The Unrivalled Transcendence of Willem J. Gyle by James Dixon — A Review

The Unrivalled Transcendence of Willem J. GyleThe Unrivalled Transcendence of Willem J. Gyle by James Dixon

RaeleighReads rating: cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3

Don’t let the bland cover fool you, this one is a doozy!

The Unrivalled Transcendence of Willem J. Gyle is the story of Willem, a recently-laid-off worker. In the span of a few days he’s lost not only his job, but his mom and his home. What follows is his harrowing descent into homelessness, fighting every day to stay alive and to maintain his sense of self.

Willem is described as slow thinking, but I got the sense he suffered from some sort of mental or developmental disability. He never really seemed to understand the world around him, and given what he encountered after he landed on the streets, perhaps that’s a good thing.

At times I found this very difficult to read. The language is sharp, harsh, stark. Dixon does not shy away from his topic, and I appreciated that, as uncomfortable as I sometimes felt. That said, I often found myself seriously disliking Willem. Especially toward the end of his story, I found it very difficult to maintain any sort of compassion or understanding for him or his actions. The last several chapters left me feeling numb, and if I’m honest, a bit queasy.

For lovers of literary fiction, I would highly recommend this.

I received a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Among Wolves by R.A. Hakok — A Review

Image result for among wolves ra hakok

Among Wolves by R. A. Hakok

RaeleighReads rating: cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3

Among Wolves is a post-apocalyptic suspense novel set in the U.S. It’s what I would call skinny science fiction. You know, like a skinny vanilla latte from Starbucks — just like a regular vanilla latte but without all the fat and sugar. This is science fiction without very much science. Which, for me, was totally fine. This story is much more about the development of the main character, Gabriel, than it is about the circumstances surrounding the post-apocalyptic setting. I only mention this because I noticed some reviewers were very peeved about the lack of hard science. So, something to keep in mind.

As I mentioned, this novel, which is the first in the series, Children of the Mountain, follows Gabriel, a teenage boy who goes out scavenging for the folks living in Eden, an old army bunker housing what’s left of humanity. His ambivalent nature was seriously frustrating at the beginning, but his character does evolve throughout into someone I might call heroic. Or, at the very least, someone who was pushed to the edge and rose to the occasion.

Many of the other characters were rather sparsely fleshed out, but that didn’t bother me either. Hakok’s writing style propelled me through this story (once I finally found time to focus on it). In fact, after I got going on my e-reader, instead of reading on my app on my desktop, I flew through this. The antagonist, the former president of the United States, is a REAL piece of work. He is like a televangelist who was given complete power over the world. Terrifying. There are good guys, bad guys, and some who fall in between, and there are also some good guys who I thought were bad guys, but surprise!

I can’t wait to find out what happens to the group of kids who entered Eden at the age of six and have never been outside in the ten years since (except for Gabriel). If I can get my hands on a copy of the second novel in the series, The Devil You Know, expect a review of it shortly. 😀

Shantytown by Cesar Aira — A Review

Image result for shantytown cesar airaShantytown by César Aira

My rating: cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3

Meh. That pretty much sums up all my thoughts on this book.

I read this for the Read Harder Challenge 2017, and it was definitely that…a challenge.

Maybe it’s just because I read this slow-moving and ponderous novel after reading a LOT of YA and fantasy, which was fast-paced and easy to read, that I didn’t like Shantytown. Somehow though, after reading it, I still have no idea what it was I just read. My brain did not latch on to this story or its characters at all.

I finished this back in July and jotted down the above thoughts in all of two seconds. Then I decided to let it marinate a while before I published a review, thinking maybe with time I would gain some sort of insight into the complexities of the novel. But that didn’t happen. In fact, this novel was incredibly forgettable. I don’t even remember the main character’s name at this point. I still remember a few of the scenes. The author’s descriptive writing was very good, but I have NO idea what the point was.

Not going to recommend it.

View all my reviews on GoodReads.

Hollywood Homicide by Kellye Garrett — A Review

Image result for hollywood homicide kellye garrettHollywood Homicide by Kellye Garrett

RaeleighReads rating: cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3

Sometimes I really really really love my job! I was at the American Library Association’s Annual Conference in Chicago at the end of June, and so many wonderful vendors were there with brand new books to peruse.

I picked up this novel, on a whim, while walking down one of the aisles. I’m not typically a mystery reader, but this looked like a great little book blending together Hollywood flash, a poc main character, and accessible and modern language. I was not disappointed.

Hollywood Homicide is cute and snappy and definitely a page turner. I’m so happy I picked up this arc from the publisher. I can’t wait for more Detective by Day books. I’ll definitely be purchasing them!

This recently came out — Published August 8th 2017 by Midnight Ink.

View all my reviews on GoodReads.

The Unwind Dystology by Neal Shusterman — Reviews

Image result for unwind dystology coversUnwind, Unwholly, Unsouled, and Undivided by Neal Shusterman

RaeleighReads rating: cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3

This series is creepy! In order to calm myself so I can review this dystology, I’ll address the novels in terms of three categories:  the concepts, the peoples, and the propaganda.

The Concepts

Unwinding — the process of taking apart a person piece by piece so that those parts can go on to another person. Like organ donation, but without the consent. Unwinding has to be the most morally reprehensible concept I’ve ever heard of.

Another bizarre concept — storking. Got a baby you don’t want? No worries. You HAVE to carry it to term, but after it’s born, you can leave it on someone’s doorstep. No harm, no foul. Just don’t get caught or you have to raise it yourself. *smacks head*

AWOLs — teens between ages of 13 and 17 who have been scheduled, by their parents, for unwinding but who ran away. These are the smart kids in these books.

Tithes — kids who grew up knowing that at thirteen they would be unwound “for the good of all”. Like tithing at church, but with a human being. (If you could see my eyes right now you guys…bug eyes…huge, huge bug eyes.)

The Peoples

What the hell is wrong with the people in this universe!!!!

All the peoples:

Related image

Problem with this thinking is:  the problem never goes away if you ignore it! Durrrr! I would like to think that most people would not stand idly by while all of this unwinding and storking and tithing and kids running for their lives was going on, but I’m frequently surprised (or maybe not that surprised) by humanity’s ability to stick its collective head in the sand.

The only people who seemed to want to do anything about the problems in this world were Connor, who only started to care about other people when he HAD to; Risa, who was thrown together with Connor and was arguably the only reason Connor turned out to be a decent guy; Lev, another victim of circumstance turned do-gooder, and a super old lady named Sonia who ran an antique shop that doubled as a safe house for runaways. Some arguments could be made about the goodness of a few satellite characters, but these are our main players. (I’m not even going to talk about Cam, the first rewound person, in this review. There’s just not enough time.)

The Propaganda

The propaganda represented in this novel was seriously scary. Scary, because it could so easily become a reality. How many parents out there have been at their wits end because of their teens? Come on, everybody’s hands flew up at that, right? Teenagers are naturally snarky and dysfunctional. They’ve got so many hormones racing through them their own bodies feel alien, they’re told all the time to grow up but are never given opportunities to behave like adults, and probably the worst thing is — they feel suppressed, caged in, the total opposite of freedom. It’s no wonder they act out! But surely, surely in this world, our real world, we will never adopt something as heinous as unwinding our children into a so-called “divided state”…right???

Image result for unwind series


If you’re not intrigued by now, I can’t help you. If you’re totally put off, I understand. Regardless, I think you should read these. Now.


Alchemy by Jade Kennedy — A Review

AlchemyAlchemy by Jade Kennedy

My rating: cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3

I enjoyed this. It isn’t really my taste — I’m not a poetry reader, but I did enjoy most of the flash fiction, particularly Over the Edge and Drawings.


An image to accompany the last piece of flash fiction, Red Wine and Frost:

I would describe most of the writing as atmospheric and moody. There was definitely a serious tone throughout, even in the more light-hearted pieces. Many of the poems reminded me of things I wrote when I was in high school and taking myself way too seriously — they’re a little dark and a lot sad and trying just a little too hard. They also tend to be a bit repetitive, particularly if you read large swathes of this at once. The same words get used again and again, and they lose their effectiveness.

Now, as I said, I’m not much of a poetry reader, so perhaps I’m being a bit too harsh. I did enjoy most of the flash fiction, probably because there was more of a story for me to grab onto.

If you enjoy poetry and short fiction, I’d definitely give this a try. I think if I’d read it in winter, by a window looking out onto a desolate landscape, I might have enjoyed it more. So, give that a try. 😀

I received this eBook in exchange for an honest review.

View all my reviews on GoodReads.

May-July Reviews

Welp, I’ve done it again 😀 It’s been a little over three months since my last review. To be clear, I have been reading between then and now, I just have not had the time to write or post reviews.

Two wonderful things have happened in the past year to keep me busy and away from my book review blog. First, I started a new job back in September of 2016, and I LOVE IT! But, it takes up a ridiculous amount of my time. Second, I met my BF back in April. You know, the last time I posted a review. That’s not a coincidence. *blushes*

When I’m not busy with work, I’m busy with him and our blended fur family — Sherlock, Adler, and Vincent. Yes, Vincent. He named his adorable, but oh-so-hornory beagle, Vincent. *shrugs* It’s after some sort of gaming character. IDK.

But I digress…back to the blog. Since I left off, I’ve read (links are to my activity updates/reviews on Goodreads) The Martian, by Andy Weir*; Unwind (Unwind #1), by Neil Shusterman*; Carry On, by Rainbow Rowell*; Labyrinth Lost (Brooklyn Brujas, #1), by Zoraida Cordova*; The Lost Gate (Mither Mages, #1), by Orson Scott Card; Alchemy, by Jade Kennedy**; The Gate Thief (Mither Mages, #2), by Orson Scott Card; Hollywood Homicide (Detective by Day, #1), by Kellye Garrett; and Shantytown, by César Aira*.

I’m currently reading: Gatefather (Mither Mages, #3), by Orson Scott Card; A Clash of Kings (A Song of Ice and Fire #2), by George R. R. Martin; and Among Wolves (The Children of the Mountain, #1), by R.A. Hakok**.

If you’re still reading, thanks so much!!! If you’re still querying for reviews, please be patient with me!!! Thanks errbody!

*Read Harder Challenge 2017

Fossilized Gods by J. Simon — A Review

fossilized godsFossilized Gods by J. Simon

RaeleighReads rating: cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3

Where to begin with this one? I’ve seen people refer to this as absurdist. And it is absurd in the Merriam Webster sense: illogical and ridiculous. But in philosophical terms, the absurd is the conflict that arises between trying to find meaning in life and not finding any. I don’t really think that’s what’s going on here.

Perhaps one could argue that the relationship between Samantha and Professor Harrington satisfies the philosophical requirements for absurdism — Harrington seeks meaning through someone to love, a daughter. And maybe Samantha fills this role for him, but the unfortunate circumstances that follow their meeting cancels out their finding each other in the first place. I dunno.

That said, while I was reading this I could not get Salvador Dali and Magritte out of my head. The surreal imagery and schizophrenic dialogue of the gods in this book made me picture melting clocks, desert landscapes, and apple faces.

I didn’t like it. A surrealist painting is one thing. It’s still, and the mind has time to take in and parse out its various elements, but this book was chaotic and decidedly lacking in terms of a plot. A group of gods is playing cards in the in-between and suddenly they’re pulled down onto some sort of earth-like terrain except the rules are wonky. They end up at a college, with a museum full of dormant gods. There’s a necromancy department on the campus, and it is apparently possible to resurrect dead things. But the dialogue is very difficult to follow, and for the first 50% of the book I was wondering what the point was.

The only reason I’m giving this three coffee cups is because many of the lines were indeed quite funny. Simon has a wonderfully ridiculous sense of humor. The problem is there is no restraint. Witticisms are only effective when used sparingly. Otherwise, the writing comes across with an everything-including-the-kitchen-sink affect. For a better idea of what I was thinking and feeling while reading this, check out my updates.

This book isn’t my taste, but I would encourage you to read some other reviews on Goodreads or elsewhere because many people really enjoyed it.

I received this novel in exchange for an honest review.

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George — A Review

littleparisbookshopThe Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

RaeleighReads rating: cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3

“He wanted her to sense the boundless possibilities offered by books. They would always be enough. They would never stop loving their readers. They were a fixed point in an otherwise unpredictable world. In life. In love. After death.”

Oh my gosh, this book was so sweet!!! I had all the gushy, fuzzy feelings reading this. Following are my various GoodReads updates, complete with gifs.

Around 18%:

This book warms my heart!

something in my eye

Around 25%:

I had no idea a simple caress could be so scintillating. Whew!

fanning myself

Then for the rest of the book:

This book makes me feel a serious range of emotions. So. Many. Tears!!! I’m enjoying every minute of it!

my heart can't take it

Okay, if you made it this far, this book is so incredibly moving. I don’t normally like books that are so overtly romantic and sentimental, but I didn’t want to put this one down. It made me grin. It made me giggle. It made me blush. And it made me CRY! Like, a lot!

I read this as part of the Read Harder Challenge 2017, #3, Read a book about books. I mean, it was pretty much guaranteed that I would like this challenge. I ❤ reading books about books!

❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤

2017 Read Harder Challenge Stats: 8/24

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie — A Review

americanahAmericanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

RaeleighReads rating: cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3

“She rested her head against his and felt, for the first time, what she would often feel with him: a self-affection. He made her like herself.”

So. This book took me for-ev-er to finish. Over a month in fact. Normally, for me, that indicates that I don’t really like the book. In this case, that is only partly true. And before you jump down my throat, hear me out.

The first three quarters of this book were incredibly slowly-paced, and I tend to read right before I go to bed. So, sleepy me plus slow book equals not a great combination. However, during that slowly-paced adventure, the main character in this novel, Ifemelu (Ifem), goes through quite an incredible journey.

You may already know this, but the book begins just before the end. Ifem is in the States and is preparing to move back to Nigeria. Then the book jumps backward in time to when Ifem was growing up in Nigeria. Her transition to the States was not easy at all. She faced many hardships, and I don’t think she ever truly felt she belonged. Having never been an ex-pat, I have no idea what it must feel like to try to make somewhere foreign feel like home. To adjust to new customs, new foods, new language. On top of that, Ifem could not work legally and her money problems were no joke. It’s amazing that she didn’t completely implode under all that pressure. Eventually she finds her feet and starts a blog about race. It’s incredibly popular, and she’s able to make a living writing and giving talks at universities.

As much as I was impressed by her character, I was often disappointed. It seemed like her whole worth was wrapped up in her relationships. And that was just irritating.

The meat of the book starts with Ifemelu’s relationship with Blaine. At this point we start to read the majority of Ifem’s blog posts. The blog posts really elevate this work for me. They get at the heart of her experience as an immigrant and as a black woman — of what it means to have to deal with race/ the way someone looks every single day. That is something I, as a white woman, will never fully understand. But it is something I can be more aware of and not shy away from, as I think many white people are inclined to do.

There’s a point in the book where Ifem is talking about how no one wants to talk about race, and that is so true. It’s uncomfortable and we all shove it down. I know I’ve avoided it before, but that doesn’t help anything. Avoidance never solves anything.

Here is a quote from the section of the book I mentioned above:

And we don’t want them to say, Look how far we’ve come, just forty years ago it would have been illegal for us to even be a couple blah blah blah, because you know what we’re thinking when they say that? We’re thinking why the fuck should it ever have been illegal anyway? But we don’t say any of this stuff. We let it pile up inside our heads and when we come to nice liberal dinners like this, we say that race doesn’t matter because that’s what we’re supposed to say, to keep our nice liberal friends comfortable. It’s true. I speak from experience.

I hope to the gods that I’m never one of these “nice liberal friends”. I never want a friend of mine to feel uncomfortable talking about something that matters to them, makes them uncomfortable, makes them upset.

Let’s keep the conversation going. But on top of that, let’s be active participants in the things we believe in.

This book is insightful, and it’s certainly a conversation starter. It’s more than worth the read, even if it is slow. 🙂

I read this as part of the Read Harder 2017 Challenge, #5 read a book by an immigrant or with a central immigration narrative, and I also read it in one of my Goodreads groups, Diversity in All Forms.

2017 Read Harder Challenge Stats: 7/24