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.


13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by Mona Awad — A Review

13 ways13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by Mona Awad

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

“I’d spend hours hunting for something—anything—that would render me moderately fuckable. And if not fuckable, something in which I could grieve over the fact of not being fuckable with unbaubled dignity.”

This is not, precisely, a novel. Rather, it is a collection of short stories, arranged chronologically, centered around one main character.

Elizabeth, the fat girl, was everything when I first started reading this. I devoured the first 4-5 chapters in one sitting saying Yes Yes Yes to myself throughout. Finally, a book that really understood my personal struggles with body image. Finally, a fat girl giving me a voice in the world of the ever-thin, perky-breasted female main characters.

How utterly honest it all was. Honest, and heavy. There was never any reprieve, never a moment of real triumph for Elizabeth. It was both heartbreaking and a relief to read this and realize there would be no happy ending.

13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl is a profound exercise in self-examination by a main character. Elizabeth, Beth, Lizzie, Liz diagrams and dissects every part of her body and her psyche for us. Yet that constant self-reflection yields no actualization.

This book is masterfully conceptualized, but I’m not sure all readers will be able to appreciate or connect with it. It lacks a traditional plot with triggers, reprieves, problems and solutions. There is no climax or falling action. There is relentless pressure, relentless negativity, relentless analysis to the bitter and lack-luster end.

But I always found myself rooting for Elizabeth, for all fat girls, for humans — that they find a way to be comfortable with and love themselves. That they discover what Elizabeth never could — there is no secret to happiness. No magic pill. No amount of counting, parsing, starving, or exercising will ever fill a black hole inside you. And sometimes, even those of us with magnificent powers of self-observation, can’t pull ourselves off the hamster wheel.


Top Ten Tuesday – #TopTenTuesday


Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

Today’s Theme:

Ten Books On My Spring TBR

You guys are getting a bonus this week! I’ll do ten INDIE books on my TBR list AND ten TRADITIONALLY PUBLISHED books on my TBR list!


1979 short stories

1979 Short Stories by Steve Anderson

In these thirteen stories, Steve Anderson captures what it meant to come of age in the late 1970s in working-class America. From a family’s West Virginia oil wells to trekking through abandoned small-town factories, to a Nevada campground vacation, adolescents find love, strengthen friendships, and create adventures. Each story is tinged with the stark challenges and raw beauty of growing up in a rural, post-Vietnam world of shuttered mills and sprawling train tracks.

This is the very next item on my TBR list. I can’t wait to start reading it! I’ve already got my soundtrack in mind — some Blondie, maybe a little Rod Stewart, and what would a ’79 playlist be without Peaches and Herb’s Shake Your Groove Thing!?

sevara dawn of hope

Sevara: Dawn of Hope by Damian Wampler

A shapeshifting immortal gives Sevara a second chance at life, and a powerful set of gifts. But when Sevara begins a doomed love affair with the man she could have married, she must choose between protecting the city and saving the only man she’s ever loved. With a strong female lead, this coming of age adventure is a haunting and heart-pounding thrill-ride.

Isn’t the cover on this gorgeous! There’s also a graphic novel, so I’ll probably read that right after I finish the novel. Very excited to meet this bad@ss MC!

locket full of secrets

Locket Full of Secrets by Dana Burkey

After over 4 years, Olena comes rocketing back into Claire’s life, changing everything for the worse. Picking up the shattered pieces, Claire is not sure who to believe. Is Olena who she says she is, or is she a killer to stay away from? Leaning on her new boyfriend Steven for support, Claire is faced with the choice of who to trust: a friend she barley knows, or a history lesson she barely remembers.

I’ve read Burkey’s Hearts to Follow novellas (sweet, innocent teenage love stories) so I’m curious to see where she goes with this suspense novel.


Estranged by Alex Fedyr

Kalei hates touching. Especially if it is a hug. After all, her mother was killed by one. Kalei was born and raised in Celan, the first city to have an Estranged problem. It was seventeen years ago when they appeared, and the citizens learned the hard truth: that it only takes a bit of skin-on-skin contact to turn their loved ones into corpses, or Estranged. No one really knows why some people turn and some people die, they just know that anyone touched is gone.  And Kalei wants them to stay gone. But, being a police officer in the city, she witnesses every day the damage done by Estranged. Black nails mark these harbingers of death. Seeking the high they get from every piece of skin they touch, the Estranged crush the lives of Celan’s citizens with alarming ease. They killed her mother for a high, and now Kalei wants to wipe them out of existence before they can seek another. But she can’t. Only the Wardens are equipped to do so, and she will do anything to be inducted into their ranks. But will they accept her now that she has turned Estranged?

This one gives me chills just reading the synopsis. I hope it’s as suspenseful as it seems.

where death is a hunter

Where Death is a Hunter by Chris Stookey

Hannah Fâtier is a thirty-two-year-old physician fresh out of residency training. She’s just started her first job as an anesthesiologist at Deaconess Hospital in San Francisco, she’s bought a new home, and she’s engaged to be married. Life is good for Hannah until one morning at work when tragedy strikes. A patient under her care dies unexpectedly during a routine operation. An investigation into the case reveals the cause of death to be an error committed by Hannah. Wracked with guilt, she falls into a malaise of depression and self-reproach. Yet the more she ponders her alleged “error,” the more she realizes that something about the way her patient died doesn’t add up. Digging deeper into the records of the case, Hannah discovers a number of puzzling inconsistencies. She begins to suspect that someone has framed her for her patient’s death. But who would do such a thing, and why? And, more importantly, if there was no error, then why did her patient really die that morning?

Are we sensing a pattern yet? I’ve got a lot of suspense and mystery novels in my future. Squee!


So…This is Awkward by Timothy Tuttlesmith

This true story follows Dr Timothy Tuttlesmith’s evolution from inexperienced Oxford graduate to BDSM savvy New Yorker. Online dating is the catalyst of his downfall, as while using an experimental dating profile he makes the surprising discovery that quite a lot of girls want to be tied up and spanked… He also discovers that he quite enjoys tying them up and spanking them. Here Timmy re-tells the comedy highlights of his kinky dating shenanigans, including all the naughty sexy bits, but presented in an honest and non-idealised fashion. He attempts to tackle the myths and stigma that surround the subject and portrays kinky people as what they are; a diverse and interesting mix of perfectly sane individuals (for the most part anyway…).

NSFW peeps. Not the sort of thing I usually review, but I was intrigued, and the reviews I read were mostly favorable. We shall see 🙂

lost donielle tyner

Lost by Donnielle Tyner

Sadie is over it! She’s an orphan, her boyfriend was murdered, and she’s the only Caelian at St. Vincent’s without a Talent. Once she turns 18, there will be no place for her in the world. That is, until a chance encounter with Kian, a Caelian boy who makes her feel uncomfortable and alive at the same time. Secrets of her past are uncovered and Sadie’s latent, rare Talent is exposed. With these powers come the hunters, hired by an egomaniac who wants to use Sadie’s power to establish Caelian dominance. On the run with Kian and her friends, Sadie will have to decide: hide or fight? Will Sadie accept her new reality or will she stay lost?

Very YA fantasy, but hopefully the story will be compelling and full of adventures! And hopefully the icky teen romance stuff will be kept to a minimum?


Foul is Fair by Jeffrey Cook & Katherine Perkins

Lots of girls play Fairy Princess when they’re little. Megan O’Reilly had no idea the real thing was like playing chess, guitar, and hockey all at once. Megan had known for a long time that she wasn’t an entirely typical girl. But living with ADHD—and her mother’s obsessions—was a very different thing from finding out she wasn’t entirely human. Somewhere out there, in a completely different world, her father needs help. There’s a conflict, revolving around Faerie seasonal rituals, that could have consequences for humanity—and if Megan’s getting the terminology straight, it sounds like her family aren’t even supposed to be the good guys. As she’s further and further swept up in trying to save her father, Megan may be getting too good at not being human.

Not the best of synopses, but I think there’s a good story here. Plus I really like faeries, okay!?

the mine

The Mine by John A Heldt

In May 2000, Joel Smith is a cocky, adventurous young man who sees the world as his playground. But when the college senior, days from graduation, enters an abandoned Montana mine, he discovers the price of reckless curiosity. He emerges in May 1941 with a cell phone he can’t use, money he can’t spend, and little but his wits to guide his way. Stuck in the age of swing dancing and a peacetime draft, Joel begins a new life as the nation drifts toward war. With the help of his 21-year-old trailblazing grandmother and her friends, he finds his place in a world he knew only from movies and books. But when an opportunity comes to return to the present, Joel must decide whether to leave his new love in the past or choose a course that will alter their lives forever.

A little time travel, a little swing-era history, a little family, and a little love. Yeah!

journey back to threa

Journey Back to Threa by Cindy Cowles

For two thousand years, there has been a spaceship hidden on the dark side of the moon. Only one knows its location — High Councilwoman and Captain, Estelle Morgan, Lacy’s grandmother and one of the original survivors from the planet Threa. When Lacy’s grandmother passes away, Lacy inherits a house, a tantalizing letter about humanity’s true origins and…a FTL spaceship called Pegasus I. When her home is invaded by a group called the Chosen, she and her friends are forced to flee. Jumping aboard an atmospheric hopper, the group escapes just in time. Now she’s taking them on the trip of a lifetime, going on a Journey Back To Threa.

Spaceships, life on other planets, female lead — win, win, and win!

And that, my loves, concludes the indie published portion of today’s Top Ten Tuesday. Read on if you care about traditionally published material.

Trad Pub

delta flats

Delta Flats: Stories in the Key of Blues and Hope (ARC) by Dixon Hearne

From the piney hills of northern Louisiana to the raw and decadent streets of New Orleans, “Delta Flats: Stories in the Key of Blues and Hope” records the daily lives of its characters with a poetic rhythm that evokes the ebb and flow of life itself. Dixon Hearne is a master at capturing the blue reality of life, moments both large and small that define the hot days and long nights of the deep south. With language as gritty as the blues and as beautiful as a gospel choir, he juxtaposes the downtrodden with the hopeful and the darkness with the light and plays out each story with deft, lyrical descriptions that make the reader want to laugh and sing with joy.”

This sounds sleepy and Southern and epic. All things I love. PLUS, it was published TODAY! Whoops — meant to read my ARC before now. *sheepish grin*

still here

Still Here (ARC) by Lara Vapnyar

A profound and dazzlingly entertaining novel from the writer Louis Menand calls “Jane Austen with a Russian soul.” In her warm, absorbing and keenly observed new novel, Lara Vapnyar follows the intertwined lives of four immigrants in New York City as they grapple with love and tumult, the challenges of a new home, and the absurdities of the digital age.

Expected publication date: August 2, 2016. Lit fic that ponders mortality and the impact of the internet. Sounds relevant, and the cast of characters remind me a little of the characters in the musical, She Loves Me (one of my favorite musicals) only set in modern times.

invincible summer

Invincible Summer (ARC) by Alice Adams

Eva, Benedict, Sylvie and Lucien graduate in 1998, into a world on the brink of the new millennium. Hopelessly in love with playboy Lucien and keen to shrug off the socialist politics of her childhood, Eva breaks away to work at a big bank. Benedict, a budding scientist who’s pined for Eva for years, stays on to do a physics PhD, and siblings Sylvie and Lucien pursue more freewheeling existences–she as an aspiring artist and he as a club promoter and professional partier. But as their dizzying twenties become their thirties, the once close-knit friends, now scattered and struggling to navigate thwarted dreams, lost jobs and broken hearts, find themselves drawn together once again in stunning and unexpected ways. Breathtaking in scope, this is sure to be the book of the summer.

Expected publication date: June 28, 2016. Another quartet cast (like Still Here), but this time with even more intertwining of the story lines. I know the synopsis says “book of the summer”, but I’ll be taking a peek at it over Spring Break (next week). Probably with a Mai Tai in hand 😉

the girls

The Girls (ARC) by Emma Cline

Northern California, during the violent end of the 1960s. At the start of summer, a lonely and thoughtful teenager, Evie Boyd, sees a group of girls in the park, and is immediately caught by their freedom, their careless dress, their dangerous aura of abandon. Soon, Evie is in thrall to Suzanne, a mesmerizing older girl, and is drawn into the circle of a soon-to-be infamous cult and the man who is its charismatic leader. Hidden in the hills, their sprawling ranch is eerie and run down, but to Evie, it is exotic, thrilling, charged—a place where she feels desperate to be accepted. As she spends more time away from her mother and the rhythms of her daily life, and as her obsession with Suzanne intensifies, Evie does not realize she is coming closer and closer to unthinkable violence, and to that moment in a girl’s life when everything can go horribly wrong.

Expected publication date: June 14, 2016. Another summer read that I’ll be reading in spring, because ARC. Suspense, a cult, girl power, late ’60s-era culture…all things I’m super duper in love with. Okay, maybe not cults, but those are undeniably interesting.


Behave by Andromeda Romano-Lax

In 1920, when she graduated from Vassar College, Rosalie Rayner was ready to make her mark on the world. Intelligent, beautiful, and unflappable, she won a coveted research position at Johns Hopkins assisting the charismatic celebrity psychologist John B. Watson. Together, Watson and Rayner conducted controversial experiments on hundreds of babies to prove behaviorist principles. They also embarked on a scandalous affair that cost them both their jobs—and recast the sparkling young Rosalie Rayner, scientist and thinker, as Mrs. John Watson, wife and conflicted, maligned mother, just another “woman behind a great man.”

Published March 1, 2016. Reminds me a little of the show, Masters of Sex (based on true events), where William Masters and Virginia Johnson become pioneers of the science of human sexuality, but Virginia’s role is significantly down-played because of her gender.


Faith Volume 1: Hollywood and Vine (Partial ARC) by Jody Houser

Orphaned at a young age, Faith Herbert – a psionically gifted “psiot” discovered by the Harbinger Foundation – has always aspired to greatness. But now this once ordinary teenager is taking control of her destiny and becoming the hard-hitting hero she’s always known she can be – complete with a mild-mannered secret identity, unsuspecting colleagues, and a day job as a reporter that routinely throws into her harms way! Well, at least she thought it would. When she’s not typing up listicles about cat videos, Faith makes a secret transformation to patrol the night as the City of Angels’ own leading superhero – the sky-soaring Zephyr!

Expected publication date: July 12, 2016. I freaking love Faith (I most definitely peeked at a few pages when I got my ARC). Faith is fat. I mean, hello, where is it written that people with super powers have to be thin and busty. Oh, it’s not? Well, duh! Woot! Faith!

five college dialogues

Five College Dialogues by Ian Thomas Malone

Five College Dialogues is a philosophic comedic treatise on college life told through the eyes of George Tecce, a graduate student working as a teaching assistant in the English department. All the important themes of the collegiate environment are explored as George, his students, and his mentor examine the state of post-millennial academia. Five College Dialogues is a perfect resource for students as well as anyone who wants to relive their four years in an entertaining fashion.

I’m behind. This was published in 2014. Malone has several books I’m interested in reading, including A Trip Down Reality Lane. Plus, you can follow him on Facebook, where he posts live videos, which are usually hilarious, especially when he reads James Joyce aloud. Ha!


The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan

Marina Keegan’s star was on the rise when she graduated magna cum laude from Yale in May 2012. She had a play that was to be produced at the New York International Fringe Festival and a job waiting for her at the New Yorker. Tragically, five days after graduation, Marina died in a car crash. The Opposite of Loneliness is an assem­blage of Marina’s essays and stories that, like The Last Lecture, articulates the universal struggle that all of us face as we figure out what we aspire to be and how we can harness our talents to make an impact on the world.

I’m reading this as part of the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge 2016. It’s my “read a collection of essays” entry. I think I’m reading it at just the right time too. I’m in the middle of a re-watch of Gilmore Girls, and of course, our beloved Rory wrote for the Yale newspaper in the show, and I just wonder, if perhaps Marina grew up, like I did, watching this show, and if it had any impact on her?

the only woman in the room_pollack

The Only Woman in the Room: Why Science is Still a Boy’s Club by Eileen Pollack

In 2005, when Lawrence Summers, then president of Harvard, asked why so few women achieve tenured positions in the hard sciences, Eileen Pollack set out to find the answer. In the 1970s, Pollack had excelled as one of Yale’s first two women to earn a bachelor of science degree in physics. But, isolated, lacking in confidence, and starved for encouragement, she abandoned her lifelong dream of becoming a theoretical physicist. Years later, she thought back on her experiences and wondered what had changed in the intervening decades, and what challenges remained. Based on six years of interviewing dozens of teachers and students and reviewing studies on gender bias, The Only Woman in the Room is an illuminating exploration of the cultural, social, psychological, and institutional barriers confronting women in the STEM disciplines. Pollack brings to light the struggles that women in the sciences are often hesitant to admit and provides hope that changing attitudes and behaviors can bring more women into fields in which they remain, to this day, seriously underrepresented.

Another pick for my Read Harder challenge. This book speaks to me on so many levels. I’m a fairly outspoken feminist, I heart-eyes chemistry, and I spent the better part of a decade in patriarchal academia, only to see my dreams of becoming a university professor crushed under a wave of sexism (stupid male-dominated fields). So, I imagine I will be reading this book with a whole lot of “hell yeahs” peppering the air!

cress marissa meyer

Cress by Marissa Meyer

In the third installment of the Lunar chronicles, Cress, having risked everything to warn Cinder of Queen Levana’s evil plan, has a slight problem. She’s been imprisoned on a satellite since childhood and has only ever had her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress a great hacker. Unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice. When a daring rescue of Cress involving Cinder, Captain Thorne, Scarlet, and Wolf goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes as a high price. Meanwhile, Levana will let nothing prevent her marriage to emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only hope the world has.

I’m currently reading Scarlet, the 2nd book in this series. This is sort of a Read Harder challenge book because one of my entries has to be “read a book over 500 pages long”, and I picked Winter, the 4th book in this series. I didn’t particularly care for the first book, Cinder, but so far I’m really enjoying Scarlet. I hope the rest of the series gets better and better.

If you stuck with me ’til the end, bless you! Hopefully some, or all, of these piqued your interest. Happy reading!