Book Review: Hannibal Rising

Image found on Amazon

Title: Hannibal Rising (Hannibal Lecter #4)

Author: Thomas Harris

My Rating: ★★1/2

Goodreads Summary: “Hannibal Lecter emerges from the nightmare of the Eastern Front, a boy in the snow, mute, with a chain around his neck. He seems utterly alone, but he has brought his demons with him. Hannibal’s uncle, a noted painter, finds him in a Soviet orphanage and brings him to France, where Hannibal will live with his uncle and his uncle’s beautiful and exotic wife, Lady Murasaki. Lady Murasaki helps Hannibal to heal. With her help he flourishes, becoming the youngest person ever to be admitted to medical school in France. But Hannibal’s demons visit him and torment him. When he is old enough, he visits them in turn. He discovers he has gifts beyond the academic, and in that epiphany, Hannibal Lecter becomes death’s prodigy.”

My Thoughts:

I really enjoyed seeing Hannibal as a child and getting more of an understanding for how he turned into a monster. Through seeing the beginning of his life, it is clearer the trauma he experienced and how that could lead someone down a dark path. (Admittedly the path is not usually as dark as Hannibal’s). However, anyone who experienced the kind of trauma Hannibal did as a small child would have difficulties later in life, which makes Hannibal a more sympathetic character. Although there was an aspect of this in the last book, Hannibal, this novel shows Hannibal having a purpose for his violence. He often doesn’t, or doesn’t in a way that makes any reasonable sense to anyone else, but Hannibal wants revenge on those who hurt the people he loves. It makes his character more relatable, as readers can understand the strong want to protect those they love.

Hannibal Rising was by far my least favorite book in the series, mostly because it was boring. There were some great scenes, but parts of it just felt too slow. At times there was too much detail or it was repetitive, especially at the beginning. Overall, it was just a lot less compelling. Additionally, Lady Murasaki is sexualized throughout the novel in a way other women are not. She’s literally described as exotic in the book summary. On one hand she is like a mother figure to Hannibal, and I liked the bond they had (until later in the book), but she is discussed in mostly sexual ways and through her relationships with men. But again, Harris often writes sort of one dimensional female characters.

I will note that Harris was sort of forced into writing Hannibal Rising under threat of losing his rights to the character Hannibal Lecter by the film producer, Dino De Laurentis. Given that he did not want to write the novel and was being pressured, I understand why it was not as good as the rest of the novels in the series.

Thanks so much for reading! I also reviewed Red Dragon, Silence of the Lambs, and Hannibal if you are interested!

Book Review: Hannibal

Image from Amazon

Title: Hannibal (Hannibal Lecter #3)

Author: Thomas Harris

My Rating: ★★★★

Goodreads Summary: “Years after his escape, posing as scholarly Dr. Fell, curator of a grand family’s palazzo, Hannibal lives the good life in Florence, playing lovely tunes by serial killer/composer Henry the VIII and killing hardly anyone himself. Clarice is unluckier: in the novel’s action-film-like opening scene, she survives an FBI shootout gone wrong, and her nemesis, Paul Krendler, makes her the fall guy. Clarice is suspended, so, unfortunately, the first cop who stumbles on Hannibal is an Italian named Pazzi, who takes after his ancestors, greedy betrayers portrayed in Dante’s Inferno. Pazzi is on the take from a character as scary as Hannibal: Mason Verger. When Verger was a young man busted for raping children, his vast wealth saved him from jail. All he needed was psychotherapy — with Dr. Lecter. Thanks to the treatment, Verger is now on a respirator, paralyzed except for one crablike hand, watching his enormous. brutal moray eel swim figure eights and devour fish. His obsession is to feed Lecter to some other brutal pets.”

My Thoughts:

*TW: rape*

I found Hannibal to be the most disturbing and realistic of the 3 of 4 books I have read so far. The focus on Mason Verger being a rapist and using his money to avoid imprisonment is far more real than the villains in Red Dragon and The Silence of the Lambs. There is story after story of successful men who have paid their way out of rape charges. Additionally, Clarice being thrown under the bus by her male coworker because he is jealous of her success is not exactly the most outlandish idea I’ve ever heard. However, I will note that the idea of a white FBI Agent getting suspended for shooting a black drug dealer who shot first is ridiculous. Police don’t even get in trouble for murdering innocent people, let alone armed drug dealers. Clarice also displays abuse of power, like threatening an immigrant with turning him in unless he helps her. Krendler and Pazzi also show many many examples of this, which I liked, because even though I love Clarice and didn’t want to see her be a bad person, I think Harris is accurately showing the power the police and FBI have and how too many abuse that power, even those who are generally good.

To expand on my earlier idea, Hannibal is more scary because Mason makes my skin crawl in a way Hannibal never does. Don’t get me wrong, Hannibal is terrible, but Mason rapes children. Hannibal kills people to eat them, but never harms children and tortures Mason for enacting such violence against children. This is an interesting dynamic, because it makes Hannibal more complex as a character and makes clearer that he does have a moral code he sticks to, although it is convoluted and usually objectively wrong. My heart broke for Margot, Mason’s sister, who suffered a lot of abuse from him as a child, and is a lesbian in a family that is deeply religious and will not give her any inheritance money because of this (unless she has a biological heir). Instead, all the money will go to the Southern Baptist Church when Mason dies. This novel also focuses more on Hannibal’s internal thoughts and Hannibal in general. It was interesting to be in his head and to learn about the trauma he faced as a child, which contributed to him becoming a cannibalistic serial killer.

There were a few things I did not love about Hannibal. First off, Margot is a quite a stereotypical lesbian, which if there were other lesbians in the novel (other than Judy, Margot’s partner whom who know basically nothing about), would be more okay. But she’s not just a stereotype, her portrayal is sort of homophobic, because it is insinuated that she is hardly a women at all. When we first meet her, Clarice mistakes her for a man and Harris does not present a more positive impression of her. There is also a line about her taking hormones, which leads me to think Harris may have confused being a lesbian and being a trans man.

Her cornsilk hair had receded enough to make Starling wonder if she took steroids and had to tape her clitoris down.

p.58

The homophobia doesn’t stop there! Mason tried to seduce Hannibal in order to get out of therapy, giving us readers another lovely gay-man-is-a-child-molester trope. (This obviously did not work well for Mason).

My main issue with this book is the ending. I hate it. I hate it. I hate it. I hate it. I hate it. I hate it. I hate it. *Spoiler alert* (I hate it so much I need to discuss it): Clarice marries Hannibal and they run off to Argentina together. I’m sorry…fucking what?! I knew how it ended, but I was hoping Clarice was drugged or something. Nope. It was by choice (she was drugged by him for a while before though). They’re like dancing on balconies and going to the opera, like just any other happy, rich couple. Once again, Harris does a sub-par job with a female character. I don’t know who this woman is, but it’s not Clarice Starling, that’s for damn sure.

Once again, I enjoyed comparing the book to Hannibal (NBC), because of I had seen the show first, and Margot is so different, but I love her in both the TV show and the book. Cause this is what she looks like in the show:

This was largely because the creators of the show (namely Bryan Fuller) took issue with Harris’ descriptions of Margot as well. It was interesting to read the original text after watching and falling in love with Hannibal (NBC). The plots are different, but the characters are all the same, so it was cool to see how they were similar and different. Speaking of lesbians, I am only more convinced Clarice and Ardelia should be together, especially because the ending of Hannibal was so bad. Clarice deserves better! (And by better I mean a partner that isn’t a fucking serial killer).

Lastly, I love how Harris organized this novel! Switching between many plots until they all collide is always a favorite of mine. It’s so intriguing to watch it happen and keeps me on my toes. I think of the Hannibal Lecter books, Hannibal is my favorite so far, because of the storytelling and how the plots combine and occur. Once again, like with every Hannibal Lecter book, I had issues with Harris’ portrayals of women and LGBT people, but I still really liked it. If you can get past the ending, Hannibal is great! (I can’t really so I’m just gonna pretend that never happened).

Thanks for reading! I reviewed Red Dragon and The Silence of the Lambs as well if you’re interested 🙂

Book Review: The Silence of the Lambs

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Title: The Silence of the Lambs (Hannibal Lecter #2)

Author: Thomas Harris

My Rating: ★★★1/2

Summary: “A serial murderer known only by a grotesquely apt nickname — Buffalo Bill — is stalking women. He has a purpose, but no one can fathom it, for the bodies are discovered in different states. Clarice Starling, a young trainee at the FBI Academy, is surprised to be summoned by Jack Crawford, chief of the Bureau’s Behavioral Science section. Her assignment: to interview Dr. Hannibal Lecter — Hannibal the Cannibal — who is kept under close watch in the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane.”

My Thoughts:

*I usually don’t spoil anything in my reviews, but I sort of did here so I could talk about a few things. Also, I figured a ton of people have seen the movie so I’m not really spoiling anything anyway*

I went into The Silence of the Lambs knowing what would happen, since I’ve seen the movie multiple times, but was still excited to read it and see how it differed from the movie. I have a lot of issues with the plot, but grant Harris some leniency given he released the book in 1988. (Leniency that I will not grant to J.K Rowling, because she’s writing her transphobic horror novels in 2020, with the intent to cause harm). I will address these issues a little later, but for now I’m going to jump into some things I liked.

I have always liked Clarice a lot, so I really enjoyed getting to see more of her internal thoughts throughout the novel. In fact, I found I liked Clarice in the book better overall, which is not to say I didn’t like Jodie Foster’s portrayal of her, but Harris’ Clarice is a bit more assertive and funny. And I love nothing more than a strong female character. I also really enjoyed her friendship with her roommate, Ardelia Mapp. She is in the movie, but way less. In the book, she’s funny and reminds Clarice to take care of herself. Also, the ending of the book would have been a million times better if they ended up together instead of Clarice with some dude the reader barely knows anything about. (I am not the only one who thinks this – there are fanfictions about this ship!) To be fair, maybe it’s just because Clarice was played by Jodie Foster, but she just doesn’t seem straight to me. But of course that would never happen, because Thomas Harris never included good LGBT characters in his stories, he just made them queer in order to make them seem even more sinister and perverse. Fun fun fun. Thanks for that.

One thing Harris does well is depict the everyday sexism Clarice inevitably faces being a women in a male-dominated field. People consistently don’t want to listen to her because she’s a woman or they talk down to her. When she goes to the garage to follow Hannibal’s lead, reporters find out and do not treat her like the FBI Agent in-training she is.

And all the time the men were talking to her, constantly, gently. ‘We won’t touch anything. We’re pros, you don’t have to worry. The cops will let us in anyway. It’s all right, honey.’

p.55

Harris points this out in more direct ways, like when Chilton flirts with Clarice when taking her to Hannibal’s cell. She is there for work and should be treated as though she is.

Like in Red Dragon, the reader gets to see into the mind of the murderer, so Buffalo Bill in this case. Having longer scenes in his perspective also allows for more time with Catherine as a character. She is so incredibly brave and her scenes really highlight that. She was kidnapped after being tricked into helping Buffalo Bill, which is especially sad, since he takes advantage of the fact that she is helpful to strangers. Huge caveat to loving Catherine Martin’s character: Harris made a few scenes weirdly sexual, clearly showcasing that men sometimes just do not have any idea how to write women like regular people. In one scene, Catherine is trying to plan an escape and considers having sex with Buffalo Bill in order to escape.

Would it be better to fuck him first, fuck him as many times as he could do it and wear him out? She knew if she could get her legs around his neck she could send him home to Jesus in about a second and a half.

p.265

I promise you that no woman in Catherine’s situation is thinking about the logistics of seducing and having sex with her kidnapper in order to escape. There’s also this gem…

Catherine Baker Martin’s tears spread hot on her cheeks and fell, plucking at the front of her jumpsuit, soaking through, warm on her breasts, and she believed that she would surely die.

p.269

Now to address the elephant in the room: The Silence of the Lambs is transphobic. Buffalo Bill is skinning women in order to build a female skin-suit. Harris was clearly inspired by the real-life horror of Ed Gein who did this, who had a strange, incestuous obsession with his mother. Harris has insisted that Buffalo Bill is not actually trans, just as the characters in the novel do. However, there is no other logical explanation given really. Hannibal says Buffalo Bill “covets,” but that doesn’t really prove his coveting isn’t due to wanting to be a woman. Additionally, Buffalo Bill has given himself hormones, grown out his hair and calls himself “Mommy” all the time when talking to his dog, Precious. Making trans people seem like crazy murderers is awful. This plot would mayyyybe be more acceptable if there was tons of trans characters on screen and in books, but there aren’t. Having a classic horror novel and movie be focused on the horror of trans people is not exactly the representation the LGBTQ+ community wants. I think it is still okay to enjoy the story, however. I enjoyed reading the book and will likely watch the movie again sometime. I just think it is important to be critical of the media we consume.

One other issue I had with the novel was the pretty much constant body-shaming of women. Buffalo Bill targets larger women so his suit is large enough for his body. This means all of the women Clarice and investigators are looking at are overweight, and they seemed judgmental of that. There were also a lot of assumptions made by Clarice that these women must have had low self-esteem and been looking to prove themselves to others. It’s a dumb stereotype that annoyed me every time it showed up. But Harris doesn’t write the best female characters in general anyway, so I can’t say I was shocked.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading The Silence of the Lambs despite the issues I had with it. I also reviewed the first book in the series, Red Dragon and you can read that here.

Thanks so much for reading!

Book Review: Red Dragon

Image from Amazon

Title: Red Dragon (Hannibal Lecter #1)

Author: Thomas Harris

My Rating: ★★★★

Goodreads Summary: “A second family has been massacred by the terrifying serial killer the press has christened ‘The Tooth Fairy.’ Special Agent Jack Crawford turns to the one man who can help restart a failed investigation: Will Graham. Graham is the greatest profiler the FBI ever had, but the physical and mental scars of capturing Hannibal Lecter have caused Graham to go into early retirement. Now, Graham must turn to Lecter for help.”

My Thoughts:

As is expected, Red Dragon is mostly about murder, but the novel also focuses on the mental strain put on FBI agents, which I found interesting. The novel starts with Crawford trying to convince Will to help with a case, but he’s hesitant, as is his wife Molly. Her husband got nearly disemboweled by a serial killing cannibal. I would be hesitant too. Will makes it clear that it is bad for him mentally and Molly says he only recently stopped having nightmares due to his surgically precise stabbing incident. Throughout the novel it is clear the mental toll on Will effects all aspects of his life, making it nearly impossible for him to work with the FBI while having a life outside of work.

You have to shake it off and keep on thinking. I don’t believe I could do it now. I could make myself look, but I’d shut down on the thinking.

Harris switches between focusing on the investigations, Will’s personal life, and the murderer, which I loved. I liked seeing all sides of the story and it kept me intrigued and on edge. Often one chapter would end on a cliffhanger and switch to another part of the story, leaving me desperate to find out what would happen next. Following the murderer around was especially nerve-wracking and intense. (As would be expected).

Harris created an interesting story by including a lot of minuscule details. Will discovered and the Tooth Fairy showed so many small clues that were intriguing and slowly built up tension in the novel. At times I definitely forgot some, but that’s on me, not Harris. (And college, for not giving me enough time to read).

However, I wish the characters had been more prominent. Red Dragon is more plot-based than character-based and I tend to prefer the latter. If a book has a great plot, but the characters are boring, I find myself losing interest. Harris does a great job with both, but I would have liked more focus on characters thoughts and feelings.

That being said, I love the characters Harris created. I love watching Will’s mind work, his sarcastic attitude and his awkward but caring demeanor. The ending of the novel made me sad though, because it kept me wondering about Will, and I know from watching Silence of the Lambs, he isn’t in it. At least I still have a few episodes of Hannibal left!

One character that is written perfectly is Hannibal Lecter. Despite being in the book less than I thought he would be, every scene with him is amazing. He is awful (obviously), but undeniably hilarious. He is both a monster and so human. For example, among the few books in his prison cell, Hannibal has a copy of The Joy of Cooking. (You can’t tell me that isn’t the funniest, most fucked up thing in the world). And he writes letters like (as one Tumblr user, @ailichi pointed out), “a nineteenth century schoolgirl.”

We live in a primitive time — don’t we, Will? — neither savage nor wise. Half measures are the curse of it. Any rational society would either kill me or give me my books.

I also adored Molly, Will’s wife. She is so protective of Will and her son, telling Crawford off when he tries to recruit Will to go back to the FBI. She takes shit from no one, not even Will and I love her for it. She has an especially cool scene at the end of the book that I am obsessed with. She is truly a badass. (Me? Simping for a strong female character?! Pfffft never. *”Woman” by Harry Styles blares in the background*)

One thing that did bother me somewhat (not in a serious way) was the names. There’s Will and his stepson Willy. There’s Frederick Chilton and Freddy (Frederick) Lounds. Harris…buddy…come on. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, I mean this is the guy that named his villain Hannibal the Cannibal. Either way, it makes me feel a lot better about my own lack of character-naming skills.

I was also excited to see that Harris wrote the gay subtext in the original novel. (I mean who doesn’t want some homoeroticism with their cannibalism?!) I wasn’t sure how much was in the original, because there is so much in Hannibal that it is hardly subtext and I didn’t notice it much in the book at first. I was focused on other aspects of the book, ya know, like murder. But from Hannibal smelling Will’s aftershave and recognizing it, to him sending Will letters, it is 100% there. Additionally, Will fears he can understand murderers so well because he is also insane (rather than deeply empathetic like he believes). The connection and similarity to Hannibal also speaks to a deeper connection between the two.

One thing that made reading Red Dragon extra great was watching Hannibal at the same time. I liked comparing characters and finding lines taken directly from the book. Hannibal is very different, but it’s cool to see how inspired the TV show was from the original content. I also watched the movie Red Dragon, and it was good. The acting for some characters was sort of boring (especially Will), but it stuck to the plot closely, which I really appreciate. Overall, I really loved reading Red Dragon!


Thank you so much for reading! To celebrate spooky season, here is Hugh Dancy (who did an amazing job bringing Will Graham to life on screen in Hannibal) carrying some pumpkins 🎃✨

Book Review: Zombie

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Title: Zombie

Author: Joyce Carol Oates

My Rating: ★★★1/2

Goodreads Summary: “Meet Quentin P., the most believably terrifying sexual psychopath and killer ever brought to life in fiction. The author deftly puts you inside the mind of a serial killer — succeeding not in writing about madness, but in writing with the logic of madness.”

My Thoughts:

*TW: murder, rape*

Zombie was one of the most intense reading experiences I’ve ever had. There were times when I stopped reading for a moment because of how vile it is inside Quentin’s mind. I found myself retreating into my sweatshirt while reading. I don’t think I’ve ever been so disturbed by a book. This is all to say that Oates did an excellent job getting into the mind of a serial killer. This novel is 181 pages and reads quickly at times, but is super hard to get through at others. I quite honestly don’t know how much more I could have taken. Even when I wasn’t reading it, I found myself thinking about it. Quentin has such a deeply disturbing mind devoid of normal emotion and thought that his perspective is hard to let go of, no matter if I wanted to.

Oates’ writing style for this novel works well, but is not necessarily the easiest to read. Given that it’s written from Quentin’s perspective, this makes sense. His thoughts are disjointed and jumbled, spiraling and jumping around in time. Additionally, Oates uses a lot of short sentences and bad grammar, like run-on sentences and lack of capitalization to give authenticity. It makes his mind seem busy and disorganized. This all adds to the disturbing content by making it clear that Quentin does not think like a normal person. She also uses capitalizations of words to add emphasis. This at times is effective, as it makes him seem angry and stuck in a thought pattern or fixated on something. However, at other times, this technique feels awkward and random. I think another way of emphasizing would have made it easier to read (like bolding words).

Zombie is also interesting read because Quentin (or Q_ P_) speaks in first person, but also speaks about himself in the third person. This helps to show he likely has some disconnect between himself and what he’s doing, even though he is fully aware of the horrendous crimes he is committing. Quentin also only uses some people’s real names, otherwise writing a blank, like he does for himself at times. This is interesting, because it gives only some people importance and erases a part of identity. It gives the impression that Quentin doesn’t care enough about others (or himself) to properly identify them. To him, people are unimportant or for his own use, more science experiments than humans.

Quentin skims over some details, but goes into immense detail about other things, like his room. This speaks to his narcissism and how little he cares for others. Later in the book, this escalates to short but horrible depictions of what he does to his victims.

Oates does a great job building Quentin’s character. The readers are introduced to him for around 30 pages before there’s an alarming (creepy) observation made about someone. This helps a lot, since like I’ve said, this book is intense and being eased into it helps a lot.

The story flows well, up until the very end. I hated the end of this book, because there is no ending. It reads like Oates just forgot to write one. It leaves the story feeling unfinished and like more should happen. I wanted more of a conclusion than I got. I felt like the ending and the book in general was missing something I couldn’t quite pinpoint.

Oates clearly did her research and it shows. (Side note: most of my knowledge about serial killers comes from true crime documentaries and high school health class). Quentin has no real emotions, talks about his failed “zombies” like failed experiments rather than dead people and lacks understanding about how the world works. From what I’ve watched, this seems correct and realistic.

Other than the ending, my only real complaint about Zombie is that Quentin is too similar to Jeffrey Dahmer. Oates is certainly capable of writing unique, interesting characters (I found her from reading “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” in my Literary Studies class, which has many interesting characters). She would certainly have been able to create her own character from scratch. I have no problem with taking aspects of known murderers to create a character, but Quentin is very similar to Dahmer.

*This is where that trigger warning is really going to come into play*

I am first going to take some fault here and say I know a lot about Dahmer, so I may have noticed this more than someone who doesn’t constantly watch true crime documentaries. Dahmer attempted to make some people unable to think for themselves (and therefore be entirely in his control) by drilling into their brains and then injecting either acid or boiling water. He saved body parts from his victims, who were mostly African – American or other people of color. He raped his victims who were often underaged. He was white in his 20’s – 30’s and gay. While there were other aspects of his crimes Oates did not put into Zombie, she used all of the above. If she had kept only the lobotomizing of victims, but changed the rest, I think I would have found this book more original.

I think that this book is super well written and interesting. I would highly recommend it, but warn everyone that it is hard to read.


Thank you for reading

Book Review: The Other Boleyn Girl

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Title: The Other Boleyn Girl

Author: Philippa Gregory

My Rating: ★★★1/2

Summary: “A rich and compelling novel of love, sex, ambition, and intrigue, The Other Boleyn Girl introduces a woman of extraordinary determination and desire who lived at the heart of the most glamorous court in Europe and survived by following her heart.

When Mary Boleyn comes to court as an innocent girl of fourteen, she catches the eye of Henry VIII. Dazzled, Mary falls in love with both her golden prince and her growing role as unofficial queen. However, she soon realizes just how much she is a pawn in her family’s ambitious plots as the king’s interest begins to wane and she is forced to step aside for her best friend and rival: her sister, Anne. Then Mary knows that she must defy her family and her king and take her fate into her own hands.”

My Thoughts:

On the very first page, Mary watches someone she knows get beheaded, which certainly drew me into the story. I continued to be interested the whole way through the book, which is saying something, since I went into the book knowing what would happen. The perspective also made the story interesting to read. Writing from the viewpoint of a woman, especially someone so often forgotten about made a well known piece of history feel new.

Gregory does a great job of giving readers a feel for what life at court was like without it feeling repetitive. While Mary and Anne Boleyn’s lives were crazy in many ways, life at court could potentially become repetitive to read about. She also did this well in Three Sisters, Three Queens, which I read last spring.

Gregory also clearly shows the complete lack of agency both Mary and Anne had in their lives, particularly when it comes to their relationships with Henry. Mary gets told exactly what to do to charm Henry, down to when she should sleep with him.

Now that I’ve addressed what Gregory did well, I need to discuss the big problem I have with this novel. (Hence the 3.5 stars). Before I say anything, I will acknowledge that this book is from 2001. However, The Other Boleyn Girl is still a popular read for historical fiction about the Tudors, so I think criticizing it is fair.

I found the portrayal of Anne as well as Mary and Anne’s relationship to be sexist. As a character in general, Anne is pretty one-dimensional. Obviously, the novel being from Mary’s perspective, the readers miss Anne’s inner thoughts. Still, Mary was her sister, so it’s safe to assume she would know the real Anne Boleyn better than most. But even with those closest to her, Anne is really mean, heartless and calculated. So basically, the sexist, simplified caricature the public already has of her as a historical figure. This portrayal surprised me somewhat, given that the book was written by a woman known as a feminist and interested in championing the stories of women from history.

Gregory does give Anne a good amount of agency, which I could appreciate, even if mostly involved her being mean to Mary constantly. She is shown to help her family strategize how Mary should keep Henry interested in her. She is really the only woman who talks about wanting autonomy and is shown to be ambitious. But again, she is a w f u l. Having the only woman with ambition being extremely unlikable and then be beheaded seems a bit sexist to me.

An example of other media that gave Anne agency in a much more positive way is The Tudors, a TV series. Anne is shown encouraging Henry to read writings by Martin Luther, giving her a direct and important role in the Reformation. I only include this to show that there are other ways to show Anne’s ambition in a way that shows her intellect, rather than her being manipulative and mean.

Mary and Anne’s relationship and different experiences with Henry and at court also bother me for similar reasons. The focus on Mary and Anne’s rivalry and Anne “stealing” Henry from Mary feels sexist and oversimplified. Sure, they are both shown to be pawns in their family’s plan, but there is also a focus on Mary and Anne fighting over the fact that Henry has been with both of them, during the same time. (This takes place earlier in the story, but still). This somewhat turns a complex game in order to grab power into an oversimplified rivalry between two girls in love with the same man. By focusing on their anger towards each other, Gregory turns Anne into the villain rather than, oh, I don’t know, maybe the guy who cut his wife’s head off??!? (Actually, more than one, but Katherine Howard comes along much later).

Additionally, Mary is shown to be apprehensive and uncomfortable with her role of sleeping with the king at the beginning, and remains the kind, sweet girl throughout the novel. Anne is more comfortable in her role from the get-go, and more matter-of-fact about what she needs to do for her family. This means the plot is essentially one of a sweet girl forced into a bad situation who ends in a happy, loving marriage. But the more ambitious, smart girl gets punished. Of course, Anne would die at the end, but if she was more complex, not just a calculated seductress, this inevitable end would feel less like the classic story of a woman rightfully punished for being intelligent and having ambition.

While I still really enjoyed reading The Other Boleyn Girl, I found the portrayal of Anne to be a big letdown. However, I loved reading from Mary’s perspective and getting into the mindset of what it must have been like to be in her position. I would maybe still recommend this book, because I did really like reading about Mary, but it was also so frustrating to read.


Playlist:

I decided to pick songs that fit lyrically with the novel and then put them in order of what happened. Of course, none of them fit perfectly, except for the song from Six, but I tried. I had a lot of fun making this one 🙂

  1. Doll Parts – Hole
  2. Young God – Halsey
  3. Don’t Lose Ur Head (feat. Christina Modestou) – Six Soundtrack
  4. What Kind of Man – Florence + the Machine
  5. How F*****g Dare You – Lauren Tate
  6. Falling – Florence + the Machine
  7. Heavy Is the Head (feat. Chris Cornell) – Zac Brown Band
  8. Angel on Fire – Halsey
  9. Greensleeves

You can listen to it here 👑


Thank you for reading this feminist rant disguised as a book review 💚

Book Review: A Nearly Normal Family

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Title: A Nearly Normal Family

Author: M. T. Edvardsson, Translated by Rachel Willson – Broyles

My Rating: ★★★★

Summary (Goodreads): “Eighteen-year-old Stella Sandell stands accused of the brutal murder of a man almost fifteen years her senior. She is an ordinary teenager from an upstanding local family. What reason could she have to know a shady businessman, let alone to kill him?

Stella’s father, a pastor, and mother, a criminal defense attorney, find their moral compasses tested as they defend their daughter, while struggling to understand why she is a suspect. Told in an unusual three-part structure, A Nearly Normal Family asks the questions: How well do you know your own children? How far would you go to protect them?”

My Thoughts:

This is what I was looking for when I read You Owe Me A Murder! (You can read the review for that here if you want). I was pulled in fast by the scene in the prologue, where Adam is about to testify at Stella’s trial. Though we know nothing about either character yet, it’s an exciting look at what’s to come.

Edvarsson is able to keep that excitement throughout the novel. The reader slowly gets a picture of what their family looks like and what Stella was like when she was younger, through using flashbacks. This builds up the suspense slowly and well. In addition to the use of flashbacks, there were cliffhangers at the end of nearly every chapter, which made it hard to stop reading.

A Nearly Normal Family is also interesting because it’s written in multiple points of view. Readers get to read from the perspectives of the father, mother and Stella. Given that all read very differently, this made for an intriguing way to tell the story. It slowly shows how each person sees themselves, each other and life in general. This adds to the mystery of the novel, because the reader gets pieces to put together. Additionally, it can be hard to tell what really happened and who is telling the truth, which adds to the feeling of uncovering the truth over time.

The characters in general are well -written. All of them are complex and have qualities about them that are unlikable or negative, and other qualities that are positive, making the characters feel like real people. Each character can be unlikable at times, but that is why they feel like real people going through a crazy event.

Overall, I would really recommend this book for a fun, fast thriller novel.


Playlist:

I didn’t really have any other songs I could think of to make another playlist about murder, so I’m going to use the one from my review for You Owe Me A Murder. Sorry!

  1. Down by the Church – Semler
  2. Hunted Down – Soundgarden
  3. Enter Sandman – Metallica
  4. Eating Simon – Hands Off Gretel
  5. Every Breathe You Take – The Police
  6. Monster – L7

You can listen to the playlist here 🖤


Thank you for reading! I hope you all had a great October and Halloween 💀🎃

Book Review: The Ship of the Dead

Found on Google Images

Title: The Ship of the Dead (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #3)

Author: Rick Riordan

My Rating: ★★★★

Summary (Goodreads): “Magnus Chase, son of Frey, the god of summer and health, isn’t naturally inclined toward being a brave warrior. Still, with the help of his motley group of friends, he has achieved deeds he never would have thought possible. Now he faces his most dangerous trail yet. Loki is free from his chains. He’s readying Naglfar, the Ship of the Dead, complete with a host of giants and zombies, to sail against the Asgardian gods and begin the final battle of Ragnarok. It’s up to Magnus and his friends to stop him, but to do so they will have to sail across the oceans of Midgard, Jotunheim and Niflheim in a desperate race to reach Naglfar before it’s ready to sail. Along the way, they will face angry sea gods, hostile giants, and an evil fire-breathing dragon. But Magnus’ biggest challenge will be facing his own inner demons. Does he have what it takes to outwit the wily trickster god?”

My Thoughts:

Here are links to my reviews on the other books in the series:

  1. The Sword of Summer
  2. The Hammer of Thor

I’m sad to have finished this trilogy, because it was so much fun to read. No matter how old I get, I still find Riordan’s books so enjoyable. He creates such great characters in such beautiful worlds. But onto why this book specifically was so great! I say some of the same things every time, but he did such a good job with each book in the series.

A part of the book I really loved was the very beginning. Percy and Annabeth are there. I don’t want to spoil too much, but Magnus and Alex forming friendships with two beloved characters from Riordan’s other series made me so happy. (Even though Annabeth has been in this trilogy since the beginning, Percy hasn’t). Jack trying to talk to Riptide was also very entertaining.

As per usual with Riordan’s novels, The Ship of the Dead was funny. The dialogue is so true of each character and so natural, the chapter titles are funny and the way characters interact is funny and interesting. Especially in the Magnus Chase series, because in Valhalla, people come from all different periods of time. One line I liked that introduced the next chapter perfectly was:

“I like my rivers the way I like my enemies — slow, wide and lazy. I rarely get what I want.”

p.55

And I love this bit of dialogue:

“‘You want to come with me to a creepy mansion and look through a dead guy’s stuff?’

Alex beamed. ‘I thought you’d never ask.'”

p.20

One aspect I really loved was Mangus’ friends from floor nineteen in Hotel Valhalla being in this book more. They weren’t super involved in the plot of The Hammer of Thor, so it was fun to read about them more. Also, readers got to learn more about their backgrounds in this book. Magnus knew some information about how they all died, but not the specifics. I loved learning more about T.J, Mallory and Halfborn. They all have such different backgrounds from different time periods, which makes it so interesting to read about.

Overall, I loved this trilogy (even though I read the first one too many years ago to remember too many specifics), and I would highly recommend it!


Playlist:

I decided to make this playlist based on Mallory Keen, a character I love in The Ship of the Dead, and the trilogy as a whole.

  1. Sunday Bloody Sunday – U2
  2. Cherry Bomb – The Runaways
  3. Rebel Girl – Bikini Kill
  4. Ty Cobb – Soundgarden
  5. Set It Off – Audioslave
  6. Don’t Play – Halsey
  7. Heroes – David Bowie
  8. Come Together – The Beatles
  9. Nightmare – Halsey

You can listen to the playlist here ☘️


Thank you for reading! ❤️

Book Review: Shout

Found on Google Images

*TW: rape, domestic violence

Title: Shout

Author: Laurie Halse Anderson

My Rating: ★★★★

Goodreads Summary: “Bestselling author Laurie Halse Anderson is known for the unflinching way she writes about, and advocates for, survivors of sexual assault. Now inspired by her fans and enraged by how little in our culture has changed since her groundbreaking novel Speak was first published twenty years ago, she has written a poetry memoir that is as vulnerable as it is rallying, as timely as it is timeless. In free verse, Anderson shares reflections, rants, and calls to action woven between deeply personal stories from her life that she’s never written about before. Searing and soul-searching, this important memoir is a denouncement of our society’s failures and a love letter to all the people with the courage to say #metoo and #timesup, whether aloud, online, or only in their own hearts. Shout speaks truth to power in a loud, clear voice — and once you hear it, it is impossible to ignore.”

My Thoughts:

The minute I heard that Laurie Halse Anderson wrote Shout I knew I needed to read it. I haven’t read all of her books, but I’ve read a lot of them, and all were fantastic. I loved Speak when I read it, and although it’s been a long time since I read it, I remember how well she handled the complicated conversation around rape. She continuously tackles complex issues like eating disorders (Wintergirls) and PTSD (The Impossible Knife of Memory) so well. Shout is no different.

Anderson wrote in free verse, which I really enjoyed. It allowed her the freedom to write each poem in a different form and length, which kept it interesting. I also liked the mix of memoir (especially at the beginning) with poetry focused on the issue of sexual assault as a whole. Anderson was able to tell her own story while also addressing issues she herself never directly faced.

I really loved this book. There was not a poem I disliked. Of course, I had my favorites, but everything was well written and expressed different emotions and ideas. I’ve always thought Anderson is so talented with word choice and writing poetic lines in her novels, and Shout reinforced that. Some of my favorite lines are below (because quoting an entire poem is a bit much).

The image of my father hitting

my mother picassoed in front of me

like Sunday sunshine slicing

through the church windows, fracturing

and rearranging the truth on the floor.

Another example:

I didn’t speak up

when that boy raped me, instead I scalded

myself in the shower and turned

me into the ghost of the girl

I once was

Shout writes about the violence so many women experience in their lives in such a real way that nearly brought me to tears and filled me with rage. Anderson once again tackled a difficult topic with grace, expressing the anger and hurt so many women feel due to their experiences and the experiences of others. I cannot say enough that this book is excellent and everyone should read it.


Playlist:

This is a playlist of angry women (one of my favorite genres of music):

  1. Asking for It – Hole
  2. Nightmare – Halsey
  3. Can I Run – L7
  4. Oh Bondage Up Yours! – X-Ray Spex
  5. Seneca Falls – The Distillers
  6. World Against She – Hands Off Gretel
  7. Suck My Left One – Bikini Kill

You can listen to the playlist here 🤘🏻


Thanks for reading! ❤

Book Review: Our Own Private Universe

Title: Our Own Private Universe

Author: Robin Talley

My Rating: ★★★1/2

Summary: “Fifteen-year-old Aki Simon has a theory. And it’s mostly about sex.

No, it isn’t that kind of theory. Aki already knows she’s bisexual — even if, until now, it’s mostly been in the hypothetical sense. Aki has dated only guys so far, and her best friend, Lori, is the only person who knows she likes girls, too.

Actually, Aki’s theory is that she’s only got one shot at living an interesting life — and that means she’s got to stop sitting around and thinking so much. It’s time for her to actually do something. Or at least try.

So when Aki and Lori set off on a church youth-group trip to a small Mexican town for the summer and Aki meets Christa — slightly older, far more experienced — it seems her theory is prime for the testing.

But it’s not going to be easy. For one thing, how exactly do two girls have sex, anyway? And more important, how can you tell if you’re in love? It’s going to be a summer of testing theories — and the result may just be love.”

My Thoughts:

I wanted something easy and fun to read, so I decided to read a YA contemporary novel. (Also, I realized I hadn’t read any since 2015, so there’s that). I love Robin Talley (please read Lies We Tell Ourselves if you haven’t), so I decided to read this 🙂

One thing I liked about this novel was the friendships. There were interesting dynamics between each friendship, which made it interesting. Also, the relationship in this book is so cute! They’re both young, figuring out their sexuality and what their future holds for them. There’s a lot of unknown things, but that they like each other isn’t one of them.

Another thing Talley does really well is her dialogue is great. It’s very natural and differs with different characters well. Here’s a good example:

“The new guys are going to be incredible,” Lori had whispered to me as we walked to the party with the others.

“They’re going to be exactly the same as the guys we already know,” I whispered back.

“Not true. These guys are way cooler. Much less boring.”

“How could you possibly know that?”

“Look, I’m an optimist, okay?”

p.13

In addition to the same-sex relationship in Our Own Private Universe, Talley included other characters that made this a diverse novel. Aki and her family are black, and it takes place in Mexico, meaning many of the side characters are Mexican. Aki and at least one other character are bisexual, there is an out lesbian character, and one character who is pretty sure they’re pansexual. Very rarely are there books, especially contemporary YA novels this diverse.

There were also some things about this book that were less prominent that I still want to mention. For one, it’s very sex positive, specifically regarding LGBTQ+ people. Talley brings up topics about safe sex and the issues of sex education, which largely only teach about one kind of sex. On a completely different note, all of the sections of this book have Prince song titles as titles. Additionally, there are more references and mentions of Prince throughout, which was fun. There is also a small section with a long conversation about Harry Potter, which made me very happy.

There were some things I didn’t love about Our Own Private Universe, though. For one, while I liked Aki, Lori and Christa (and other characters), I didn’t love any of them. I liked some of the background characters a little better, but overall they were all just fine. There were traits in them all that really bothered me too much to really love them. (Saying exactly what things bother me would spoil a lot, so I can’t be specific). The other main issue I had was with the characters arguing over stupid things and lying to each other. It made some of the conflicts feel catty and unoriginal. (Again, putting specifics would spoil things so I can’t be more specific).

Overall, I think this books like this one are very important as LGBTQ+ relationships are very under represented in books and the YA genre. If you want a fast, cute romance novel this is a good one to choose!


Playlist:

For this playlist, I chose artists and bands that have members in the LGBTQ+ community.

  1. Keep on Livin’ – Le Tigre
  2. Sheer Heart Attack – Queen
  3. Ziggy Stardust – David Bowie
  4. Plum – Troye Sivan
  5. Angel on Fire – Halsey
  6. Re: Anne – Charlie Raphael – Campbell
  7. Love You Old Fashioned – Semler
  8. The Original High – Adam Lambert
  9. Viz – Le Tigre
  10. She Walks on Me – Hole

You can listen to the playlist here 🙂


Thank you for reading!🌈📖