Review | By Light We Knew Our Names by Anne Valente


This treasured collection of short stories gripped me from the very first story. I should warn you beforehand, this is not an easy book to swallow. Some of the stories are really hard-hitting and will tear you apart in a million pieces. But nevertheless, if you are feeling brave one day, I strongly encourage you to give this collection a try.

Valente is a poet. Her writing is in every word perfection and the way she crafts these beautiful stories is simply astounding. Not only can she be incredibly creative in imagery and symbolism, but the way she writes her characters—particularly the younger ones—is highly impressive. As someone who struggles very badly with short story collections, I began reading this one story a day but once I hit the forth short story, I couldn’t stop reading and flew though it. I usually struggle with short stories because I don’t find myself as invested into each story but this collection is perfection from the start.

Some stories have a strong sense of magic, while most remain realistic. What is amazing about some of the magical realism stories is that there is always room for speculation as to what’s what and whether it is “magical” or not. I love stories that offer you more than one interpretation and more then one way of looking at things so I have to really admire the fact that I took so much away from each of the stories.

The only reason why this book remains short of a perfect, five-star read is due one story towards the end that wasn’t nearly as gripping for me as the rest of them were. While I did enjoy the ending of it, majority of the story remained a dull experience and was unfortunately not redeemable by the last three pages. Still, don’t let that deteriorate you from picking up this wonderful book. By Light We Knew Our Names is still a brilliant piece of art.

I should warn you, I’m bound to keep changing my rating from 4 to 5 stars as I keep mulling over some of the stories overtime. But there isn’t a single person I can think of that I wouldn’t recommend this collection to.

Rating – ★★★★☆

Review | The Lair Of The White Worm by Bram Stoker


This is the 3rd Penguin Red classic book that I’ve read this month and the 2nd which is filled with racist and sexist messages. What a horrible way to end October!

To get my rage over with, let me take a moment and bitch a little about the racism. The “n” word is a trigger in society today but I am fully aware that at one point, it was nothing but a word (though obviously demeaning), so I would’ve happily let this book be what it is despite the fact that it uses the word “n” as commonly as we use “the.” But. (And this is big butt.) Not only are the character blatantly using it to relate to characteristics of savagery, barbarism, and slavery, the author/narrator himself is laughing at the black slave in the novel. It was not only offensive and utterly repulsive, but incredibly uncomfortable to watch the destruction of the “n” and witness the victory of white race.

To give an example, when a black man professes his love for Arabella, the following is the reaction:

“Lady Arabella was not usually a humorous person, but no man or woman of the white race could have checked the laughter which rose spontaneously to her lips. The circumstances were too grotesque, the contrast too violent, for subdued mirth. The man a debased specimen of one of the most primitive races of the earth, and of an ugliness which was simply devilish; the woman of high degree, beautiful, accomplished.”

This was the voice of the narrator; I’ll save you the ridiculous response Arabella actually gives.

Furthermore, if that wasn’t bad enough, this book is also sexist in its portrayal of female characters. Some of the lines of this novel are flinchingly bad in describing the nature of Arabella. I’ll be honest and say that there have been many times in my life when I’ve been frustrated with the opposite sex, but I don’t diminish their value as a human entirely. Here’s an example of the “toxicity” of a woman:

“This one is a woman, with all a woman’s wit, combined with the heartlessness of a COCOTTE.”

And also this:

“Now, Adam, it strikes me that, as we have to protect ourselves and others against feminine nature, our strong game will be to play our masculine against her feminine.”

Now that that’s out of the way, I would also like to add that the novel itself is generally just bad. It reads like a cheesy, corny, horror movie and is not at all redeemable by Stoker’s reputation of having authored Dracula (and his reputation, for me at least, has clearly been demolished). The writing is mediocre, the characters are all irritating (because of obvious racist attitudes), and plot lines are all predicable.

In short: skip this piece of shit.

Rating – ★☆☆☆☆

Review | Cormoran Strike: #3 Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith

CAREER OF EVIL by Robert Galbraith

Despite the fact that I love and adore Rowling for enhancing my childhood with Harry Potter stories, I am disappointed to find, as an adult, how formulaic and simplistic her writing has become.

Career of Evil takes a darker turn to the first two novels in the Cormoran Strike series, and while I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this sudden change of atmosphere, the novel overall is a major disappointment. The likability of the series already hinges on the characters and the need to know what happens with them, but this book is held up entirely by Robin and Strike’s drama. The mystery within the novel is actually more intense then the previous mysteries but it’s almost shoved into the corner amidst all the Strike-Robin drama.

Rowling excels at characterizations, she is an absolute master at it, but it’s a bit problematic for me when a “mystery” novel is based more on the characters and their drama then the actual mystery. It’s a bit too much to expect from a reader. And honestly, the drama itself just festers and causes so much angst that this book had me actually clenching my teeth in frustration.

Another aspect which seems typical of Rowling’s writing is info-dumping. While the novel is not at all difficult to read, and can be quite enjoyable at times, it’s tiresome when you are reading a 500 page novel and have to wait until the last 30-20% of it to understand everything that is going on. This is irritating, especially given that major portions of the novel just deal with Robin and Strike trying to avoid a conversation about their relationship.

Strike is a character I’ve never been able to get truly attached to, but that was not much of a concern seeing as how these are ultimately mystery novels and it doesn’t matter if I love him or not because he’s just a detective and all I cared about was that he did his job. Robin, however, is absolutely infuriating. I used to be able to sympathize with her but her character is so childish, filled with so much teenage anxiety that I couldn’t stand her halfway into the book. I had a hard time picturing her as an adult by the end, all I kept seeing was a 15 year old girl who had no clue what life was about. I felt bad for her, but ultimately just couldn’t care enough. It’s fairly easy for me to get attached to female characters but as this novel progressed, I felt myself pulling away from her.

Generally, I would say this novel would work better as TV series (since those allow for more stereotypical drama). As a mystery novel, this book is a disaster.

Rating – ★★☆☆☆

Review | The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros


This book is silent perfection.

Esperanza’s story is both heartbreaking and breathtaking. Read as part of a women’s coming-of-age course, The House on Mango Street might be my favorite book so far in the course. Esperanza’s story is gripping from page one, her narrative absolutely stunning. The writing of the novel perfectly aligns itself with Esperanza’s personality—or at least, how I imagine a character such as her would write.

Unlike the other novels read for this same course, what’s more appreciate about this novel is that neither the author nor the characters of the novel are focused on finding Esperanza companionship. A lot of coming-of-age novels deal with first loves and lost loves, but The House on Mango Street is something much more special. A woman’s identity in this novel, for a change, is not defined by her relationship with a single man who will either love her or betray her. It is defined her all relationships and human nature; family, friends, etc.

Instead of being told what’s right and wrong, Esperanza also learns to adapt to life on her own. While her mother (thus the society) expects her to embrace her role as a submissive woman, she asserts the role of a man, and an equal, quite naturally. She says to us, “I have begun my own quiet war. Simple. Sure. I am one who leaves the table like a man, without putting back the chair or picking up the plate” (110). Instead of fighting for her rights, she takes them.

Her growth comes with a steadfast fluidity; her character for ever growing to the cruelties of the world. She further develops maturity when she also grasps the concept of equality not just for the individual, but for the community. At the end of the story, Esperanza realizes that she has to eventually come back for the ones she left behind. Through her own experiences she’s been made aware of various struggles that are unique to each person’s life and realizes that she has to help those who cannot help themselves. This is what makes her coming-of-age story phenomenal.

Esperanza’s character never takes a breath, she only grows.

Rating – ★★★★★

#6 Stack of Reviews

Hello readers!

Another stack of reviews!

The Dunwich Horror by H. P. Lovecraft

I started out incredibly skeptical and wary of this collection as I was made aware that Lovecraft is racist and that his prejudicial attitude appears in his writing often. I liked the title story and “The Thing on the Doorstep” quite a bit, but as I continued jumping around the collection, I found the collection too repetitive ultimately. He seems to play with the same themes repeatedly and, forget scaring me, the stories eventually stop becoming even mildly entertaining.

I think I’ll pass on more Lovecraft in the future.

Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht

This book starts off a bit confusing but eventually transformed into one of the best things I’ve read. A blend of myth, fiction, and fact, this was a really gripping read from the first page. In fact, once you get settled into the narrative properly, it’s hard to stop reading. The characters are compelling, and their stories even more. Obreht’s writing is subtle and stunning, an incredibly impressive feat to achieve for someone so young. Her decision to write fables as fact is brilliant, it makes the emotional impact even more potent. I cannot wait for her to produce another masterpiece such as this. I should warn you, however, that this narrative style is definitely not meant for every reader.

Heir of Novron by Michael J. Sullivan

At times this series can be frustratingly average (meaning it doesn’t move beyond the average imagination), but for the most part, I’m happy to end the story with some good memories. My only disappointment beginning at the second volume of the series is the way Sullivan writes his female characters. From the beginning, they are often placed in such helpless situations that it becomes tiring that women needed to be saved all the time in this world. By the end, and in the sixth book, I do see some improvement in the female characters but at the same time, Arista’s constant self-deprecating attitude was just plain exhausting. Although I didn’t think this was all too-intentional on the author’s part so I’m not placing blame, I would say that the ignorance is slightly damaging to the enjoyment of these books.

Hope ya’ll have a good weekend. Let me know if you have read any of these. :)

#15IN31: Starved for Books

Hello all!

I’m here today to announce my participation in the #15IN31 challenge, hosted by Estella’s Revenge. The point of this challenge is to push yourself to read 15 books in the month of Oct, which is comprised of 31 days. I enjoy participating in Estelle’s Dewey’s 24-Hr-Readathon so I jumped in on this one when I saw the opportunity!

I actually already had a TBR of books prepared so I’ll share a few here now:

  1. The Portrait of a Lady
  2. The Birth of Venus
  3. The Tiger’s Wife
  4. My Brilliant Career
  5. A Passage to India
  6. The House on the Mango Street
  7. Carmilla
  8. The Phantom of the Opera
  9. Vathek
  10. Monday or Tuesday
  11. Elizabeth I
  12. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
  13. Anne of Avonlea

Let me know if you’re participating!


Review | The Hearing Trumpet by Leonora Carrington

THE HEARING TRUMPET by Leonora Carrington

The Hearing Trumpet opens with our narrator’s best friend, Carmilla, gifting her a trumpet which she suggests our narrator use to listen in on her family’s conversations. Our narrator, Marian, then listens in on her family’s discussion about putting her into a home, which she can do nothing about but agree to go. Moving into the Institution brings a series of adventures and mysteries which become more and more bizarre as time passes.

My favorite character of the book would have to be, hands down, Carmilla, Marian’s best friend. She is one of the most colorful older characters I can think of in fiction and every time her name pops up in the book, I know a treat awaits. In fact, almost all of the major characters of the book are painted with an incredible creative brush and the imagination explodes in little bits and pieces when it comes to this group of older women intending to spend their last days with joyful adventures.

Though serious undertones run throughout the book, the wisps of humor in the seriousness of the ridiculous dialogue make this a delightful read. Marian’s observational narrative account of her family, her friends, and the Institution is both amusing and insightful of her thought process.

This peculiar, mental little book was one of the best things I read all this month. It was also read in conjunction with the Underhyped Books Read-a-Thon and wow, under hyped this book is!

Rating – ★★★★☆