I want all the Henry).

If you guys have any thoughts or ideas, feel free to leave a comment, find me on the social medias at @elizabooksblog, or email me at elizabethslick@elizabethsbookstore.blog. And as always, I’ll see you all in the next book!

Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert

How I Read It: Audiobook

Dates Read: 11/5/19-11/7/19

How I Found It: Book of the Month

Quick warning to my father and grandmother who may or may not end up reading this post: Please wait until the next one for my big comeback.

Why hello surprise smut. Look, I am on the #stopsmutshaming bandwagon (P.S. make that a shirt please 🙂 ), but man, this book took a turn. It seems that I always go into books lately without any expectations and zero research, and if this book isn’t the prime example, then I don’t know what is. You can tell by the cover that this is a romance, and I immediately figured it was designed for the young adult age group (heads up, don’t give this to anyone who can’t attend a R rated movie by themselves, and maybe even older. It gets REAL graphic REAL quick), but… uh… I was wrong. Nothing like listening to a very intense sex scene while at work, am I right? (sadly that’s true, but I am committed to getting posts out, so worth it?)

Right… the story. Totally need to talk about the story. So there’s this girl named, you guessed it, Chloe Brown. Okay, so Chloe has fibromyalgia which causes her to be in a constant state of pain. She has flare ups that cause her to be extremely exhausted, have rough headaches, and bouts of insomnia. When she almost gets hit by a drunk driver, Chloe realized that she hasn’t experienced much of life, which leads to the “Get a Life” list. Included on that list includes doing something bad, camping, traveling the world with only a carry-on, and meaningless sex. (You see where this is going, right?)

Okay, so the leading man is Redford (Red) Morgan, who is trying to rebuild love for painting after an abusive relationship (Trigger Warning: this book does not focus on his abuse, but it is present. There is only 1 particular scene that I can remember where they focused on the actual abuse, and even then, I did not find it too deep. But the story does address the trauma of being abused, specifically with trust. If these things are/can be triggering for you, I recommend you sit this one out). He works as the superintendent of an apartment complex, the same one that Chloe just moved into. He had been attracted to Chloe from the moment he met her, but was turned off by her aggressive and snooty behavior.

Chloe caught Red painting (without a shirt on, might I add) and subsequently tried to ignore him. But when Chloe sees an innocent cat stuck in a tree, she figures she has to save it. But then she freezes. Red finds her in the tree and helps her down. Which leads to a more graphic than needed wet dream. Buckle in folks, because it gets intense from here. They end up reaching an agreement where she would work on a website to display his new artwork and he would help her with her list. But quickly Chloe realizes that she likes the ideas on her list but not the actual activity, at least until Red sexes her up the whole time.

Okay, so for the sake of having a chance of getting a job whenever I may need it, I will not be discussing the smut aspect of this book (but do know that I wrote about 3 paragraphs of smut opinions before realizing that I sound like a crazy lady), I will share some opinions about “romance”. I am pretty sure that I wrote a let’s talk about the romance genre (and I’m just lazy enough to not look it up within the next 2 months), but why is it that EVERY romance is about two people who seemingly don’t belong together, they get together, they have a fight that causes them to walk away from each other, and then wouldn’t you know, they loved each other all along and they live happily ever after? I had higher expectations for this book, but spoiler, it’s the same storyline we have all read. So why is that? Based on my very limited English education, my guess is that we expect a book to have a climax/conflict. Without it, we feel cheated (which I get). I just wish that wasn’t such a cliché. It is no fun reading a book when you already have a grasp of how things are going to work out.

As for the book itself, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The writing style was extremely easy to read and the characters were unique. I did think that the amount of sex scenes were a little too much (especially with the amount of detail within them), but I can understand why a lot of people would like this book. I would ultimately give this book 3.75 out of 5 stars (there were a lot of smut related points that I had to take off for opinions that got deleted off this post).

If you guys have any thoughts or ideas, feel free to leave a comment, find me on the social medias at @elizabooksblog, or email me at elizabethslick@elizabethsbookstore.blog. And as always, I’ll see you all in the next book!

The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates

How I Read It: Audiobook

Dates Read: 10/9/19-10/17/19

Set in the time of the Underground Railroad in the US, Hiram Walker was born out of rape to a slave mother. His father was his master. He grew up on the property, and was gifted with an eidetic memory. As he grew, he began to develop feelings for his brother’s slave woman, Sophia. He was the person forced to drive her to his estate and back, but he also kept up a relationship with her outside of that. One night, they decided to run for freedom and they were caught.

Hiram was sent to a prison where he was starved and tasked. He was put in a death pit where he was allowed to get out and try to run, giving the white trappers a chance to catch and torture him every time he did so. One of those runs, he was able to escape to the Underground.

While in the Underground, Hiram worked often with Harriet Tubman as a forger to provide passes for the slaves they set to free. He creates passes to get his fellow conductor’s family out of Alabama. His mentor goes to get the family and he dies after capture. Hiram takes this personally, so he works on getting Sophia and the woman who raised him, Thena. He is forced to go back and work for his father, where he plots his plan for conduction.

While this book has Oprah’s seal of approval, I struggled to get through this one. I am unsure if it is because I don’t feel connected to the culture, or if it is because I am easily bored by historical fiction, but I had to go back and recheck sections because I had gaps in my memory. The hardest part for me is that I don’t know how I would change anything about the book. It is very good for what it is, I just did not keep interest as well as other books. I would ultimately give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

If you guys have any thoughts or ideas, feel free to leave a comment, find me on the social medias at @elizabooksblog, or email me at elizabethslick@elizabethsbookstore.blog. And as always, I’ll see you all in the next book!