review · two stars

Review: Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Title: Dark Matter
Author: Blake Crouch
Rating: ★★½
Summary: After Jason Dessen is kidnapped and knocked unconscious, he wakes up strapped to a gurney and surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits. Everything is eerily familiar—except not. His wife is not his wife, his son was never born, and he’s a celebrated scientific genius instead of a college physics professor. The choices Jason’s forced to make stem from a single, seemingly unanswerable question—has he woken up from a dream or escaped into another?—and result in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could’ve imagined. Dark Matter is a brilliantly plotted tale that is at once sweeping and intimate, a relentlessly surprising science-fiction thriller about the choices and decisions we make, and how far we’ll go to accomplish our dreams.


If I weren’t a book blogger—who very much has to force herself to review the titles I’ve read—I would have given Dark Matter a star rating and moved on. Because unfortunately, the more time that passes since I finished it, the less and less I actually feel like I enjoyed the story. On one hand, yes, it was definitely engaging, and I might have spent one evening reading for two plus hours. But then, on the other, I feel overwhelmed by the many tiny annoyances I blocked out that only now, looking back, do I feel detracted from the novel as a whole.

Dark Matter bills itself as a science-fiction thriller, but it feels more like a fast-paced thriller with technological elements—which might seem like the same thing until the action and suspense become more important than the science (which, toward the end of the novel, happened a lot). Blake Crouch tried very hard to write a story that lulled you into a must-find-out-what-happens reading experience, but some of the narrative choices he made felt over-exaggerated, a quick satiety of sweetness overshadowed by a lingering gurgle of regret. He wants us to like the protagonist, Jason, to feel sorry for him, to hope that he makes it out of his situation—and we do, kind of. But we also grow weary of his circumstance and selfishness.

It’s not that I didn’t like Dark Matter and maybe that I didn’t like it enough. Almost every point in the novel reminded me of something else—the environment of Blade Runner, the plot of All Our Wrong Todays, the disappointment of Synchronicity, the smarmy almost-villain of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom—only those things had done it better (or else I’d just gotten to them first). I sincerely enjoyed not really knowing what was happening the first time Crouch throws in third-person narration—is this an alternate reality where Jason makes it home okay? Or merely the story he tells himself to feel better about being in a foreign environment?—but then it morphed into a crutch. We guess what’s happening much earlier than Jason does, and his slow crawl toward realization feels agonizing.

I stumbled upon a paperback copy of this book over the summer and, swayed by a sale (because, honestly, who isn’t), I convinced myself to buy it. Then it turned out to be the December pick for a local book club, and I bumped it up my TBR. But in deciding against going to the meeting, perhaps I missed out on some lively discussion, something which would have swayed my opinion. Maybe Dark Matter is just one of those books you can’t read alone; left stewing in your own thoughts, everything turns sour.

top ten tuesday

Top Ten: Books Featuring Sexy Times

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s theme was a freebie, so I decided to focus on books on my TBR which feature sexy times* (which is itself a take on the freebie prompt from February 12th). Because there’s nothing that screams “Winter Read” to me more than something I want to devour while wrapped up on the couch, here’s to unabashedly loving books that don’t fade to black.

*I am aware that, except for The Kiss Quotient, all of these are male/female romances featuring white protagonists. I am sorry. Please enjoy the abs.)

The Deal by Elle Kennedy // Forget You, Ethan by Whitney G. // Full Package by Lauren Blakely // How Not to Fall by Emily Foster // I Think I Love You by Lauren Layne

 The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang // Losing It by Cora Carmack // The Perfect Play by Jaci Burton // Sex, Not Love by Vi Keeland // Sweet Filthy Boy by Christina Lauren

month in review

Month in Review: November 2018

Favorite Media

I consumed season five of Brooklyn Nine-Nine one weekend and then cursed myself because I didn’t have any more episodes left to watch. ☹ This show has quickly become an absolute favorite since I started it a couple of months ago, and I am so super excited for it to come back in January.

The Keepers is a very difficult documentary to watch—one I am taking an episode at a time—but it is so, so good and frustrating and heartbreaking and hopeful. If you are at all interested in true crime, it’s worth a look.

A&E recently premiered The Clinton Affair, a fascinating re-look at the major scandal that plagued the Clinton presidency, and Monica Lewinsky penned a thought-provoking article on her participation for Vanity Fair: Who Gets to Live in Victimville?” It’s a nice companion to both the docu-series and the second season of Slow Burn.

Stuff I Added to My Queue

Blind Kiss by Renée Carlino sounds very much like a stay-in-bed-all-morning kind of romantic read and, after inhaling My Favorite Half-Night Stand, I am very much here for that.

Will the stories in Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s Friday Black make me uncomfortable? Probably. Will I also be okay with that? Definitely.

Rebecca Traister has slowly become an auto-read for me, based solely on her New York articles and because she wrote All the Single Ladies. But there’s also the fact that I would read a book called Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger no matter who wrote it.

Roxane Gay gave Heavy: An American Memoir five stars, asking “how do you carry the weight of being a black man in America?” I’m looking forward to learning Kiese Laymon’s answer.

I’d never heard of Lacy M. Johnson before stumbling across The Reckonings, but now that I know the book is her way of considering—and yes, reckoning—with the idea of justice following a kidnapping and rape, I’m excited to read it.

Just look at the uber cute cover for The Seas by Samantha Hunt and then tell me you don’t want to read a book about a maybe-mermaid.

I tell myself that I’m not that ~into short stories until something like Camille Acker’s Training School for Negro Girls is published, and I have re-evaluate my priorities.

On My Radar

  • I am SO close to meeting my Goodreads challenge, y’all! I don’t think this should be that exciting except I haven’t actually met my goal since 2012. (Lol.)
  • I haven’t forgotten about vlogging so much as not really planned for it. I want to be more active, though, and am hoping a short break later in the month will motivate me.

What were YOU up to in November? Let me know!

review · three stars

Review: My Favorite Half-Night Stand by Christina Lauren

Title: My Favorite Half-Night Stand
Author: Christina Lauren
Rating: ★★★
Summary: Millie Morris may have four guys as best friends, but she’s still perma-single. When a routine university function turns into a black-tie gala, Mille and her circle make a pact to find plus-ones for the event via online dating. There’s only one hitch, though: after making the pact, Millie and one of the guys, Reid, secretly hook up—only to mutually decide the friendship would be better off strictly platonic. But online dating isn’t for the faint of heart, and Millie’s first profile attempt garners nothing but dick pics and creepers. Enter “Catherine”: Millie’s fictional profile persona, in whose make-believe shoes she can be more vulnerable than she’s ever been in person. Soon “Cat” and Reid strike up a digital pen-pal-ship…while Millie struggles to resist temptation in real life. She’ll either have to concur intimacy or risk losing her best friend, forever.


Note: an eARC of this title was acquired via NetGalley.

Like Millie, I have had the Talk with myself: do I stay friends with this person or do I try to be more than friends? Is this regular “I’ve made a new acquaintance” excitement or more “I want to see you without your clothes” anticipation? Do I want this person to like me or do I want them to like me? As Millie asks, “are these spasms in my stomach what most normal people describe as love”—or are they simply just spasms?

As my first Christina Lauren novel, I went into My Favorite Half-Night Stand not knowing what to expect. The sexy times: great. The banter and accurate portrayal of friendship: awesome. The “I’m almost 30 and still don’t have my shit together”: I feel you 🙏. I legit read this in two sittings, desperate to figure out how Millie and Reid were going to get their HEA, both engrossed in the plot and amused by the antics.

But there were also a lot of “oh don’t do that” moments, too. Millie came off as emotionally stunted, her behavior more suited to someone who’s (maybe) in her early twenties instead of solid 29 with a super grown-up job. I’m sure that her duplicitousness was mostly manufactured for the plot, but it also went on longer than necessary. (Making a fake dating profile to ward off dick pics is one thing. Carrying on a correspondence with your best friend when a) he doesn’t know it’s you and b) you are both clearly developing feelings for each other’s online personas is another.) Then there’s Reid, who was guilty of one of my biggest pet peeves once he’d had his own Moment and then didn’t talk to Millie about it. (Yes I understand this is not always easy but most things aren’t and this is fiction and UGH JUST ACT LIKE ADULTS.)

Had I heard good things about other Christina Lauren books? Definitely. Did I enjoy the friends-to-lovers trope? Absolutely. Can I recommend a character who catfishes her best friend? Eh… maybe? My Favorite Half-Night Stand was one of those books that sucks you in and makes you desperate to keep reading. It’s only when you’ve finished do you realize, “oh, maybe I didn’t love it that much after all.” So enjoy the post-coital glow—but maybe don’t stay until morning.

top ten tuesday

Top Ten: Friendships

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s theme was platonic relationships, but I wanted to focus specifically on friendships – and the many different forms they take!

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell // A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab // A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray // Lumberjanes, vol. 1: Beware the Kitten Holy by Noelle Stevenson // My Favorite Half-Night Stand by Christina Lauren

Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl // The Passage by Justin Cronin // The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory // The Shadow Cipher by Laura Ruby // Smart Girls like Me by Diane Vadino

review

Review: Fear by Bob Woodward

Title: Fear: Trump in the White House
Author: Bob Woodward
Rating: ★★★
Summary: Bob Woodward reveals in unprecedented detail the harrowing life inside President Donald Trump’s White House and precisely how he makes decisions on major foreign and domestic policies. Woodward draws from hundreds of hours of interviews with firsthand sources, meeting notes, personal diaries, files, and documents. The focus is on the explosive debates and the decision-making in the Oval Office, the Situation Room, Air Force One, and the White House residence. Fear is the most intimate portrait of a sitting president ever published during the president’s first years in office.


Bob Woodward’s latest is an exhaustive behind-the-scenes account of the current White House from about July 2016 to March 2018, and he does not pull punches. All aspects of Trump are covered (for good or ill), and most of the book reads like the transcript of Woodward following these people around for hundreds of hours. The prologue asserts that “the United States in 2017 was tethered to the words and actions of an emotionally overwrought, mercurial and unpredictable leader… It was a nervous breakdown of the executive power of the most powerful country in the world. What follows is that story.” And, yes, the next 300 or so pages basically is that story, although with less flair than I was expecting.

think I wanted Woodward’s journalistic analysis of what went on during the first year of Trump’s presidency instead of just ‘this happened and then this happened and while all of that was happening this also happened.’ Simply listing things point by point did prove some of my assumptions correct, though, so even if it was nice to know for sure what’s been happening behind closed doors, it was also, like, so worrying, too. (E.g.: “I want to apologize to you for a very fucked-up Republican majority. Congress is going to fuck up your presidency. We have no idea what we’re doing.” Or even, “Trump had no understanding of how government functioned.” Great! So awesome!!)

I haven’t read All the President’s Men, but I’ve heard such good things that I went into Fear hoping for another Watergate 2.0. But maybe this book is just too soon. The Watergate break-in is a single narrative with a set group of people over a defined period of time, and All the President’s Men was written after it had already ended. Can anyone accurately comment on something in the middle of it happening? Are we simply asking too much if we can’t even agree on which story to cover? I mean, keeping up with the news can often feel overwhelming, but I feel like I have to do it because so much happens all the time. Fear did help fill in some gaps I had, but it also (literally) put me to sleep.

Should you read it? I don’t know. Maybe. It took a lot of brain power to get through and stopped commenting on events after March of this year – and so much has happened in just eight months! –  but Woodward is such a good journalist that Fear read like a really great exposé, albeit one whose relevance or longevity has yet to be determined.