Shame Is an Ocean I Swim Across by Mary Lambert – A Review

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Shame is an Ocean I Swim Across by Mary Lambert
Poetry | LGBTQ | Mental Health
Published by Feiwel & Friends
Released October 23rd, 2018
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_5_stars
Read via Audiobook

“I want to watch the fat lady win
I want her to stop apologizing for being fat
I wish I could say: Hey, perfect angel cutie pie:
You don’t owe anyone shit.
Stop apologizing for who you are.
Go eat a fucking sandwich and throw your scale away
Work out if you want to, lay on the couch if you want to
No one else lives in your body
You are enough, as you are, today”

I chose to listen to the audiobook for Mary Lambert’s Shame is an Ocean I Swim Across almost on a whim, and it touched me in a way that I was not expecting. Her words are expressive and passionate. I found myself identifying with Lambert’s words on such a deep level that I’m currently listening to it again. What started out as a collection of poetry I’d never heard of has become one of my favorite books and what I expect will become one of my top reads of 2020.

Mary Lambert
Mary Lambert

Mary Lambert is a poet, spoken word artist, musician, song-writer, and LGBTQ activist. Her work deals with difficult topics, such as rape, sexual abuse, trauma, bipolar disorder, and body image.

Shame Is an Ocean I Swim Across made me feel a wide spectrum of emotions. Some of the poems brought tears to my eyes, and others made me feel proud of the struggles I’ve been through to become who I am. I identified personally with so many of these poems, particularly those about mental health (including bipolar disorder) and body image.

The audiobook version of Shame Is an Ocean I Swim Across was gorgeously produced and I can’t recommend it enough. Lambert’s emotional and strong voice was placed over simple piano pieces, which served to heighten the emotional impact.

Mary Lambert’s collection is powerful, emotional, and intensely personal. It’s one that I will keep near me for years to come, especially when I’m feeling lonely in my experiences. There are a number of triggering topics in Shame Is an Ocean I Swim Across, so be sure to check out the book’s Goodreads page if you’re worried about that before diving in.

Shame Is an Ocean I Swim Across was so beautiful and it’s hard to describe just how much I loved it. I’m looking forward to everything Lambert does, what with my new massive crush on her. I’ll leave you with this video of her song “Secrets,” because, again, Mary Lambert is amazing. I just don’t understand how it took me so long to learn of her!




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This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel – a Review

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This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel
Contemporary | LGBTQ+
Published by Flatiron Books
Released January 4th, 2017
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_3_stars

I had seen the cover of this contemporary novel around, but I always avoided it because I assumed it was a young adult contemporary, which I tend to not enjoy. Turns out, I shouldn’t have judged it by its cover, because it’s a hard-hitting adult contemporary about a family whose youngest son dreams of being a girl.

Claude, that little boy, becomes Poppy with the support of his large family (mother, father, and four male siblings). Their lives are far from easy, however. They encounter and have to overcome a wide range of issues, such as which bathroom Poppy is allowed to use at school, if the parents of his friends need to know, and finding an LGBTQ-friendly place to live.

Laurie Frankel
Author Laurie Frankel

I listened to this novel as an audiobook through Scribd, narrated by Gabra Zackman, and the first thing that struck me about the novel was that I wasn’t a fan of Laurie Frankel’s writing style. The flow of the story, the dialogue, the metaphors… a lot of it struck me as oddly written, although obviously, that’s a personal choice.

Quick aside: Scribd is the best audiobook app on the market. It’s less than $10 a month and you can listen to unlimited audiobooks. They also have ebooks, magazines, podcasts, and even sheet music. Click here if you want to try it free for 30 days!

Putting the sentence structure and writing aside, however, I did enjoy This Is How It Always Is. I’ve read books about trans adults, but this was my first experience reading about being trans as a child. However, it was definitely easy to forget that Claude/Poppy was supposed to be so young, as they talk and act quite a bit older.

It was really interesting, and admirable, how the brothers dealt with the change in their youngest sibling. For the most part, they accepted and supported Poppy’s desire to become a girl, and it became the only place where she didn’t feel judged for her choices. Her parents, as well, had to adjust to the change. Her mother was often terrified for her child, especially in terms of the higher rates of violence perpetrated against trans individuals. (Which, infuriatingly, is a very real concern.) Her father, in turn, was very proactive in researching vaginoplasty and hormone blockers.

At the same time that I appreciated the loving relationship within the family, it was almost too perfect. In a family that large, I feel like there would really have been much more struggle and confusion amongst the younger siblings. Also, apparently, the family is stupid rich, because they pick up and move to Seattle suddenly at the beginning of the book. Obviously, not every family with a trans child is going to be able to afford that.

Poppy’s father, Penn, ended up being my favorite character. He’s a writer and had long been telling his children about Grimwald, a character in a fairy tale he created for them. The story changes over time, weaving in and out of Poppy’s story to teach her that it’s okay to be different. I loved the fairy tale being woven into the story as it was.

The ending of the book felt quick and too perfect for me. I hate when books are wrapped up so neatly that everything is resolved, and that’s what happened. Towards the end of the novel, Poppy and her mother take a trip to Thailand, which would certainly be a transformative experience, but it transformed Poppy to the point that it almost felt unrealistic.

The writing of This Is How It Always Is definitely wasn’t for me, but Laurie Frankel wrote a very important story about children who find that they don’t fit into a traditional gender role. You can tell that Frankel feels passionate about this topic, which makes sense because the author has a trans child. Claude/Poppy’s story is important, and readers can learn a lot about stepping outside of traditional gender roles through it.


Have you read This Is How It Always Is? What were your thoughts?




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Live Oak, with Moss by Walt Whitman – A Review

Live Oak with Moss Walt Whitman

Live Oak, with Moss by Walt Whitman
Illustrated by Brian Selznick
Poetry | Graphic Novel | LGBTQ+
Published by Harry N. Abrams
Released April 9th, 2019
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_5_stars

I’ve always been a bit intimidated by classic poetry. When we read it in high school and college, I never really got them and found myself frequently frustrated with the flowery language, as well as the teacher making us pull apart each line of the poem until I found myself hating it.

Recently, however, I’ve been getting into modern poetry and really loving it. When I was at my local library browsing their poetry collection, I came across this beautiful edition of Walt Whitman’s Live Oak, with Moss.

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I’d never heard of this poem, but I was intrigued by its format – the poem is told through Brian Selznick’s wonderful art. Of course, the actual poem is included as well!

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I will say that if you’re unfamiliar with the poem, the art isn’t going to make a lot of sense. At least, it didn’t for me. However, once I read the poem and went back through the art, I got it, and loved it.

Live Oak, with Moss is one of Whitman’s more obscure poetry collections. Written in a small book that he made himself, sewing the pages together, he wrote about his attraction to, and relationships with, men. At the time that Whitman wrote these poems, in 1859, “homosexual” wasn’t a word yet. There was a burgeoning homosexual subculture emerging in New York City during this time, of which Whitman was a part.

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Walt Whitman

The poems are passionate and personal and touch on lust, desire, love, and loss. They’re beautiful to read, and I’m glad that these poems were discovered and published in this manner.

Along with Walt Whitman’s words and Brian Selznick’s art, scholar Karen Karbiener’s essay about the poems and the author’s sexuality shed a lot of light on his life, the evolution of these poems, and their discovery.

Overall, I’m so glad that I picked this book up from my library’s shelf. It was an absolute pleasure to read, and I definitely recommend it to anyone interested in classic or LGBTQ-positive poetry.




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The Gentleman’s Guide to Getting Lucky by Mackenzi Lee – A Review

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The Gentleman’s Guide to Getting Lucky (Montague Siblings #1.5) by Mackenzi Lee
Historical Fiction | Romance | LGBTQ | Novella | Young Adult
Published by Katherine Tegen Books
Released November 26th, 2019
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_3_stars

One of my biggest book-related surprises last year was discovering Mackenzi Lee’s The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue. Young adult historical fiction was a genre I generally avoided for no real reason, but after seeing this book talked about online, I found myself intrigued enough to pick it up. And boy, am I glad I did.

Lee’s Montague Siblings series has quickly become a favorite of mine, and I pre-ordered The Gentleman’s Guide to Getting Lucky as soon as the physical copy was announced. Originally, this novella had been part of a pre-order campaign during the release of The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy, but after her fans kept asking for it, her publisher agreed to do a hardcover release of it.

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I haven’t read any of Mackenzi Lee’s non-Montague Siblings books yet (although I definitely want to), but for this particular series, I love how Lee combines humor with serious topics and infuses a bit of magic into her world. All of these books were an absolute delight to read, and I’m already planning on re-reading them when the third book, The Nobleman’s Guide to Scandal and Shipwrecks, is released in mid-2020.

This novella focuses on Monty and Percy, the main characters from The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue. It takes place after the events in that book and picks up with them living on a beach with Monty’s sister, Felicity, and a group of sailors.

Monty and Percy are life-long best friends who have been in love with one another secretly for years and are finally together as a couple. The Gentleman’s Guide to Getting Lucky is about the beginning of their relationship, specifically the first time they, ahem, get lucky.

The story was definitely entertaining, infused with Lee’s humor and the perfect characters that she’s developed. I devoured it in about an hour the same day I received it in the mail, and I really enjoyed it.

I have a difficult time with novellas because I find that I always want more of the story, and that was true of this. I wanted it to continue on so that I could see more of the life that Monty and Percy built together. That said, however, the story was adorable, and is a great example that romances and love-making are not always perfect the way it’s portrayed literally everywhere. Fuck-ups and hilarious things happen, and it’s okay. It’s real life.

Another aspect of the story that I enjoyed was that Monty was very respectful of Percy not wanting to jump into sex right away. As this is a young adult book, it was nice to see that and is something that I hope young people pick up on and internalize.

Overall, if you’re a fan of the Montague Siblings series, you’re going to want to read this. However, if those stories didn’t do anything for you, you’ll get absolutely nothing out of this. I enjoyed it, and whenever I do re-reads of the series I’ll read it. I hope more novellas and novels are in the future for this series!


Are you a fan of Mackenzi Lee’s Montague Siblings series? Let me know in the comments!




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Summer of Salt by Katrina Leno – A Review

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Summer of Salt by Katrina Leno
YA | Magical Realism | Contemporary
Published by HarperTeen
Released June 5, 2018
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_5_stars

On By-the-Sea, you and me will go sailing by
On waves of green, softly singing too.
On By-the-Sea, you and me will be forever young
And live together on waves of blue. 

This isn’t a book that was on my radar until I purchased it to participate in Chelsea Palmer’s Facebook book club. I am so thankful that I decided to read it, however. I absolutely adored this book, and it’s the perfect novel to read now that it’s summer.

Summer of Salt takes place on the island of By-the-Sea and follows the Fernwehs family, who are known to have magic. Georgina and Mary Fernweh are twins nearing their 18th birthday, and Georgina is beginning to think that her magical gifts will never come.

The island is known for hosting a rare bird named Annabella that arrives every summer. The island is remote, but every year a whole hoard of bird watchers arrive and take over the island. Annabella is particularly special to the Fernweh family and might have magical qualities of her own.

There are two new bird watchers on the island this summer, Prue and her brother Harrison. While Harrison is obsessed with Annabella, Prue and Georgina strike up an adorable romantic relationship.

This summer, however, Annabella doesn’t show up, and everyone on the island is worried about her. Meanwhile, Mary begins behaving strangely, and Georgina tries to understand why.

As I said before, I really enjoyed this novel. It was a relatively short read (less than 300 pages), and the story moved along at the perfect pace. It was also a very atmospheric book, and actually reminded me a lot of Leslye Walton’s The Price Guide to the Occult, which I read back in February.

I was intrigued by the very first sentence:

On the island of By-the-Sea you could always smell two things: salt and magic.

While the story was a bit predictable at times, I didn’t feel as that took away from my enjoyment of it at all.

The book does deal with rape, which I wasn’t expecting going into the novel, but Katrina Leno handles the topic extremely well. She even deals with victim-blaming, such as when victims are blamed for what they wear or do, rather than placing all of the blame on the rapist.

If you’re looking for the perfect atmospheric summer book to read, pick up Summer of Salt. You won’t be disappointed!


Have you read Summer of Salt? What did you think? Let me know in the comments.




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Once & Future by Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy – A Review

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Once & Future (Once & Future #1) by Amy Rose CapettaCori McCarthy
Fantasy | Retelling | Science Fiction | Young Adult
Published by Little, Brown and Company
Released March 26, 2019
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars

Those of us in the book community who follow countless book-centric blogs, YouTube channels, Instagram accounts, etc., need to be careful when it comes to hype and consensus. I imagine that every single one of us can name at least a handful of over-hyped books that fell flat for us. Likewise, sometimes we hear about various people not liking a particular story, which occasionally leads us to not read it.

This almost happened to me with Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy’s gender-bent, queer retelling of the King Arthur legend, Once & Future. I first heard about this book when some of the most popular Booktubers started hauling their ARCs of it, and I was immediately intrigued.

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Amy Rose Capetta & Cori McCarthy

For one thing, I’m slightly obsessed with Arthurian legend and magic swords. Second, I think that modern retellings of classic stories are a lot of fun. Third, I love gender-bent stories. I added Once & Future to my TBR and waited (not-so) patiently for its release date.

Once the book was released, however, I started seeing negative reviews of the novel. I was disappointed, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me from trying to enjoy it. In the weeks I waited for it while on hold at my library, I kept hearing that it was “just alright,” nothing special. At one point, I even considered canceling my hold on it.

I am so thrilled that I stayed on that hold list and eventually got the opportunity to read it.

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I loved Once & Future. It’s a fun remix of a classic legend, with loveable characters and exciting quests.

In Once & Future, we meet Ari, who is the forty-second reincarnation of King Arthur. She’s from a planet called Ketch which has essentially been quarantined from the rest of the universe by the Mercer Corporation – a tyrannical, monopolistic company that runs literally everything. Ari was adopted by her parents at a young age and has an adopted brother named Kay, who is now the only family she has, as the Mercer Corporation has imprisoned their parents.

During a resupply mission on a space station near Earth, things go horribly wrong and Kay and Ari end up on the run from the Mercer Corporation. In a last chance effort to outrun them in their seriously under-powered spaceship, Ari takes the ship down onto the surface of Earth.

On Earth, Ari stumbles upon a sword stuck in a large tree and pulls it out. You guessed it – the sword is none other than the famed Excalibur. The sword’s removal awakens Merlin, the magical wizard we all know of – except in this world, he’s aging backward due to a curse, and is currently an awkward teenager.

Ari, Merlin, and several other characters based on the classic legend, such as Gwen, Lam, and Val, work together to try to discover the truth about what happened on Ketch while also trying to take down the Mercer corporation.

This is such a fun novel. I love that Gwen is the Queen of a planet obsessed with medieval times, complete with robotic horses and jousting. I also appreciated the humor in the novel. I’ve always been a huge fan of comedic sci-fi or fantasy, and that’s exactly what this is. At the same time, however, the novel deals with very serious topics, such as genocide, pollution, and betrayal. I feel as though the authors did a great job of balancing both the serious and the comical aspects.

The book is wonderfully diverse, with a wide range of characters and sexuality. I love stories with plenty of representation, and this one doesn’t disappoint. In this world, no one cares what your sexual preferences are or what pronoun you choose to use – it’s all completely normal to these characters. However, one of the few gripes I have with the story is that all of this diversity is used as the defining characteristics of these characters. In a world where diversity is really fully embraced, wouldn’t those characteristics be in the background? I wish some of the characters had been given more personality than just to say that they’re ace or pan.

There were definitely bits of the book that I cringed at, such as Merlin singing a Katy Perry song, but those moments were few. I feel like people are way too harsh on this novel. I really it and I’m looking forward to its sequel, to be released in 2020.


Have you read Once & Future? What did you think?




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Fence, Volume One by C.S. Pacat, Johanna the Mad, & Joana Lafuente – A Review

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Fence, Volume One by C.S. Pacat, Johanna the Mad, & Joana Lafuente
Comic Book | Young Adult | LGBT
Published by Boom! Box
Released July 31, 2018
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_2_stars

The only thing I knew about this comic book series going into it was that it involved fencing, and that was more than enough for me. I fenced for a brief time in college and enjoyed it, although I wish I had stuck with it longer. I enjoyed the amount of skill and precision involved, even if I ended up with bruises at the end of the meetings.

I was disappointed in this series, however. It’s full of tropes, felt predictable, and I found myself having to push through it because I didn’t feel like DNF-ing something so short. I’m definitely in the minority with this rating; it’s actually a much-loved comic book series, which is evident from its Goodreads ratings (at the time of this writing, it has over 3,000 ratings with the average being 4.07.)

The art is really good and was the one aspect of the comic book that I did enjoy. The color scheme is perfect and the art is modern with clean lines and tons of differentiation between characters.

It was also nice to see a comic book series with such diverse characters in terms of sexuality, socio-economic background, race, and more. There’s a lot of great representation in this series.

Overall, though, I just found the story predictable. Nicholas is the illegitimate son of a fencing legend and is accepted into a private school. There he joins the fencing team and faces an impossible-to-beat fencer named Seiji. If you’re starting to piece together a plot involving the underdog fencer who comes into his own and overcomes everyone thinking he won’t make it – you’d be right. Of course, Nicholas and Seiji end up being roommates. Of course, Nicholas is going to have to face his illegitimate half-brother. It’s all just so predictable.

Lastly, I hated the character of Aiden, who is supposed to be the heartthrob of the school. He’s basically a sexual predator who preys on younger students, sleeps with them, and then discards them along with their confused emotions.

As I mentioned before, I’m in the minority in not liking this comic series. So many people love it, and I’m glad they enjoyed it. I just couldn’t get into it and felt bored as I read it.


Have you read Fence? What were your thoughts?

Book Review: The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

The Book

The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue - Mackenzi Lee

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee
Amazon | Goodreads
Publisher: Katherine Tegan Books
Published: 2017
Genre: Young adult, historical fiction, adventure, LGBT
Author Links: Website | Twitter | Pinterest | Facebook | Youtube | Instagram

What It Is

Set in the 1700s, the story follows Henry Montague (“Monty”), his sister Felicity, and his best friend Percy, as they embark on their grand tour of the European continent. For Monty, this is going to be the last year before he’s forced to help run his father’s estate (a future that he is definitely not keen on) and, also, a year before Percy has to go off to Holland to attend school. Thus, it is supposed to be a year of parties, gambling, drinking, and romancing.

Things do not go as planned, however. In fact, things start going terribly, terribly wrong. They encounter highwaymen and pirates; conspiracies and alchemical cure-alls. The three of them end up having a tumultuous adventure, full of surprises and lucky escapes.

There’s another reason Monty is looking forward to his grand tour – he’s in love with Percy, only Percy doesn’t know it. Alongside the adventure story, we also get to watch the blossoming (and trials) of their relationship.

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue deals with several heavy topics that give the book an added dimension. Most obviously, it deals with homosexuality in the 1700s, a time when people could be severely punished for the act. Percy is also bi-racial, and we witness how he gets treated by higher society, and the racism of that time period. There are also underlying themes of child abuse, chronic illness (Percy has epilepsy), and sexism (Felicity is prevented from going to several of the events that Percy and Monty are dragged to, even though she actually wants to go).

The book is hilarious and heartbreaking all at once, and has something for everyone, from fight scenes and romance, to swashbuckling and alchemy.

What I Loved

The relationship between Monty and Percy was spectacular. Every time they fought in the book, or something pulled them apart, I felt it in my heart. I was rooting for their romance throughout the whole book.

All of the main characters were so well-developed, and I really appreciated that in fiction. Despite Monty being self-absorbed, naive, and very spoiled, he’s still relatable. I found myself wanting him to succeed, even when he was making very terrible decisions. Although, at times, I also wanted to reach into the pages, grab him by the shoulders, and shake him whenever he did something spectacularly dumb. A large part of this book is his coming to terms with who he is and his realization of how others see him.

Percy is instantly loveable, and just a genuinely great friend. He puts up with Monty’s foolishness (to a point), and, even when they’re fighting, he’s still there to support him. One of the things that immediately pulled me into loving his character is that he carries around a violin he inherited from his deceased father. My mother died in 2010, and the loss of a parent and the role that their heirlooms play in your remembrance of them really resonated with me.

Then we get to Felicity, who is simply a badass. I can’t wait for the sequel, The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy, to be released, because it focuses on Felicity’s adventures after the end of The Gentleman’s Guide. Whenever Monty and Percy are panicking and unsure of how to proceed, Felicity comes to their rescue. She also took it upon herself to educate herself in science and medicine, which, due to the times and the feelings of her family, she otherwise would not have been allowed to study.

What I Disliked

This is hard. I spent a good twenty minutes trying to come up with something I could say in this section, but I have nothing. I suppose the only real thing I disliked was that it was too short. I wanted so much more. Luckily, there’s the sequel…

Verdict (Buy/Borrow/Skip)

Buy! This was an incredibly fun book to read. I originally downloaded it for my Kindle, but before I was even finished with the book I purchased a physical copy from Amazon because I knew that this was a book I would be going back to several times.

Have you read The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue? What did you think?

White is for Witching – Helen Oyeyemi

“Dear Miranda Silver,
This house is bigger than you know! There are extra floors, with lots of people in them. They are looking people. They look at you, and they never move. We do not like them. We do not like this house, and we are glad to be going away. This is the end of our letter.”

The Book
White is for Witching – Helen Oyeyemi
Goodreads
Author’s Links: Website

What it is
Miranda Silver, her twin brother Eliot, and their father live in a haunted bed and breakfast across the street from a field of unmarked graves. The Silver House is the ancestral home to the Silver women, who appear to linger in the unseen portions of the house. Outsiders are unwelcome, particularly people of color and immigrants, and the house uses its mysterious supernatural attributes to get those people to flee.

Much of this book deals with Miranda’s mental illness. She suffers from pica, a disorder that causes her to hunger for non-food items, her favorite being chalk. She spent time at a clinic for her disorder while in high school, and we ride back with her to her home after she’s picked up by her father and brother. The scene in the car is a distinctly awkward one, and Eliot seems particularly uncomfortable and quiet.

The family is also grieving the loss of Miranda’s mother, Lily, a photo-journalist who was killed in Haiti when the twins were sixteen. Miranda wears a watch with its time set to “Haiti time,” and feels some guilt about her role in her mother’s death, despite being in Dover, England as it happened.

Miranda is accepted into Cambridge, where she meets Ore, a young woman adopted from Africa, and they find themselves in a romantic relationship. Ore tells Miranda a story about the soucouyant, a monster that leaves its body to consume the blood of the living. The folklore of the soucouyant is reflective of Miranda’s relationship with Ore, as Ore transitions from healthy to nearly anorexic while they’re together. Miranda is literally sucking the life out of Ore.

When Miranda’s father becomes aware of how bad her health has become while away at college, she is brought back home until she can get better. Ore comes to visit her, witnessing some unsettling experiences while there, and confiding in the housekeeper and cook, Sade.

Miranda grows sicker, and we then see the influence the house has on her, culminating in Miranda’s disappearance.

What I Loved
I’ve never read a book like this, and I’m honestly quite unsure how to classify it. Most often I see it listed as a horror novel, but, although it does contain many elements of the supernatural, it feels more like magical realism to me.

So many of the spooky happenings in the house are ambiguous and intentionally left unexplained. I enjoyed that aspect, as it reinforces the overall tone of the book and leads to the reader feeling unsure and a bit spooked.

One of the most unusual aspects of the book that I enjoyed is that the house itself is a narrator of the story at times. To be honest, the house is just as much a character in the story as the Silver family. It has its own personality, although that personality is a very racist and evil one.

What I Disliked
There are side stories in the book that are left hanging, and it was frustrating at times. The best example involves Kosovan immigrants that are being murdered around town, with no suspect in custody. Miranda is confronted by a classmate who accuses her of being involved in the murders, as they believe she’s been seen with the victims prior to their stabbings.

“We saw you,” the second girl said. “You and Amir, you and Farouk, you and Agim, you and whoever. Then they end up getting stabbed.”

Aside from a run-in with Agim, the attacking girl’s cousin and one of the victims who survived, we don’t learn much more about their stories. However, I feel like we’re meant to understand that their murders are related to the Silver house, as we also read in the book that Miranda greatly favors her great-grandmother, Anna Good, whose ghost or spirit is still possessing the house. Referred to as “the Goodlady” throughout the novel,  Anna Good, whose husband died in the war, loathed “outsiders” and blamed them for her husband’s death. Is it possible Anna Good is the cause of those murders?

There are also some awkward allusions to flirtings with an incestuous relationship between Miranda and Eliot. I can only remember two references, but it felt pretty unnecessary to the story.

Verdict (Buy/Borrow/Skip)
Buy. This is definitely a book you’ll want to read more than once.

White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi – Book Review

White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi

“Dear Miranda Silver,
This house is bigger than you know! There are extra floors, with lots of people in them. They are looking people. They look at you, and they never move. We do not like them. We do not like this house, and we are glad to be going away. This is the end of our letter.”

The Book
White is for Witching – Helen Oyeyemi
Goodreads
Author’s Links: Website

What it is
Miranda Silver, her twin brother Eliot, and their father live in a haunted bed and breakfast across the street from a field of unmarked graves. The Silver House is the ancestral home to the Silver women, who appear to linger in the unseen portions of the house. Outsiders are unwelcome, particularly people of color and immigrants, and the house uses its mysterious supernatural attributes to get those people to flee.

Much of this book deals with Miranda’s mental illness. She suffers from pica, a disorder that causes her to hunger for non-food items, her favorite being chalk. She spent time at a clinic for her disorder while in high school, and we ride back with her to her home after she’s picked up by her father and brother. The scene in the car is a distinctly awkward one, and Eliot seems particularly uncomfortable and quiet.

The family is also grieving the loss of Miranda’s mother, Lily, a photo-journalist who was killed in Haiti when the twins were sixteen. Miranda wears a watch with its time set to “Haiti time,” and feels some guilt about her role in her mother’s death, despite being in Dover, England as it happened.

Miranda is accepted into Cambridge, where she meets Ore, a young woman adopted from Africa, and they find themselves in a romantic relationship. Ore tells Miranda a story about the soucouyant, a monster that leaves its body to consume the blood of the living. The folklore of the soucouyant is reflective of Miranda’s relationship with Ore, as Ore transitions from healthy to nearly anorexic while they’re together. Miranda is literally sucking the life out of Ore.

When Miranda’s father becomes aware of how bad her health has become while away at college, she is brought back home until she can get better. Ore comes to visit her, witnessing some unsettling experiences while there, and confiding in the housekeeper and cook, Sade.

Miranda grows sicker, and we then see the influence the house has on her, culminating in Miranda’s disappearance.

What I Loved
I’ve never read a book like this, and I’m honestly quite unsure how to classify it. Most often I see it listed as a horror novel, but, although it does contain many elements of the supernatural, it feels more like magical realism to me.

So many of the spooky happenings in the house are ambiguous and intentionally left unexplained. I enjoyed that aspect, as it reinforces the overall tone of the book and leads to the reader feeling unsure and a bit spooked.

One of the most unusual aspects of the book that I enjoyed is that the house itself is a narrator of the story at times. To be honest, the house is just as much a character in the story as the Silver family. It has its own personality, although that personality is a very racist and evil one.

What I Disliked
There are side stories in the book that are left hanging, and it was frustrating at times. The best example involves Kosovan immigrants that are being murdered around town, with no suspect in custody. Miranda is confronted by a classmate who accuses her of being involved in the murders, as they believe she’s been seen with the victims prior to their stabbings.

“We saw you,” the second girl said. “You and Amir, you and Farouk, you and Agim, you and whoever. Then they end up getting stabbed.”

Aside from a run-in with Agim, the attacking girl’s cousin and one of the victims who survived, we don’t learn much more about their stories. However, I feel like we’re meant to understand that their murders are related to the Silver house, as we also read in the book that Miranda greatly favors her great-grandmother, Anna Good, whose ghost or spirit is still possessing the house. Referred to as “the Goodlady” throughout the novel,  Anna Good, whose husband died in the war, loathed “outsiders” and blamed them for her husband’s death. Is it possible Anna Good is the cause of those murders?

There are also some awkward allusions to flirtings with an incestuous relationship between Miranda and Eliot. I can only remember two references, but it felt pretty unnecessary to the story.

Verdict (Buy/Borrow/Skip)
Buy. This is definitely a book you’ll want to read more than once.