All posts by lizclark851

Nonfiction November: 10 Must reads

We’re already half way through the month (holy crap…) but it’s never too late for a list of must-reads!

Nonfiction can be challenge for some – flashbacks of school texts and essays just a few of the deterrents out there. But done right, there’s an incredible wealth of knowledge, perspective and insight just waiting to be mined from their pages. It’s a genre that most people have to be in the mood for (me included). Rarely about the lovely soft moments of life, a lot of the most memorable nonfiction has a tendency to hit hard with just the right drizzle of awe to inspire humanity to get their acts together. So it makes sense that they pile up on TBR shelves waiting for their moment to shine.

That said, we’ll always be in a time where knowledge and information is the most invaluable tool to our futures. The world is shifting in so many ways that it can be daunting and down-right terrifying right now, but that doesn’t mean anything is hopeless.

I’m a strong believer in the power of words and their ability to impact change, so here are a few of my favourite nonfiction pieces that have left their mark on me:

10. In Cold Blood – Truman Capote

First of it's kind and incredibly well written, In Cold Blood is a chilling glimpse into the psyche of a killer.



9. A Short History of Nearly Everything – Bill Bryson

Continue reading Nonfiction November: 10 Must reads

*REVIEW* Know My Name by Chanel Miller

Genre: Nonfiction/Memoir
Published: September 24, 2019
My Rating: 5/5

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Goodreads Synopsis:
She was known to the world as Emily Doe when she stunned millions with a letter. Brock Turner had been sentenced to just six months in county jail after he was found sexually assaulting her on Stanford’s campus. Her victim impact statement was posted on BuzzFeed, where it instantly went viral–viewed by eleven million people within four days, it was translated globally and read on the floor of Congress; it inspired changes in California law and the recall of the judge in the case. Thousands wrote to say that she had given them the courage to share their own experiences of assault for the first time.

Now she reclaims her identity to tell her story of trauma, transcendence, and the power of words. It was the perfect case, in many ways–there were eyewitnesses, Turner ran away, physical evidence was immediately secured. But her struggles with isolation and shame during the aftermath and the trial reveal the oppression victims face in even the best-case scenarios. Her story illuminates a culture biased to protect perpetrators, indicts a criminal justice system designed to fail the most vulnerable, and, ultimately, shines with the courage required to move through suffering and live a full and beautiful life.

Know My Name will forever transform the way we think about sexual assault, challenging our beliefs about what is acceptable and speaking truth to the tumultuous reality of healing. It also introduces readers to an extraordinary writer, one whose words have already changed our world. Entwining pain, resilience, and humor, this memoir will stand as a modern classic.

                          My Thoughts

Let’s get real.

EVERYONE needs to read this.

I’m asking that you prioritize this one. It deserves to top lists. Whatever your gender, sexual orientation, political beliefs or race. Even if nonfiction isn’t your thing, even if you’re not ready to get into something a bit heavier, even if you’re not interested in the justice system or political correctness – Know My Name is well worth an exception to any excuses. This is a stunning and important read – a book that resonates for both good and bad. Continue reading *REVIEW* Know My Name by Chanel Miller

*Review* Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

Gener: Adult Fantasy
Published: October 8, 2019
My Rating: 4.5/5

Goodreads Synopsis:
Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicides. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?

Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive.

                        My Thoughts

Admittedly, this was my first foray into Bardugo’s works, and – as I’ve since learned – she’s rather celebrated and idolized YA author. With that in mind, I understand some reviewers’ shock and distress over the ‘dark’ and ‘gore’ of Ninth House. Adult literature is a far cry from YA, so if you’re all excited to see Bardugo’s name on this one, maybe proceed with caution. Ninth House starts unapologetically with a scene of chaos and blood and I admire this YA author’s in-your-face approach to warn her devoted young readers of what’s to come and this new direction of hers.

Ninth House takes you somewhere unexpected. Beneath the gothic-revival towers, brownstone clad libraries and manicured lawns of Yale; insidious meetings of black-robed clad elites are held. Bardugo takes the reader down into the shadows and amongst the societies that are manipulating the world; foretelling stock market crashes, creating some of the most creative and influential minds of history, disrupting physics and the natural laws and doing it all in the midst of a bunch of college kids. And like any group of invincible-minded youth, there’s scandal, drugs, lies, unnecessarily on-point frat boy revulsion and, of course, murder. What college experience is complete without, amIright?
We follow the story of Alex Stern, a girl with more than a bit of a past, who is inducted into this world beneath Yale’s prestigious gleam because of a ‘talent’ she has for seeing what others deem isn’t there. Riddled with unlikeable traits and a questionable moral compass, Alex is forced to transition from ignorant rookie to full-fledged gatekeeper against the magic of this dark world and the unsuspecting students that walk above it. The narrative unravels between seasons to connect the present with the ramifications of the past drawing on the development and the re-emergence of old, less subtle habits Alex has as she navigates this new world and a murder case that runs deeper than anyone anticipates.

Warning: Toeing the waters of violence and vulgarity, Ninth House deals with some adult themes, such as PTSD and abuse and may be triggers for some, so this book isn’t for everyone.

I found Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo to be a somber and thrilling read – a slow burn that leaves you feeling the heat long after you’ve closed the pages. It’s a story brimming with ancient mysteries, ghosts, magic, powerful relics and the promise of danger that takes its time weaving a plot that is sure to spin you around on more than one occasion. Although my impressions of our main heroine, Alex Stern were lackluster, to say the least, I did enjoy Bardugo’s ability to paint diverse and formidable characters that are able to threaten a reader’s expectation of what a protagonist is. Everything felt very intentional and the writing perfectly emphasized and complemented the dark, atmospheric vibe of the plot.

All in all, I liked this book but found that I wasn’t invested in the characters. That said, I definitely acknowledge the potential. There was a lot of build-up here. Lots of explanations and world-building, and going in not having it in my mind that I was reading the first of a potential series definitely had me theorizing about where this story could go next. The ending screams “more to come” and I look forward to watching this story progress somewhere more plot-driven now that all that groundwork has been laid. It’s clear that Bardugo still has many layers to this world to unwrap and mysteries she’s carefully bookmarked for later.

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*REVIEW* My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

Genre: Fiction
Published: November 20, 2018
My Rating: 2/5

Goodreads Synopsis:
When Korede’s dinner is interrupted one night by a distress call from her sister, Ayoola, she knows what’s expected of her: bleach, rubber gloves, nerves of steel and a strong stomach. This’ll be the third boyfriend Ayoola’s dispatched in, quote, self-defence and the third mess that her lethal little sibling has left Korede to clear away. She should probably go to the police for the good of the menfolk of Nigeria, but she loves her sister and, as they say, family always comes first. Until, that is, Ayoola starts dating the doctor where Korede works as a nurse. Korede’s long been in love with him, and isn’t prepared to see him wind up with a knife in his back: but to save one would mean sacrificing the other…

                         My Thoughts

This one popped up everywhere! And I mean EVERYWHERE! The hype was so real and I got swayed.

Unfortunate for me.

I found this book unmemorable. Even while reading it, I kept thinking, ‘what’s her name again?’, or ‘oh yeah – that dude.’ There just wasn’t much there that kept me rapt or in belief of Ayoola’s psychopathic tendencies or her sister’s flip-flopping jealousies and momma-hen loyalty. The premise of My Sister, The Serial Killer is attractive enough. (Come on, the name alone stirs intrigue). Oyinkan Braithwaite’s novel tracks the lives of two sisters as they navigate the trials of dating, family and the etiquette of covering up crime scenes.

Ok, ok, I’m being sassy. But really. These characters, (even for sociopaths), were just the worst. One sister’s entitled, actually psychotic and prefers a good stabbing to old-fashioned dumping, and the other is the strange dichotomy of a stabby enabler and resentful big sister. And I have no gripes with an unlikeable character, or 5 – sometimes the unlikeability of a character is the drug of a book. You read on and on because you’re so enamored with the awfulness of them. But that wasn’t the case here – with My Sister, The Serial Killer I was just annoyed. The women were manipulative and petty and the men shamefully one-dimensional. I understand Braithwaite’s embellishment of society’s vanity, but there was an uncanny amount of irrelevancy to these characters and their arcs.

It felt as though the writing style could have been brilliant for the book I had been anticipating to read – something cryptic, full of dark humor and salacious intent. Not this weirdly unremarkable story that didn’t let itself become fully facetted. Admittedly, I finished it up in a day or two and that means something kept me interested enough, but I also attribute the quickness to its shallow nature – there wasn’t much hard-hitting stuff here.

It wasn’t all bad though. The writing itself wasn’t bad. There were moments of clever foreshadowing and I enjoyed Braithwaite’s ability to slip into that darker prose with the perfect amount of attention fed to detailing. But all in all, it just sort of let me down. I love clipped prose and this premise could have been so sophisticated alongside that style, but I felt the execution wasn’t there. It’s a read that’s left me feeling pretty ‘meh’. I guess I’m glad I read it to satisfy the curiosity behind the hype, but otherwise, it’s not one I’ll really recall months from now.

*Review* The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

Genre: Psychological Thriller
Published: March 5, 2019
My rating: 5/5

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Goodreads Synopsis:
Alicia Berenson’s life is seemingly perfect. A famous painter married to an in-demand fashion photographer, she lives in a grand house with big windows overlooking a park in one of London’s most desirable areas. One evening her husband Gabriel returns home late from a fashion shoot, and Alicia shoots him five times in the face, and then never speaks another word.

Alicia’s refusal to talk, or give any kind of explanation, turns a domestic tragedy into something far grander, a mystery that captures the public imagination and casts Alicia into notoriety. The price of her art skyrockets, and she, the silent patient, is hidden away from the tabloids and spotlight at the Grove, a secure forensic unit in North London.

Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist who has waited a long time for the opportunity to work with Alicia. His determination to get her to talk and unravel the mystery of why she shot her husband takes him down a twisting path into his own motivations—a search for the truth that threatens to consume him….

                      My Thoughts

This was a fantastic book. The kind that makes you want to wake up the person beside you to tell them all the gory details at 3am. May or may not be a direct reflection of life…

Anyways! I loved this book!

Talk about engaging! The premise alone had me cocking an eyebrow. A woman is incarcerated for brutally murdering her husband in cold blood with what appears to be no motive in sight. And what’s more sensational about it, is her pledge to silence following the arrest. The murder can’t be confirmed, denied, interrogated or explained. The evidence speaks for itself though… she’s found holding the gun. The husband is found tied to a chair with his face blown off.

But why??

To say this book caught me off guard would be an understatement. The characters are richly explored – no one has a repeating voice. No two are the same. The writing is crisp and clean. Phrasing is important, tenses even more so. Michaelides does a fantastic job of leading the readers’ eye where he wants it without throwing disingenuous redirections and ‘clues’ as to how the book may end. I didn’t know where it was going and that kept me rapt to turn those pages. There’s a feeling of well-researched content all the way through that encourages the reader to become fully immersed and the quick-pace makes this book an easy one to devour.

I’m cutting this review there. Because trust me, that’s enough. Go get this one. You’ll want to hear the Silent Patient’s story for yourself.

The Fight to Concentrate

We’re a generation all too familiar with instant gratification and of living deep in the delusion of being multitasking phenoms. We’re one of shiny new phones with apps that buzz, ping and glow to announce all manner of distraction. One with a surplus of ‘friends’, ‘followers’ and pressures we create for yourselves out of comparison and self-consciousness.

All the makings of a complex.

We’ve bred ADD and ADHD into ourselves and those to come – an evolutionary adaptation at the whim of technology and modern convenience. Food is a click away, communication quite literally at our fingertips at all hours of the day. Need anything and the internet will answer in access. And if that’s not enough to tempt distraction, we’ve also piled on all our own self deprecating insecurities, the skepticism of older generations and stocked and lit our own fires for aspiring to create something impactful in the world. So it’s no wonder concentration comes and goes so unsparingly. It’s not an easy task to hone in on one thing, to live in a single moment and exercise patience in the times that seem most chaotic.

That said, there are still ways to boost that attention span and give yourself a much-needed break from overwhelming stimuli.

Change It Up

Really as straight forward as it sounds. Move, switch physical locations, relocate. It’s easy to find comfort in the familiar – procrastination in the ‘must-dos’. If you notice you’re efficiently tackling everything but your work, try putting some space between you and all those convenient chores. Concentration comes sometimes by pure force of having nothing else to do.

Try It Out Loud 

Whether reading, writing or buckling under the weight of a work problem, try talking to yourself. Be weird. Embrace the void.

Continue reading The Fight to Concentrate

*Review* Black Leopard Red Wolf by Marlon James

Genre: Fantasy
Publication: February 5, 2019
My Rating: 4/5

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Goodreads Synopsis:
In the first novel in Marlon James’s Dark Star trilogy, myth, fantasy, and history come together to explore what happens when a mercenary is hired to find a missing child.

Tracker is known far and wide for his skills as a hunter: “He has a nose,” people say. Engaged to track down a mysterious boy who disappeared three years earlier, Tracker breaks his own rule of always working alone when he finds himself part of a group that comes together to search for the boy. The band is a hodgepodge, full of unusual characters with secrets of their own, including a shape-shifting man-animal known as Leopard.

Drawing from African history and mythology and his own rich imagination, Marlon James has written an adventure that’s also an ambitious, involving read. Defying categorization and full of unforgettable characters, Black Leopard, Red Wolf explores the fundamentals of truths, the limits of power, the excesses of ambition, and our need to understand them all.

                          My Thoughts

There are few fantasy novels that can do what Marlon James accomplished with this much-anticipated first release of the even more anticipated Dark Star trilogy to come. It’s a story that felt as simultaneously ancient as it was ageless. Black Leopard Red Wolf took me to an otherworldly Africa where unexpected crevices of African mythology and history pressed and pushed and bullied me into uncomfortably intense prose. Following a band of mercenaries, anti-heroes, and shapeshifters, the story unfurls around a quest to reunite a mother and her son. Continue reading *Review* Black Leopard Red Wolf by Marlon James

*Review* The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

Genre: Historical Fiction
Published: February 2018 by Martin’s Press
My Rating: 4/5

Goodreads Synopsis:
Alaska, 1974.
Unpredictable. Unforgiving. Untamed.
For a family in crisis, the ultimate test of survival.

Ernt Allbright, a former POW, comes home from the Vietnam war a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes an impulsive decision: he will move his family north, to Alaska, where they will live off the grid in America’s last true frontier.

Thirteen-year-old Leni, a girl coming of age in a tumultuous time, caught in the riptide of her parents’ passionate, stormy relationship, dares to hope that a new land will lead to a better future for her family. She is desperate for a place to belong. Her mother, Cora, will do anything and go anywhere for the man she loves, even if it means following him into the unknown

At first, Alaska seems to be the answer to their prayers. In a wild, remote corner of the state, they find a fiercely independent community of strongmen and even stronger women. The long, sunlit days and the generosity of the locals make up for the Allbrights’ lack of preparation and dwindling resources.

But as winter approaches and darkness descends on Alaska, Ernt’s fragile mental state deteriorates and the family begins to fracture. Soon the perils outside pale in comparison to threats from within. In their small cabin, covered in snow, blanketed in eighteen hours of night, Leni and her mother learn the terrible truth: they are on their own. In the wild, there is no one to save them but themselves.

In this unforgettable portrait of human frailty and resilience, Kristin Hannah reveals the indomitable character of the modern American pioneer and the spirit of a vanishing Alaska―a place of incomparable beauty and danger. The Great Alone is a daring, beautiful, stay-up-all-night story about love and loss, the fight for survival, and the wildness that lives in both man and nature.

My Thoughts

What a satisfying read! This is my second Kristin Hannah read, (the first being The Nightengale), and I’m starting to get a good feel for her style. The Continue reading *Review* The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

Travel Writing: The BIG Dream

I’ve had this blog going for a couple years now and hardly brought myself to admit out loud, or I suppose, in type, the reality of my big dream. That one that stays hush-hush thanks to doubt and the perpetual fear of public failure. But that said, I did quit my fulltime job, spent countless hours years training myself to work independently, practicing, editing, scraping and pitching, all while attempting to remain transparent here, so why not just say it?
I want to be a travel writer.

The dream is to fly, road-trip, sail, and hike the different continents, countries, and towns of the world, forever searching for their words. I want to share places, experiences, cultures and (at times) sidestep that ever-bubbly whisper of romanticism. As much as travel can benefit, there’s this underlying prerequisite when writing about it to fluff it up and exaggerate a growth and spirituality that supposedly comes with stepping foot onto new soil. I get it, travel is wonderful. Epic even. Do I need to reinvent myself every flight I take? No.

I think travel and the image of hiking boots toeing the ledge of a cliff and inspirational quotes plastered in calligraphy against a wide blue sky, play against the back of my eyelids.

But that’s not enough for me.

A trend has come to my attention as of late and I hate it: Women don’t have a spot carved out in travel entertainment.

Our sweet spot tends to be the romanticized, spiritual, paths of self-discovery. Those stories are love ballots to ourselves. Which in itself, I won’t deny, has a beauty to it. Emotion is a large component of honest writing and we can play that tune in our sleep.When it comes to writing about travel, can’t we be more than ourselves in turmoil? Don’t we have more to offer than that?

I do. And I’m ready to prove it.

Watch out, Bourdain and Bryson. I’m coming for ya.

*Review* The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld

Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Suspense
Published: September 2017 by Harper
My Rating: 4.5/5

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Photos by me 

 

Goodreads Description:
Three years ago, Madison Culver disappeared when her family was choosing a Christmas tree in Oregon’s Skookum National Forest. She would be eight years old now—if she has survived. Desperate to find their beloved daughter, certain someone took her, the Culvers turn to Naomi, a private investigator with an uncanny talent for locating the lost and missing. Known to the police and a select group of parents as The Child Finder, Naomi is their last hope.

Naomi’s methodical search takes her deep into the icy, mysterious forest in the Pacific Northwest, and into her own fragmented past. She understands children like Madison because once upon a time, she was a lost girl too.

As Naomi relentlessly pursues and slowly uncovers the truth behind Madison’s disappearance, shards of a dark dream pierce the defenses that have protected her, reminding her

of a terrible loss she feels but cannot remember. If she finds Madison, will Naomi ultimately unlock the secrets of her own life?

My Thoughts

Continue reading *Review* The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld