Advance Review: The Need

★★☆☆☆

A mother alone with her two children, settling in for the night as her husband is abroad. An intruder who knows them intimately, lurking in their home. The Need is eerie and gripping from the very first page.

This is the first of Helen Phillips’s books that I’ve read, and I was thrilled with the captivating quality of her writing, especially her raw portrayal of motherhood. The pacing is quick, with frequent changes of scene, bouncing between the present and days earlier. I tore through the first half of the book, but found myself beginning to lose momentum as the plot progressed further. The Need became more dreamlike and ambiguous and ultimately ended this way. The final act of this book was unsatisfying and left me with a bitter taste in my mouth, but this was an interesting read nonetheless. Continue reading “Advance Review: The Need”

Review: Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered

Stay Sexy & Don't Get Murdered: The Definitive How-To Guide★★★★☆

Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark are the hosts of the part-humor-part-true-crime podcast My Favorite Murder. Their podcast is a regular accompaniment to my commute and has made D.C. traffic infinitely more bearable since I’ve become a regular listener. And now, much to my delight, they’ve written a book.

This book is a real reflection of the podcast and community Karen and Georgia have built together, each chapter is framed by one of the iconic quotes that sprouted from the podcast and two essays on the topic, one by each host. That being said, this is not a book for murderinos only. Anyone looking for an extremely candid, often humorous memoir by two kick-ass women will love this. Even if that isn’t what you’re specifically seeking, I’d be willing to be that there’s something in Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered: The Definitive How-To Guide for you.

A note on the audiobook: For the first time ever (yep, ever in my life) I sought out an audiobook. I know these to people by their voices, so why not continue in that medium? I’m no expert, but this felt like a truly unique experience. Karen and Georgia are wonderful narrators, portions were recorded live, Paul Giamatti occasionally interjects, and there is even a guest appearance by Georgia’s dad. There’s nothing like holding a physical text and experiencing a book that way, but just this once, opt for the audiobook or you’ll miss out on more of the humor and personality that make Karen and Georgia so wonderful. Continue reading “Review: Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered”

Review: Magic for Liars

41555947★★★★★

Magic for Liars isn’t what I expected it to be. I had impressions from other early readers that it would be along the lines of a murder-mystery in Hogwarts, which turned out to be less-than-accurate. Instead, Magic for Liars is about the lies we tell ourselves, and each other. It is about the disastrous things that result from these lies, no matter how well-meaning they were, or how innocent they seemed.

It begins with the gruesome death of a staff member at The Osthorne Academy for Young Mages. After an investigation by the authorities concludes the death a suicide, the heads of the Academy are unsatisfied. Enter Ivy Gamble, PI. Ivy isn’t like her sister- she isn’t magic like Tabitha and she doesn’t want to be. Though she spends most of her days following cheating spouses or investigating insurance fraud, she is reluctantly convinced (namely, by a large sum of cash) to re-investigate the death at Osthorne.

Ivy Gamble is a hot mess and an absolutely fascinating character. She is morally grey from head to toe and maybe a little bit out of her depth, but at her core intelligent and trying her best. The story unfolds entirely from her perspective as she sleuths around Osthorne, allowing herself to slip in to Tabitha’s world. There is some time given to the magic in this world as Ivy peaks into classroom and gets to know staff,  but there isn’t a deep dive into its limits and intricacies. This seemed to be a sticking point for some readers, but I never found myself bothered by it. The narrator of this story is non-magical, so it felt right that we only had topical glances at the various subjects via Ivy’s encounters with them.  Their relationships and interactions drive this plot forward without losing any of the atmospheric tension you’d hope for in a good mystery. It beckons you forward page after page and doesn’t let go until the very end. I found myself hanging on as I came approached to the conclusion thinking there was no way it was possible, skimming through previous pages making sure I hadn’t misread the the final discoveries because I couldn’t fathom how it could be. This book doesn’t give you that feeling of satisfaction that comes at the end of a typical mystery novel: the evil-doer unmasked, justice is served, our grizzled protagonist reflects with contentment on another case solved. No, the end of Magic for Liars is fucking devastating. It is devastating and brilliant.

While this book sits firmly in both the realms of mystery and fantasy, it subverts both. The evil in this book does not manifest in the form of a sadistic killer, nor is it a dragon to be slain. Ivy Gamble is not our hero, nor is this the story of her redemption. She arrives at Osthorne Academy as a deeply flawed person, and eventually departs in similar form. We don’t get to see her redemption. The choices she makes throughout her investigation are not always good, sometimes even amoral, and some of them will even make you uncomfortable. You might even see a little of yourself in their choices. Continue reading “Review: Magic for Liars”

Monthly Wrap Up: May 2019

Hello, hello! This month 3 books were reviewed on The Book Stack with an average of 4.0 stars. There isn’t a whole lot to “wrap-up” here since I was on hiatus for the majority of this month, but I’ve been reading like mad and there will be lots to look forward in June.

 

All May Reviews

Continue reading “Monthly Wrap Up: May 2019”

Review: The Book of the Moon

42193752★★★★★

The Book of the Moon is exactly what it claims to be: a through look at our nearest celestial neighbor. In this lucid, occasionally humorous guide to all things lunar Maggie Aderin-Pocock- space scientist, science communicator, and self-proclaimed lunatic- is our guide. This isn’t a typical scientific text, but it is my favorite kind. Though this small book is absolutely packed with figures and data, it also explores the deep connection that humans have had with the moon from our earliest days. After describing her background and relationship with the moon in the introduction, Aderin-Pocock breaks The Book of the Moon into four sections:

  • Moon 101: The Basics – A description of the physical properties of the moon, its environment, and how it formed.
  • Moon Past: The Moon in Our Culture – This was easily my favorite section. Topics here are broken down into groups of five. Five people, five places, five poems, five works of art, and more. The people and works featured here are refreshingly varied, a break from the Eurocentric, whitewashed version of scientific history that we’re all used to seeing.
  • Moon Present: A Sharper Focus – Tools and techniques for observing the moon accompanied by a description of our recent past involving the moon from, the beginning of the Space Race to present.  
  • Moon Future: What Lies Ahead? – An unbiased discussion of the future of science, commerce, and settlement on our moon.

I’m currently pursuing a degree in Earth Science with special interest in Planetary Geology and there was still more for me to learn in this brief, but densely packed little book. For all the information here, I never felt bogged down. Aderin-Pocock’s intense enthusiasm for the moon permeates this whole text and carried you along effortlessly. My only regret upon finishing it is that I wasn’t immediately able to pick up another book by Maggie Aderin-Pocock. In less than 300 pages I’m completely convinced, the next great science communicator- among the likes of Sagan and Nye- now stands before us. Continue reading “Review: The Book of the Moon”