Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Queen of Ruin by Tracy Banghart Review


Title: Queen of Ruin
Author: Tracy Banghart
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Grace and Fury, book two
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

                I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

                Grace and Fury was one of my favorite books of last year, so I’ve been anxiously awaiting the sequel. It’s been sitting in my library stack, so when I was finished with The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, I dove in. I devoured Queen of Ruin in a mere three days; this set of books are my favorite in Tracy Banghart’s entire body of work. Action-packed, relevant, and shocking, I loved every moment of Queen of Ruin, even the ones that had me screaming in rage and sobbing in frustration. I’ve been chewing on it since I finished, trying to get my thoughts straight before I put them to paper. This series has been billed as the YA Handmaid’s Tale, and that comparison is pretty spot on.

                Queen of Ruin picks up where Grace and Fury left off, with Serina leading the rebellion on Mount Ruin, and Nomi just barely escaping the palazzo with her life. Both girls must decide to fight for their rights, as well as those of their fellow women, but forces beyond their control conspire to stop them. Both sisters must make a choice: continue to fight against Viridia’s restrictive, misogynistic laws, or create a new world, in which women have choices, can make money, and have all the freedoms they deserve. But pulling off a revolution of this scale is far from easy, and not everyone will emerge from the wreckage unharmed…

                This book was absolutely amazing. Because it was a sequel, it took me a few chapters to remember everything that happened. But once things got going, I was spellbound, and I was constantly thinking about it, even while I was doing something else. The pacing was breakneck but smooth, and I really liked the way that the narrative went back and forth between Serina and Nomi. I also loved the character development of all of the women in the book, but especially Serina and Nomi. This book had me screaming and cheering, often. That’s not to say, though, that there also weren’t formidable villains. I won’t give it away for those that haven’t read it yet; but this book really frustrated me. The tension was constant, and I devoured every word. And that ending! I’m so happy with the way that things ended. Sequels make me so nervous, because all too often, they don’t hold up to the books that come before it, but I didn’t need to worry about this with Queen of Ruin. It more than surpassed my expectations, and I loved every moment of it. The bottom line: Bloody, fierce, and unforgettable, I loved Queen of Ruin; my only complaint is that it’s all over now! Next on deck: Queen of Air and Darkness by Cassandra Clare!

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Literary Society by Annie Barrows Review


Title: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Authors: Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Barrows
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars


                I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

                Okay, so, I’ll start this review out by being honest: I’ve been wanting to read this book for a long time, and when I realized that it was being made into a movie on Netflix, I jumped at the chance to read it. It’s been sitting in my library stack for a while, and as soon I was finished with A Room Away from the Wolves, I dove in, eager to see what all the fuss was about. I’m so happy that I read this book; it was, in turns, beautiful, funny, horrific and heartwarming. I loved every moment of it. This book may have been quick and short, but it has made indelible impressions upon my heart. And one of my favorite parts about it was the format: I haven’t read a book composed of letters in years! This novel, telling of the German Occupation of the tiny English island village of Guernsey, has become a recent favorite, and I cannot wait to watch the movie later this week. This book is nothing less than a triumph of the human soul in the face of unspeakable horror and bloodshed.

                The year is 1946, the beginning of the new year, and London is trying to leave behind the Second World War. Juliet Ashton, a young writer, is having trouble finding an idea for her new book. When she receives a letter from a man she’s never met, saying that he found her name in a secondhand book by Charles Lamb, Juliet is hit with inspiration and curiosity about the island of Guernsey and its residents. When she arrives, she is welcomed with open arms. Gathering stories of when German soldiers occupied the island, Juliet finds unexpected friends and perhaps even more. Buoyed by her new friendships and a group of book lovers, she finds new purpose in the most unexpected places.

                I absolutely adored this book! It’s definitely one of my more recent favorites. I’ve been wanting to read this book for a long time, and when the Netflix movie came out a few months ago, I jumped at the chance. This book was short, but it was bittersweet in the best kind of way. It was also told in letters, which I loved. I haven’t read an epistolary novel in years! The pacing was breakneck, and I was immediately spellbound by all the different voices that told the tale of the Guernsey island’s residents. I loved all of the characters, but Juliet was my favorite, because she was gentle, loving, caring and fiery, unapologetically herself. And the romance involved! It had me swooning. But I liked the juxtaposition between the hijinks of the villagers and the dark, horror-filled stories of the war. I loved this book so much, I only wish that the Guernsey Potato Peel Pie and Literary Society were real! But I have my book club friends, and that’s close enough! An absolute triumph of love, life, and the human spirit! The bottom line: Rich in detail and beautifully wrought, I loved this book! An absolute favorite! Next on deck: Queen of Ruin by Tracy Banghart!

A Room Away from the Wolves by Nova Ren Suma Review


Title: A Room Away from the Wolves
Author: Nova Ren Suma
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Magical Realism
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

                I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

                I’ve long been a fan of Nova Ren Suma; she is one of my favorite authors. So, when it was announced that A Room Away from the Wolves was the July pick for one of the book clubs I go to, I was so happy. I’ve been wanting to read that book since it came out, but unfortunately had to take it back to the library before I could finish it. I finished this book last week, and I’ve been chewing on it ever since. Strange, dreamy, and confusing, A Room Away from the Wolves may be Suma’s best work yet. Usually, I like to write a review as soon as I’m finished, when my impressions are still fresh. But sometimes, a book will require some serious thought before I can even think about reviewing it. That was the case with A Room Away from the Wolves. I loved it, but there were a lot of loose ends, perhaps too many for my taste.

                Bina Tremper has very little in life, but that’s all right, because she has her mother. From the beginning, all they’ve ever had is each other. But things change when her mother finds another man to stay with. Sent away from the home they share to make peace with her stepsisters, Bina leaves home and runs away to New York City. There, she finds the boarding house that her mother stayed in when she was pregnant with Bina. But Catherine House holds a host of secrets, some of them about Sabina herself. Things get even more complicated when she meets the mysterious, spontaneous Monet, who may be holding dangerous secrets herself. Will Bina discover the building’s hidden truths? Or lose herself entirely?

                This book, in a single word, was complicated. I was the only one of us in my book club who had read Nova Ren Suma’s work, and so, I was used to her signature dreamy, strange style. Even so, I was thrown for a loop when the ending finally came. The pacing was good; I immediately fell into Bina’s strange world, where nothing is as it seems. To say that this book is a gothic, haunting ghost story is to do the story a disservice. It is a story of identity, every type of love, betrayal, and the secrets we hide even from ourselves. I also adored Bina, smarting from betrayal and left adrift after her mother sends her away. But something about her didn’t sit well with me; I got the feeling that she was a compulsive liar. And I didn’t trust Monet either, even as I cheered for them both. Haunting, gorgeous, detailed, I loved A Room Away from the Wolves, but I wish there had been more closure. Even knowing what was coming didn’t stop me from being confused. Despite the confusing prose, I really enjoyed this book; it might be Nova Ren Suma’s best work yet. The bottom line: Dreamy, haunting, and strange, I loved A Room Away from the Wolves! Next on deck: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Barrows!

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Monstrous Affections by Kelly Link Review


Title: Monstrous Affections: An Anthology of Beastly Tales
Editors: Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Anthology/Horror
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

                I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

                I’ve recently been craving short stories again, and Monstrous Affections has been sitting at the top of my stack. I just love them, and as short stories are my forte at the moment, I figured, why not? I’ve found many new authors like that, and I was really looking forward to this one. There were some stories that were amazing, others just left me feeling lukewarm. That’s usually the case with anthologies, and I very much enjoy them. I loved the theme around these stories, one of my favorite things: monsters! This book of fifteen tales explores every kind of monster, including a few that I’d never before heard of. Some of these stories were unbearably sad and made my heart hurt, others were like a darkly weird, funny joke, and still more made me feel brave. Understood. Dare I say vindicated?

                I like to do anthology reviews a bit differently than other novels and forms of prose. I give the anthology an overall rating, but I like to highlight the stories that made a really lasting impression. So, without further ado, here we go:

                Moriabe’s Children by Paolo Bacigalupi: 5/5 stars. This story is one of my favorites in the entire volume. A young woman has been able to hear the kraken talking in the ocean since she was a child, and when she is at risk of dying, she finds an ally that she’s never before seen. Dark, brutal, weirdly funny, and satisfying. I’m really, really curious about this author now; I’d like to look into his work more in future.

                The Whole Demoning Thing by Patrick Ness: 4/5 stars. Patrick Ness is one of my favorite authors, so I was really excited for this story. It was confusing in spots, but overall, I enjoyed it a lot. I loved the tone of it and the twist ending. It was horror in a way that I’ve never seen written before, and it really made me happy.

                Wings in the Morning by Sarah Rees Brennan: 5/5 stars. This story was hilarious. I was laughing, snorting, and crying through the whole thing, and SRB is one of my very favorite authors. It was a hilarious, modern fantasy with a surprising love story at its center, and I’m looking forward to the book she wrote in that same universe, In Other Lands! This is probably one of my favorite pieces of her writing.

                Left Foot, Right by Nalo Hopkinson: 5/5 stars. Oh, this story! It made me laugh and weep. I had to reread it twice to really understand the depth of it, and it just left me in awe. A young woman goes into a shoe store, purchasing one for her left foot, never the right. This story really felt like a strange fever dream, in a dark and crazy kind of way. I loved the style and structure of it.

                Kitty Capulet and the Invention of Underwater Photography by Dylan Horrocks: 4/5 stars. It took me a little bit to get into the dialogue, and I had to reread it twice to really absorb it. But it came across as a dark kind of warning, and it made me think of climate change and how quickly time is running out if we don’t acknowledge it. Thoughtful, funny, and original, this story reimagines a Maori god brought to life, and I loved it.

                The New Boyfriend by Kelly Link: 5/5 stars. I loved this story! It perfectly embodied the feeling of when you’re young and dreaming of those first feelings of love. It was wry, dark, funny, and thoughtful, and I really enjoyed it.

                The Woods Hide in Plain Sight by Joshua Lewis: 4/5 stars. I loved the tone of this story, and it dealt with a classic monster: the vampire, seductive and romantic but truly terrifying in their rage and bloodlust. It was really dark, and scary, but I loved the way it ended. It was fantastic, and my favorite vampire story in the volume.

                And, last but definitely not least: Mothers, Lock Up Your Daughters, Because They Are Terrifying by Alice Sola Kim: 4/5 Stars. I had to reread this entry several times in order to really understand it. This story paints a different kind of horror. Four girls steal a spellbook, and use the magic inside to attempt to resurrect one of the girl’s mothers. They connect, and what ensues is a frightening event. It was creepy, oddly tongue in cheek, and I loved how it gave me the shivers! The bottom line: This anthology revolving around monsters is fantastic, and most of the stories were really memorable! Next on deck: A Room Away from the Wolves by Nova Ren Suma!

Sky Without Stars by Jessica Brody and Ruth Rendell Review


Title: Sky Without Stars
Authors: Jessica Brody and Ruth Rendell
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: System Divine, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars


                I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

                I’ve been intrigued by this book, and it’s been sitting on my library stack for a while now. As soon as I was finished with You Must Not Miss, I dove in, uncertain what to expect. What I got was an ambitious, atmospheric science fiction epic with memorable characters, fantastic worldbuilding, political intrigue and romance. It was one of my favorite musicals, Les Miserables, told in space! It was so cool to see Victor Hugo’s classic in a completely new way. I’m long overdue for a rewatch of that film, and as I was reading, I got several of the musical’s songs stuck in my head. There were a lot of characters to keep track of, and at times it was difficult to distinguish between them, but overall, Brody and Rendell have penned a knockout. I can’t wait to see what comes next for The System Divine series!

                On the planet of Laterre, the Second and Third Estate are forced to forage for scarps, while The First Estate live in Ledome, a sheltered paradise for the rich, ruling class. Five hundred years have passed since The Last Days, and revolution is brewing once again. The winds of change force three young people together, all from different walks of life. There’s Chatine, the scrappy daughter of thieves, desperate for a way off of the planet to forge a new life. In her quest for escape, she is forced by the brutal Regime to spy on Marcellus, the son of a traitor and grandson of one of the most powerful men on Laterre. Aloulette lives in a secret, underground refuge, where she guards the last library on the planet. But when she goes up to the surface for the first time in twelve years, she finds a world she barely knows or remembers, and is plunged into chaos when she goes searching for answers. Will Laterre rise from the ashes anew due to the revolution, or will chaos rule entirely?

`               I loved this heady, darkly wrought debut! Les Miserables is one of my favorite musicals, and to see it through a futuristic, science fiction-tinted lens was so cool! The pacing was breakneck, and I really liked the way the authors went from Chatine, Marcellus, Aloulette, and back. As I said, there were a lot of characters to keep track of, and I had to go back and reread every now and then to make sure I had the person right. To say this book is Les Mis in space is accurate, but it also doesn’t completely embody the feel of the story: the characters, all embodied with flaws and very real troubles, cyborgs and secret societies and political intrigue. This book is an amazing work to add in the growing body of YA space operas, and I loved it. There were many characters, but I loved them, despite my disorientation at the sheer number. This book was soulful, heart-wrenching, dark and funny. And all the references to the musical had me grinning from ear to ear. (When I realized, I had the entire soundtrack on loop in my brain as I was reading… And I wasn’t mad at it!) I cannot wait for the next book in the System Divine series, because this ambitious, meaty debut novel was fantastic! I loved every dark, charged moment of it. I will happily wait for what books come next in the series. And meanwhile, perhaps I’ll actually be brave enough to watch the musical? The bottom line: Ambitious, finely wrought, and darkly beautiful, I was utterly captivated by Sky Without Stars! What a fantastic series starter! Next on deck: Monstrous Affections: An Anthology of Beastly Tales by Gavin J. Grant and Kelly Link!

Thursday, July 11, 2019

You Must Not Miss by Katrina Leno Review


Title: You Must Not Miss
Author: Katrina Leno
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Horror
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

                I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

                Katrina Leno is one of my favorite authors, and I’ve been following her work ever since she wrote The Half-Life of Molly Pierce. I’ve been curious about You Must Not Miss since before I came out, and I was finally able to snatch it at my local library. As soon as I was finished with Under the Moon, I dove into this novel, not really knowing what to expect. This book was like a crazy fever dream that reminded me of Stephen King’s early work, like Carrie and several of his creepy, fantastical short stories. I loved every dark, scary moment, and this book is one of my favorites of Leno’s work, even though the ending seemed a little forced. Nonetheless, Leno has penned a book of darkness, dreams, rage and revenge, and the monsters that hide within us all.

                Margaret ‘Magpie’ Lewis once had the perfect life. A great best friend, a loving family and home. But that all unravels when she accidentally walks in on her father and aunt having sex. Her family, as a result, falls apart. Her mother becomes an alcoholic, her older sister, Eryn, leaves, unable to cope with her mother’s neglectful behavior, and Magpie loses everything. She is labeled a slut and quickly becomes a social pariah. Friendless, alone, and desperate for revenge, she begins to write in a notebook of a mysterious, magical place called Near. But when Magpie discovers that Near is actually real, a dark reflection of her town of Farther that she alone can control, she begins to realize that revenge is indeed possible. But once her world continues to spin out of control, Magpie must decide whether to give in to the monsters inside of her, or to begin the journey back into the light…

                I really loved this book; it might be my favorite in Leno’s entire body of work. Her prose is signature, dreamy and sparse and not altogether real. It was a book practically written with a scalpel. It made me want to rage, scream, and howl; I will never, ever forget Magpie or the dark, cruel trail of violence she leaves in her wake. The pacing was breakneck, and I was immediately spellbound by Magpie’s story, as ugly and awful and monstrous as it was. The transitions were also good; I liked the way the book flowed between the past and present, explaining the before and after of Magpie’s life. I also adored the way that Leno portrayed her; the way that she was so unapologetically wrathful. I could understand why Magpie felt that horrible, awful need for revenge; some wounds just require retribution. I liked the way that the book was written; it felt as if I was caught up in a compelling but terrifying nightmare. The only thing that I didn’t like was that the end, and Magpie’s bloody revenge, seemed really forced. But nonetheless, I really think that this book is my favorite of all of Leno’s books. I love stories about angry girls, and You Must Not Miss really fits the bill, despite its minor flaws. The bottom line: Dark, furious, and bloody, I loved You Must Not Miss! Easily Katrina Leno’s best novel, despite its flaws. Next on deck: Sky Without Stars by Jessica Brody and Ruth Rendell!

Under the Moon by Lauren Myracle and Isaac Goodhart Review


Title: Under the Moon: A Catwoman Tale
Author(s): Lauren Myracle and Isaac Goodhart
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Graphic Novel
Series: DC Ink, book one
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

                I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

                It’s no secret that Selina Kyle is one of my favorite characters within the DC canon, so when I saw Under the Moon sitting on a shelf at my local library, I snatched it right up. DC is currently in the process of rebooting their characters to appeal to young adults, and I, for one, couldn’t be happier. As soon as I was finished with Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune, I dove into this graphic novel, which turned back the clock for Selina, beginning from the time that she was a teenager. Beautifully drawn in schemes of black, blue, white, and purple, Goodhart does an amazing job illustrating this graphic novel. Lauren Myracle’s tone is dark, jaded, a little bitter, and bitingly funny, and I loved her take on the young Selina Kyle. The first entry in the new DC Ink series, Under the Moon gives me hope that the next offering, Raven by Kami Garcia, and I’m so happy that DC has rebooted some of their most well-known characters!

                Selina Kyle knows how to take care of herself. After all, her neglectful mother cares more about Dernell, her abusive, misogynistic boyfriend. Running away from home at the young age of fifteen, Selina vows that she will not get close to anyone. When she is desperate for money and out on the streets, she falls in with another group of homeless kids, who teach her how to fight and steal. But things go badly wrong when one of her beloved friends disappears, and Selina is determined to right the mistake, even if it means coming across some familiar faces. Will Selina find refuge by herself, or will she be forced to go back to her broken home?

                Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman, has always been one of my favorite characters in the DC universe, and I was so happy to get an opportunity to see her childhood. I loved the sparse, tense prose of the graphic novel, and the way that it was interspersed with gorgeous, stark illustrations. The pacing was snappy, and as with Natalie Tan, I devoured this book in just a few hours. The dark, jaded mood and tone of the book perfectly fit Selina, even at such a young age. I also loved Selina herself, fierce and fiery and angry and sad. I cried for her, laughed with her, and was cheering by the end of the book. One of my favorite things of the book was the constant DC Easter eggs sprinkled throughout; I was laughing and smiling so hard that my cheeks were hurting by the end. The other characters also made a great foil to her, especially Briar Rose, Yang, and the other homeless kids. This was the first entry in the DC Ink series, specifically for young adults, and I’m so excited for Raven by Kami Garcia! The bottom line: Beautifully illustrated, wonderfully written, triumphant, hopeful, and dark, I loved Under the Moon! Next on deck: You Must Not Miss by Katrina Leno!

Natalie Tan's Book of Luck and Fortune by Roselle Lim Review


Title: Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune
Author: Roselle Lim
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

                I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

                As soon as I was finished with Mrs. Everything, I pushed Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune to the top of my library stack. I tried reading Star-Crossed by Minnie Darke, and it was just flat, so I moved on. Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune was a tender, bittersweet tale of family, connection, food, and grief, and I loved every moment of it. I devoured this book in a mere matter of hours, I was so bewitched by it. Full of magic, new love, self-realization, and emotion, I loved this gorgeous, beautifully written debut. Roselle Lim is a fantastic author, and I cannot wait to see what she has up her sleeve next!

                Natalie Tan has been traveling abroad for several years, after a difficult, painful argument with her mother. When she receives news that her mother has passed away, she reluctantly returns to the neighborhood where she grew up. But when she arrives, she realizes that the vibrant, colorful neighborhood she remembers is dying. Neighbors are packing up and moving, bought off by an ambitious realtor. When Natalie receives a special cookbook passed down from the grandmother she never knew, she begins to realize her dream of opening her own restaurant. Spurred on by the bittersweet memories of her mother, she uses the recipes in her grandmother’s book to help her neighbors. But when things start to backfire, Natalie wonders whether to flee the neighborhood, her new friends, and a new spark of love, or to stay and do justice to her family’s legacy.

This book won my heart and made me cry; it was so soulful and emotional. I was instantly spellbound by Natalie’s frank, beautiful voice; the prose was hypnotic and so wonderful that I could almost feel the heat and smell the seasonings in Natalie’s kitchen. I love magical realism, and this book was a great reminder of that. I devoured this book in a mere matter of hours, less than a day. The pacing was snappy, and the characters in the book felt like new friends. The vibrant, gorgeous neighborhood that Natalie returns to was so real. Natalie, though, was my favorite, and I loved the way that Lim portrayed her relationship with her mother, as well as Chinese culture. This book made me laugh, cry, and squeal, in the best kind of way. Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune is one of my favorite novels of 2019. Yay for diverse books! There wasn’t a single thing about this book that I didn’t love; it was so good! The bottom line: Rich in detail, vibrant, tender and bittersweet, I loved Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune! Next on deck: Under the Moon: A Catwoman Tale by Lauren Myracle and Isaac Goodhart!  

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner Review


Title: Mrs. Everything
Author: Jennifer Weiner
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

                I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

                Jennifer Weiner has long been one of my favorite authors; I read In Her Shoes and Little Earthquakes in college, and I haven’t looked back. Of her more recent work, I’ve read her essay collection, Hungry Heart. I reserved her newest book at my public library and was lucky enough to receive one of its first copies. It’s taken me a few days, but I finished it yesterday. One of my favorite things about Weiner’s writing is that it puts women, and their stories, front and center. Mrs. Everything tells the story of the Kaufman women, through multiple generations. It goes back and forth, from past and present, and the spotlight is on Bethie and Josette, Jo for short, primarily. And this book; it broke my heart and filled it all at once. Jennifer Weiner is one of my personal heroes, and Mrs. Everything made me hopeful for the future. Wry, wise, searing, and powerful, I loved it so much. It’s one of my favorite books of 2019.

                This book revolves around The Kaufmans, comfortably middle-class Jewish-American family, and the growth of its daughters. The pacing was snappy, the prose quick and sharp and compelling. The characters seemed so real that I could imagine them sitting around me, talking amongst themselves. I loved the way Weiner dealt with the issues that plague women from the 1950s, and up to now. This book should be required reading for everyone. I loved the characters in this book, as well as their journeys from children into adults. Jo and Bethie were my favorite, and their relationship with each other was what really made the book. This is Jennifer Weiner’s strength: to create vivid characters and mesh them beautifully. Jo’s daughters also made the book a standout; I love Weiner’s novels because they focus on family and friends. I loved this book because it made me laugh, cry, and rage. The Kaufman family got under my skin and into my heart in the best kind of way. Jennifer Weiner has penned another fantastic, heartfelt masterpiece. The bottom line: Rich with warmth, humor, and wisdom, I loved Mrs. Everything! Next on deck: Star-Crossed by Minnie Darke!

Friday, July 5, 2019

Rough Magic by Lara Prior-Palmer Review


Title: Rough Magic: Riding in the World’s Loneliest Horserace
Author: Lara Palmer-Prior
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Nonfiction
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

                I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

                I’ve been trying to expand my literary horizons recently; after I read Bad Blood, I’ve been developing a taste for the nonfiction genre. I’d heard of Rough Magic before it came out, and it’s been sitting in my library stack for a while. I pushed it to the top of my stack right after I was finished with City of Girls. Lara Palmer-Prior’s frank, honest and compelling voice drew me in immediately; I was transfixed. I’ve loved horses since I was a little girl, and going back into that with this memoir felt like coming home. And honestly, I’m in awe of just the pure grit of this girl, entering one of the world’s most dangerous horse races, as an antidote for post-schooling restlessness. Vivid, hilarious, and inspiring, Rough Magic was a great book; I felt like I was transported to the colorful, stark landscape of the steppe she rides across. I finished this book a few days ago, and it took some time to gather my thoughts. But I will never forget Rough Magic, and I’m happy to tell you all that I’m growing fond of the nonfiction genre.

                Lara Prior-Palmer grew up around horses, as her mother and aunt are both passionate horsewomen. After graduating from college, she drifts aimlessly, uncertain of her purpose in life. On a lark, she enters a horse race that takes place halfway across the world, on the steppe of Mongolia, certain that she’s found her solution. Woefully unprepared and unsure of what to expect, Lara must tap deep into her inner strength in order to complete the race. Rough Magic chronicles the days before, during, and after the race. Honest, raw, funny, and wonderful, I was absolutely enchanted. Horses are one of my favorite animals, and it was so nice to read the experience of someone who loves them as much as I do. This book was, hands down, inspiring. I mean, to go across the whole of Mongolia on horseback? It really takes some guts to do something so daring. And honestly, I’m so happy with this book. I can’t wait to see more from Lara Prior-Palmer! I loved it, and it was so real that I kept getting thirsty, I imagined myself covered in sand and grit. This memoir is exemplary, and I can only hope that there’s more in store for this warrior of a woman! I can say with confidence that I will be reading whatever she writes next. The bottom line: Gritty, raw, and inspiring, I loved Rough Magic! What an amazing debut memoir! Next on deck: Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner!

Monday, July 1, 2019

City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert Review


Title: City of Girls
Author: Elizabeth Gilbert
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

                I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

                I know of Elizabeth Gilbert the way most people do: post Eat, Pray, Love fame. I’ve read her self-help book, Big Magic, but before now, I haven’t read any of her prose offerings. Set in New York in 1940, City of Girls tells the story of Vivian Morris, sent to live with her Aunt Peg to live at The Lily Playhouse after leaving Vassar in disgrace. Once in the city, Vivian makes strange friends: a showgirl named Celia, her aunt’s boss, the serious and unflappable Olive, Peg’s impetuous, flighty ex-husband, Billy, and the most wonderful of all, an acclaimed actress that takes Vivian under her wing. Becoming the costume design for a brand-new play, Vivian, now at ninety-five years of age, recounts her life story to Angela, the daughter of a dear male friend. I have to say that this book is my favorite in Gilbert’s extensive body of work. Vivacious, funny, frank and strange, City of Girls is one of my favorite books of 2019, though it wasn’t perfect.

                It took a little while at first to get into this book; I wasn’t sure what to expect. But once the book got rolling, I was captivated. The pacing moved at a fast clip, and I loved bearing witness to Vivian’s coming of age. The cast of characters was dynamic and engaging, though I wish there had been a dramatis personae at the beginning; there were so many people spanning the novel that it was a little difficult to keep track of them all. New York City felt like a character in and of itself, and it seemed both welcoming and forbidding, all at once. The book follows Vivian through young adulthood, and catalogs her youthful mistakes, from getting kicked out of Vassar and finding refuge with her strange, drunk aunt to the bigger ones, ones that can’t be so easily excused by being young. I also adored the format, that Vivian was speaking straight to the reader. One of my favorite things about City of Girls was the love of theater, even its less glitzy aspects, and the way that Vivian led the reader through over forty years of American history. Gilbert’s latest work is honest, enchanting, electrifying, and I will never forget Vivian Morris, or her city. The bottom line: Gorgeous, funny, and tender, I loved City of Girls! Easily one of my favorite books of Elizabeth Gilbert’s! Next on deck: Rough Magic: Riding the World’s Loneliest Horse Race by Lara Prior-Palmer!