Review: Go Set A Watchman (Not What I Was Expecting At All)

By Harper Lee

Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂

Goodreads Rating: 3.31

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publication Date: July 14th 2015

Format Read: Audiobook

Goodreads Summary: From Harper Lee comes a landmark new novel set two decades after her beloved Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece, To Kill a Mockingbird. Maycomb, Alabama. Twenty-six-year-old Jean Louise Finch–“Scout”–returns home from New York City to visit her aging father, Atticus. Set against the backdrop of the civil rights tensions and political turmoil that were transforming the South, Jean Louise’s homecoming turns bittersweet when she learns disturbing truths about her close-knit family, the town and the people dearest to her. Memories from her childhood flood back, and her values and assumptions are thrown into doubt. Featuring many of the iconic characters from To Kill a Mockingbird, Go Set a Watchman perfectly captures a young woman, and a world, in a painful yet necessary transition out of the illusions of the past–a journey that can be guided only by one’s conscience. Written in the mid-1950s, Go Set a Watchman imparts a fuller, richer understanding and appreciation of Harper Lee. Here is an unforgettable novel of wisdom, humanity, passion, humor and effortless precision–a profoundly affecting work of art that is both wonderfully evocative of another era and relevant to our own times. It not only confirms the enduring brilliance of To Kill a Mockingbird, but also serves as its essential companion, adding depth, context and new meaning to an American classic.

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*The following review contains spoilers for To Kill A Mockingbird*

HAPPY 3 YEAR PUBLISHING ANNIVERSARY!!!! I totally didn’t plan for the review to line up like this, but then I only had to push it back one week, so it seemed worth it and I moved stuff around and went for it!

The only reason that this book was even published at all is that it was written by Harper Lee.  This book was never meant to be published, and you can tell from the way it’s written.  It’s 90% dialogue, there’s not much plot going on, the flashbacks are weird and make the whole thing messy, and it’s just generally a mess.

That being said, it was still good to read about Scout again, and I think her character stayed true.  I felt like she was the same little girl, and in the parts where she was just sort of commenting sarcastically about what everyone else was doing, I really liked it.  For me, the first half was far better than the second, which is why it managed to get 3 stars despite a very, very unsatisfactory wrap up and ending.


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In the book, Scout goes back to Maycomb for a visit, since she now lives in New York City.  Atticus has this disease where he can barely pick things up and his hands shake all the time, Alexandra lives there full time to take care of him, and sweet sweet Jem is dead.

Basically, Scout (known now as Jean Louise) learns just how racist literally everyone in her entire town is, and she talks to them about it.  That’s the entire plot.  In the beginning it was interesting because the flashbacks were fun and I was just enjoying Scout, but it got old and the end discussions between Atticus and Jean Louise, then between her Uncle (who I don’t think was in TKAM) and her, were just way too long.   It was obvious that this book was NEVER MEANT TO BE PUBLISHED.

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They ruined Atticus.  In this book, he was a racist asshole, as were all of Jean Louise’s relatives.  It was terrible.  It made me hate them all.  Even though maybe they were well written, it was just so out of nowhere given TKAM that I had trouble believing it.  It’s clear that Lee wrote this book first, and that there was a reason she never tried to publish it.  Because the characters didn’t line up at all, and it would have destroyed a true classic image.

Scout was the same, rash, rebellious.  But her relationship with Harry (a boy from her town) felt forced and wrong and something that the real Scout wouldn’t do.  That being said, I love her and she was the only character I like, even though I think even she had a poor ending to the novel.

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Going back to Maycomb, albeit in a very very very different context.

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Ruining Atticus and the stark lack of plot.

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Well, all the black people are treated terribly, and told that they’re animals, so there’s that.
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RACISM EVERYWHERE.  It hurts even more coming from someone we thought we could trust (now I know why I’m so sad.  We all idolize Atticus just like Scout did.  Damnnnn)

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This book was not nearly as good as I was expecting, but I think it’s a worthwhile read for people who enjoyed TKAM and want a little insight into Lee’s creative process.  But it’s not something to read just as someone interested in fiction in general, or just finding a good book to read.  If that’s the case, skip it and preserve Atticus in your brain.

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Review: The Fourth Monkey (Awesome Twist With Sexism and Too Many Details)


By JD Barker

Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂

Goodreads Rating: 4.53

Genre: Police Mystery/Serial Killer Thriller

Publication Date: June 27th 2017

Format Read: Phone Ebook via Netgalley at Agent Request

Challenges met: What’s in a Name?

Goodreads Summary: For over five years, the Four Monkey Killer has terrorized the residents of Chicago. When his body is found, the police quickly realize he was on his way to deliver one final message, one which proves he has taken another victim who may still be alive.   As the lead investigator on the 4MK task force, Detective Sam Porter knows even in death, the killer is far from finished. When he discovers a personal diary in the jacket pocket of the body, Porter finds himself caught up in the mind of a psychopath, unraveling a twisted history in hopes of finding one last girl, all while struggling with personal demons of his own.  With only a handful of clues, the elusive killer’s identity remains a mystery. Time is running out and the Four Monkey Killer taunts from beyond the grave in this masterfully written fast-paced thriller. 


This was the first police procedural type thriller I’ve ever read, and so I was really excited about that aspect going in.  However, I found that these are NOT my ideal reads, which was a bit disappointing.  I think what saved this book for me was that there was another time line within it, which was written from the perspective of the 4th monkey killer (4MK) himself, back when he was a child.  This part was far, far better, and I would always look forward to the flashbacks, told by way of a diary.  Overall, I enjoyed the book, and even some of the police parts were interesting, and so I would recommend, especially if you enjoy police thrillers.

The Characters…

The main character was police Detective Sam Porter.  He’s a middle aged married guy, 50s (I think), and he’s worked on the force for years, mostly on the 4MK cases.  However, at the time the book starts he was supposed to be on a “break” for reasons which we don’t find out until later in the book.  His assistant, Nash, is also a Detective, and the two are almost always together.  One of the biggest problems which I had with the characterization in this book is that these two seemed to be almost identical, until the very end.  I felt like JD Barker was imposing his sense of humor on both of the characters, which led to them being very much alike in many ways, even though Nash was supposed to be the more outgoing, funny one.

The side characters– Clair and Watson specifically– were quite well developed and offered awesome distinctive personalities to the book.  I think Clair might have had her own pov chapter at some point as well, which is something I like.  A strong, young woman is something that I can get behind.  There were lots of other characters which flitted into and out of these scenes, but none were well developed and I kept mixing them up and not remembering their names, at no loss to the meaning of the novel, so I think it’s a bit irrelevant.

Although Porter was the MC for most of the book, 4MK writes a diary which is “read” throughout and offers a different perspective to the novel.  These parts were my favorite, because 4MK had SUCH a distinctive, strong personality that was very very creepy and yet kind of cool at the same time.  Plus, his mother was FREAKING WEIRD but yet awesome at the same time, because she was so damn strong, and the father was cool too.  (I’m not a psycho I just think it was cool).

Another perspective, from a kidnapped girl, was (IMO) a good part to read, because she was a strong girl even though she was suffering, and she fought so hard, which is definitely a positive.  Not saying her name because that part is a semi spoiler.

The Plot…

There was alternating POV between 3 main people, and then one more who just had a single chapter.  I liked this because it created more suspense, and also provided some interest in the slower parts.  As I said earlier, I wasn’t a huge fan of Porter’s POV, but it was broken up well so that the boring parts never lasted for too long.

In general, I thought pacing was good, but it did move quickly.  There wasn’t much time for world building or character development and you were pretty much figuring out everything on the fly.  I think there was one scene where they went back and recapped what 4MK was for the readers, but other than that it was go-go-go.

What I Loved…

I loved the pacing of the novel, and the twist at the end.  You could 150% see how it happened looking back, but I never for an instant guessed the truth.  The way they piece everything together is really really cool as well.  It causes the reader to keep guessing along the entire time.

I could have read an entire book of just 4MK’s childhood perspective, and that really made the book for me.

The whole idea of the 4 monkeys, which comes from some type of ancient myth, is so creative!

What I Hated…

This book was GROSS.  Like I can’t explain how gross.  I’m not one to be turned off by intense descriptions, but this book had me cringing and skim reading because I was feeling sick by the descriptions.  If you’re not one for gore or vivid detail, I highly suggest skipping this read.  But, on the other hand, congrats to Barker for writing in such a realistic way 🙂

The Porter/Nash personality complex sort of threw me off a little bit in the beginning.


ALRIGHT PEOPLE.  LISTEN UP.  This was the biggest problem with the book for me.  Although Barker wrote 2 very strong, independent women who knew what they wanted and went for it, there were underlying notes of sexism in much of the book.  This not only pissed me off, but at some parts made me slightly uncomfortable, and caused me to dislike the male characters a bit.

Clair was one of the youngest women to ever work her way up at the police station, and she’s described as super good at her job, tough as nails, doesn’t take BS from anyone.  However, Nash (one of the biggest side characters) consistently flirted with her and spoke in a manner to her that was incredibly unprofessional, and made me squirm.  Nothing physical ever happened, but he spoke down to her often just because she was a woman.  This was considered funny by many of the characters, despite the fact that Clair was consistently warding off his advances.  MEN: JUST BECAUSE YOU WANT A WOMAN DOESN’T MEAN SHE WANTS YOU.  If a woman is constantly declining your flirtation or sexual passions, then you need to leave her the fuck alone.  This works the other way too.

In the diary flashbacks, 4MK (as a child) looks on with lust at his older (meaning 30s) female neighbor while she is naked, and while she is hooking up with his mother.  This could be blown off, but then later the neighbor states that she knew 4MK was there, but she enjoys having her body looked at because she wanted to be desired.  To me, this perpetuates rape culture, where men believe that women want to be stared at like pieces of meat, and that if they wear revealing clothing it’s because they want the man to “like it”.  It’s troubling that a woman in the novel could so easily say something that goes directly against what we are fighting to change in our society today.

I don’t know if Barker intended this, as he did create strong women in his writing, and the MC has obvious affection and respect for his wife, but I do fear that the one scene described above, combined with Nash’s actions, create an underlying theme of sexism that shouldn’t be ignored.

Other Triggers…

Homosexuality– yes I know this of itself is not a trigger.  But you should know that in the book, two women were sleeping together for a long time, and they are not looked on very highly for it.  Then again, they are both married, and it’s their husbands who find out, so that could have kind of a lot to do with it.

Abuse– There is a man in the book who beats his wife, and tries to rape someone else, but there are no particularly strong details, and it only happens in one chapter.

It’s very gruesome, as I said earlier, so if you are not okay with that, then don’t read this book.  I can’t think of anything specific to point out, so we’ll leave it at that.


This review has gotten really long, so I’ll keep this quick.  I loved the story and the twist at the end, and thought that the plot had good flow.  The police part was my least favorite, and the diary my favorite.  Most of the character development was good, except for the overlapping of the MC and his sidekick.  There was sexism though, and this caused it to lose a star in my review.

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Disclaimer: I received this book via Netgalley at the request of an agent in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: Invisible Man (This slow, long read had meaning in the end)

By Ralph Ellison

Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂

Goodreads Rating: 3.83

Genre: Racial Commentary Fiction written pre-civil rights movement

Publication Date: 1952

Format Read: Physical copy from school

Challenges met: Read Harder Challenge

Goodreads Summary: First published in 1952 and immediately hailed as a masterpiece, Invisible Man is one of those rare novels that have changed the shape of American literature. For not only does Ralph Ellison’s nightmare journey across the racial divide tell unparalleled truths about the nature of bigotry and its effects on the minds of both victims and perpetrators, it gives us an entirely new model of what a novel can be.

As he journeys from the Deep South to the streets and basements of Harlem, from a horrifying “battle royal” where black men are reduced to fighting animals, to a Communist rally where they are elevated to the status of trophies, Ralph Ellison’s nameless protagonist ushers readers into a parallel universe that throws our own into harsh and even hilarious relief. Suspenseful and sardonic, narrated in a voice that takes in the symphonic range of the American language, black and white, Invisible Man is one of the most audacious and dazzling novels of our century.


I have to admit, I really, really struggled with both reading this one and rating it.  I had to read it for school, which meant exactly one chapter every two days, writing about 55 pages of annotations overall, and doing otherwise annoying discussions about the book that eventually felt flat, boring, and repetitive.  And for that reason, when I finished, I was about to click the 2 star button on Goodreads.  I really was.  And then (luckily for you all) I rethought, and actually went back to my feelings in the beginning of reading this.  They were different.

In the beginning, I loved this book, it was original (compared to what I’ve read), and it had tons of great imagery, symbolism, everything.  Literally every color or object symbolized something else which is CRAZYYYYY.  Ellison is quite literally a genius.  I feel like even if you don’t pick up on all the symbolism, you’ll still like the book.  The biggest problem I have with this is that it’s long.  Reading it in a classroom exacerbated that problem.  I genuinely believe that if I read this on my own, I would have gotten less out of it but enjoyed it more.

The Character…

There was really only one main character in this book, and the others sort of drifted in and out at intervals.  The main character/protagonist/narrator is unnamed, but he was excellently developed.  As a southern black boy in the 40s gone north, there is an interesting dynamic yet, as Ellison went through similar circumstances, I believe that he was able to master it.  Although he is very, very frustrating, it stayed true to his character while still allowing him to change and progress, and so therefore it could be called a bit of a coming of age novel.  I can’t really say much about him because there isn’t much to say, but I do believe he was well written.

The Plot…

For me, this is where the book loses the large majority of its points.  The plot is weird, and for the first half I almost feel as though it is jumping from short story to short story, albeit in chronological order.  Ellison only wanted to show the most interesting, important parts, and for that reason there were many time hops and odd stories.  You have to take the whole thing with a grain of salt, because even though it seems unrealistic there is a point that the author is trying to make.

Another problem I had is that it became repetitive.  It was as though you knew what was going to happen (if not what, then how) so there was no real point of reading the book anymore.  I felt it could have been 200 pages shorter and still had a powerful impact and gotten its point across.


I loved the way that the side characters in this book were characterized even though they kept changing.  They were given firm personalities and in their own way shepherded the Invisible Man on his journey to worldly discovery in a very realistic way, which I enjoyed.  


It was too long, had too much symbolism, and tried to make things far more complicated than they actually had to be.

Diversity and Triggers…

Well, this is easy.  It’s about a black boy/man, and takes place in Harlem, so there’s a fair amount of honest racial diversity.  Also, one of the characters is gay although you probably won’t realize it without Sparknotes telling you, since he only shows up for 1 chapter and you have to infer off of descriptions.

Triggers is a bit more difficult.  There’s A LOT of racial inequality being shown, and sometimes that shows itself in less than pretty ways.  Expect electro torture and cruel treatment.  That being said, I suppose the diversity critics of today would say that it’s an “own voice” novel as Ellison was black and writing of some of his own experiences.  So at the very least (I’m assuming) there’s accurate representation.

Oh and also there’s a whole chapter or 3 about incest and rape (separately, I promise).


The character in this book was frustrating yet real, but in the background there were tons of less than realistic things going on that sort of turned me off.  Also, it was way way too long.  I would say read this book if you are willing to slog through a slow read in order to learn a powerful message of race and being perceived in different ways/stereotypes, and this book IS a classic.  But, I wouldn’t recommend as a pleasure read, unless you have a very twisted sense of pleasure.

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Review: The Road

A three star review of the post-apocalyptic novel by Cormac McCarthy

by Cormac McCarthy

Star Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂

This popular, post-apocalyptic novel did not quite live up to expectations, at least not at first.

The first thing you notice upon starting The Road is the writing style.  To put it honestly, it’s weird.  McCarthy doesn’t care about proper sentences, punctuation, or even quotation marks.  They simply do not exist in his dystopian world.  And, as I recently learned (shoutout to my english teacher) they don’t exist in any of his works.  This makes it very difficult to get into at first, and I believe that nearly every reader will struggle to surpass the difficult style and get into the actual text, especially considering the fact that a large vocabulary (and a dictionary) is almost necessary to get a full understanding of the text.

This may seem strange to a lot of YA readers who crave a great dystopian novel.  Because of that, I have one last bit of cautionary advice.  This book is certainly meant for the adult, or otherwise mature, reader.  It isn’t something your 13-16 year olds are going to fly through and love.  There’s nobody to SHIP, no OTP, no names of characters.

Instead, The Road is a novel about a boy and his father (“the man”) on their journey south after a nuclear disaster destroys their entire country.  Although the two do not talk much, they share a special bond, as as they come across countless people of varying degrees of starvation, decrepit-ness, and moral standards, their own opinions of the world change.  It is a heart wrenching novel, meant to demonstrate the horrors of mankind, and the good of some among a world of disaster.  It is difficult to explain without giving anything away, but don’t read at face value.  Take a careful look at symbolism throughout, if you are into that.

I know I said that this book did not live up to what I thought it would, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t good.  I didn’t like it as a “pleasure reading” book, but I think the message will stick with me for a long time, it was written so powerfully.  And, since there are only two people in the novel, you become SO attached to them my the end.  I don’t think I would advise writing a book the way McCarthy did, but the fact that I am still thinking about it so clearly (I read it a month ago) proves the fact that he got his point across really well.

This is probably the only three star review that I will ever recommend this strongly.  It was given that review because that was my opinion, but after thinking about it I think that its message is something which everyone should see, even if they have to struggle and persevere through to do it.  And it’s a movie, so you’ll get a nice reward at the end!

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Side Note: For those of you taking AP Literature and Composition this year, The Road does fall into the category of “comparable literary merit”, meaning you can write about it in the open answer question where you answer a question using a book as an example.  So, it doesn’t hurt to widen the range of books you can choose from 🙂

Review: Fat Kid Rules the World

A 3 star review of Fat Kid Rules the World by K.L.Going

By K.L. Going

Genre: Realistic fiction meets depressing comedy

Major Themes: Depression, suicide, weight, friendship, family, music

Age Rating: 13+ for themes centered around suicide and sadness, although the actual writing style is not very difficult

Smiles Book Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂


Troy is a 300 pound 6’1” teenager.  He is alone most of the time, he has no friends, his father considers him a disappointment, his brother shuns him, and he is contemplating killing himself– if only people wouldn’t laugh.  This all changes when he meets the hyper, homeless, eccentric punk rock legend Curt MacCrae.  For some strange reason, the friendship works.  As Troy begins to spend more time with his new (and only) friend, he becomes caught up in the punk rock world.  More specifically, he becomes a drummer for Curt’s band, which he decided to name Rage/Tectonic.  The two may have come together by chance, but their friendship is fate, and soon the two learn that they each have something that the other needs, something that without, they could die.

I know that last line sounds super cheesy, but it’s actually true and I couldn’t think of a better way to describe it without any spoilers.  I hate reviews that give everything away… but anyways, continuing onward.

The characters in this book are absolutely incredible, and honestly, I’m sure most kids in High School or Middle School could find someone exactly like the characters in this book in their life.  You could say that this means that the characters are extremely stereotypical, and they are to some extent, but Going manages to make them so much deeper than that.  Nobody is one dimensional, not even the characters such as Troy’s father, who other authors would write off as not central to the plot (but he is, it’s just not that obvious).  Going’s great representation of characters is the reason that once you start reading, it’s a serious struggle to put it back down.  

This book has so much real life application as well (no, I’m not talking about learning to be a punk-rock legend).  Without a doubt, there is a person that you’ve seen around you that is exactly like Troy.  Hurting, sad, desperate for acceptance, and too shy to talk to someone, for fear that he will be humiliated.  Fat Kid Rules the World makes it clear how much just a small conversation can do to brighten someone’s day and make them feel like an equal.  It’s critical that we reach out, and not just watch as someone “steps over the yellow line” (you’ll know what I mean soon enough I promise).  The messages in this book are so relevant in a way that makes you remember them much more than a simply lecture on bullying (*cough cough teachers*)

The plot keeps moving the entire time, never leaving you bored or waiting for what comes next.  This is remarkable considering the fact that the book is written through the internal monologue of Troy.  Somehow, the author manages to combine Troy’s thoughts with plot development in a way that makes it incredible to read, you are never bored for a second.  

I need to finish off by saying that if you’re anything like me, you read the title of the book and dismissed it as foolish and for children.  It’s not.  It is a great book that has a killer plot, despite its small size (224 pages, it’s about half an inch thick, if that).  The reason which this book only received three stars is that the genera is just not my favorite.  For some reason, the book (although it kept me gripped the whole time) just didn’t seem to have the *BANG* appeal that books with higher ratings do.  This is quite arbitrary on my part and just from a gut feeling.  I really would recommend this book to anyone though, it’s well worth the read I promise.

This is also a movie, starring actors Jacob Wysocki and Matt O’Leary.  I haven’t watched it, most people gave it good reviews.  I can’t say either way whether it’s good, but I am going to try to watch it soon.

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