BOOK REVIEW: DID YOU EVER HAVE A FAMILY by BILL CLEGG

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Beautiful in the saddest ways, Did You Ever Have a Family is a sweeping yet particular novel, examining grief and trauma and how they intersect and coalesce in different people with different histories and relationships. Its writing is sparse but potent, its emotional beats all the more powerful because they are unornamented. There’s such an unmitigated sense of melancholy running throughout this story, an emptiness at the immensity of the loss that these characters have suffered. Yet it’s not a completely hopeless novel either. If Clegg is clear about anything, it is that just as loss alienates, it also connects.
One criticism: I felt that some of the passages about the women in this novel were really gratuitous, especially in their violence and objectification. Out of nowhere, you find out that one of the characters’ lesbian friends–who was in a happy relationship, by the way–was raped and killed while she was sleeping in the safety of her own home. Raped and killed? In the middle of a happy relationship? While she was sleeping in her own house? It irritated me that, in killing off a minor character, Clegg chose to have her be raped and killed while she was sleeping. Is this kind of horrific death necessary? Why not just have her die in a car crash or something? Another thing was that one of the characters, Silas, constantly objectified women. I know he’s a teenage boy and all but, again, to what extent are passages about him imagining women naked and staring at their “ass” (“That ass! He’s spellbound by the metronomic perfection of its movement and thinks, This is no mom’s ass”) and curve of their breasts really necessary to this story?

3.5-


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ARC REVIEW: RED, WHITE & ROYAL BLUE by CASEY MCQUISTON

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Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

CUTE 

I really, really enjoyed this. I was in the mood for something quick and cute and Red, White & Royal Blue delivered exactly that. First and foremost, McQuiston’s biggest strength here is her dialogue. Her characters’ conversations are organic, genuine, and funny. I also appreciated the representation in this book. Alex is biracial—half-white, half-Mexican—and bisexual, Henry is gay, Nora is a lesbian, and there’s also a lot of discussion of what it’s like to be queer and/or a person of colour in politics. Oh and also, the romance was cute as hell. Thought I’d mention that since, y’know, this is a romance book, lol. ANYWAY, I really enjoyed this. It only gets 3.5 stars just because I found that the plot elements started to drag down the story bit, especially with all the stuff about the election.

(Thank you to St. Martin’s Press for providing me with an eARC of this via NetGalley!)

3.5-


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BOOK REVIEW: WONDER WOMAN WARBRINGER BY LEIGH BARDUGO

Here’s the deal: I enjoyed this, but I wasn’t necessarily wowed by it.Frankly, I think I would’ve enjoyed this story more had it focused on Alia rather than Diana. Diana wasn’t a bad character per se, but she felt so…perfect. Sure, she had her struggles and insecurities, but they didn’t emotionally impact me as much as Alia’s. I found that some of the most standout moments in this book were from Alia’s POV, moments when she was pushed to her limit, when she had to summon every dredge of willpower left in her. As for the side characters, I thought they were fun—but that’s exactly it. They werefun, and so was their banter, but I ultimately didn’t end up forming a particularly deep connection to them. (I did really love Theo though.)As always, though, Leigh Bardugo incorporates some wonderful diversity in this book: excepting Diana, the cast is made up entirely of POCs, one of whom is fat and also bisexual. The representation was overall fantastic, and that’s definitely not something I took for granted.Plot-wise I don’t have anything noteworthy to say. There were some scenes that stood out to me, and I generally appreciated that there was a good balance between plot- and character-development. My biggest qualm with the plot though was with this book’s ending, or at least the series of events that led up to the book’s ending.

(SPOILERS UNDER THE CUT)


Here are some of my favourite scenes/quotes:

“‘You’ll remember me,’ he panted, his face sheened with sweat. ‘I was your first kiss. I could have been your first everything. You’ll always know that.’
She looked deep into his eyes. ‘You were my first nothing, Jason. I am immortal, and you are a footnote. I will erase you from my history, and you will vanish, unremembered by this world.'”

DAMN, DIANA ACTUALLY Did That

“He jabbed his finger down on the screen. ‘Shapow!’
Nothing happened.
‘Oh, wait a second.’ His thumbs flew over the screen again. He cleared his throat. ‘What I meant to say was, shablammy!'”

this is why I love Theo

“I am done being careful. I am done being quiet. Let them see me angry. Let them hear me wail at the top of my lungs.”

YES ALIA YES

“She marched up the hill, tears choking her throat. It wasn’t the embarrassment. It wasn’t the memory. It was everything that had come with it, every hateful thought she’d ever had about herself like a chorus in her head. The lasso was like looking into a mirror that stripped away each illusion you used to get yourself through the day, every bit of scaffolding you’d built to prop yourself up. And then there was just you. Boobs too small. Butt too big. Skin too ashy. She was to nerdy, too weird, too quiet around people.”

what a heart-rending passage


An overall fun read, but unfortunately, I don’t think it’ll be very impressionable for me in the long run.

3.5-


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