Book Preview – How to Behave in a Crowd by Camille Bordas

Sometimes the impression you get from a book’s description is the right one and sometimes it’s the wrong one. Sometimes when that impression is wrong, you find you enjoy the book just the same and sometimes you don’t—or at least, you don’t enjoy it as much as you might have if it was closer to what you were expecting. The soon-to-be-released How to Behave in a Crowd by Camille Bordas wasn’t as close to the description as I might’ve hoped. There were elements and themes I definitely found relatable, but I can’t really say that I enjoyed the novel as a whole; of course, I can’t say that I hated it either. I just found myself incredibly indifferent over all.

Isidore Mazal is the youngest in his family. With three older sisters and two older brothers, all incredibly intelligent and blindly dedicated to their studies and academic pursuits, Isidore is the only one of his siblings who seems to be able to connect with people outside the family with relative ease. His siblings often baffle him as much as he appears to baffle them. As major changes alter the dynamics of the family, Isidore searches for ways to connect with the members of his family. Continue reading

Book Review – Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

As is often the case—especially with fantasy—it was the premise that caught my attention and made me want to read Kendare Blake’s Three Dark Crowns (okay, the cover too; young adult fiction really has some of the most alluring cover design). Actually reading the novel was an unexpected rollercoaster that definitely requires additional explanation, but I ultimately enjoyed the story and characters enough to be looking forward to the novel’s upcoming sequel… however nervous I am about the way that narrative will be presented.

It is the will of the Goddess that Fennbirn’s queen always gives birth to triplets and that those three girls are then raised by prominent families of the separate magical factions on the island, each according to the talent gifted her by the Goddess at birth. When the young queens reach the age of sixteen they begin a fight to the death with the last one alive claiming Fennbirn’s throne with her queen consort from the mainland at her side until the next trio of queens is born. The beginning of the Ascension year is approaching and the three queens—Katharine, a poisoner, Mirabella, an elemental, and Arsinoe, a naturalist—are preparing to fight for the throne and their lives. Despite the dominance of the poisoner queens over the last century, Katharine’s gift hasn’t strengthened as much as the Arrons would like. Rumor has it Mirabella is more powerful than any queen in recent decades and the Temple’s priestesses are already backing her. Only Arsinoe’s friends hold out any hope that her gift will show itself in time for her to put up any kind of fight against her sisters. Continue reading

Book Review – Lost Boy by Christina Henry

It’s an established fact that I’m a sucker for retellings and re-imaginings of fairy tales and other children’s stories. Peter Pan is among my favorites to see in new ways (which means I really need to get through Barrie’s Peter Pan at some point). There have been quite a few dark interpretations of the Peter character—among my favorite is Brom’s The Child Thief—but many of the re-imaginings I’ve read don’t pay a lot of attention to the character of Captain Hook and how and why the antagonism between he and Peter exists. Christina Henry’s new release Lost Boy is all about the lost boy who became Captain Hook.

There had to be a first and in Henry’s novel, the first boy Peter brought to the island as a playmate was Jamie. It’s been several hundred years since that day and Jamie’s memories of it are fuzzy but he’s one of the few boys on the island that’s lasted. But two of the latest boys Peter brought trigger major changes among the group of lost boys. Charlie is much younger than the others and Jamie feels a desperate need to protect him from the harsh realities of Peter’s sometimes-deadly games. Nip, meanwhile, means to supplant Jamie as Peter’s right hand and favorite. As jealousies grow and become increasingly violent, the bonds between Jamie and Peter slip. Jamie sees more of the truth about Peter and he begins to grow up, the magic of the island keeping the boys’ bodies as young as their hearts and spirits. Continue reading

Book Preview – The Confusion of Languages by Siobhan Fallon

While I don’t quite remember what it was about the description of Siobhan Fallon’s upcoming The Confusion of Languages that caught my attention, I do know that my initial impressions while reading it were that this wasn’t the story I’d been expecting. In the case of The Confusion of Languages, I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all (especially since I can’t remember what it was I was expecting). On the contrary, I found the novel to be a fascinating character study of two American women living abroad and the unusual nature of their friendship.

Cassie is an experienced embassy wife. She and her husband, Dan, have been living in Jordan, the site of his latest posting, for a while and decide it’s about time they sponsor a few newcomers to the extended embassy family. Margaret and Cassie’s friendship appears to be on solid ground when a small fender-bender requires Margaret go to the police station to deal with the authorities. Cassie is left to babysit Margaret’s toddler son, Mather but as the day wears on, Cassie can’t get in touch with Margaret and the recent cracks in their friendship begin to come to light as Cassie passes the time reading Margaret’s diary and recalling her own impression of those early days. Continue reading

Book Review – A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas

I moved immediately into A Court of Wings and Ruin on the heels of finishing A Court of Mist and Fury; the ending of the second book in Maas’ A Court of Thorns and Roses series demanded it. And while the characters, their relationships, the themes, and the content are all as compelling as the first two novels in the series, A Court of Wings and Ruin suffers tremendously in pacing and organization, leaving this initial trilogy arc with a satisfying if roughly executed conclusion.

Feyre begins the novel back at Tamlin’s Spring Court pretending that her relationship with Rhys was all a delusion he’d forced on her and that she had really been in love with Tamlin all along. Not everyone buys Feyre’s cover though. When Feyre’s sisters were forced into the Cauldron and turned fae, Lucien felt the deep pull of a mating bond with Elain. Unable to escape his concern and curiosity for her, he keeps a close eye of Feyre, which feeds into her own plans for undermining Tamlin’s hold over his Court and accumulating knowledge about the Hybern forces. From the crumbling Spring Court, Feyre eventually rejoins her mate and family at the Night Court where their preparations for the coming war with Hybern are well under way. Her sisters are adjusting to fae life with varying degrees of success; allies are few and far between; and any possible alliance between the Courts of Prythian will be fragile and tenuous at best. But war is coming and they must do what they can in the face of annihilation. Continue reading

Book Review – The Leavers by Lisa Ko

In the current political climate, I’ve been drawn to novels tied to relevant subjects, no matter how loosely tied. Because of this, the description for Lisa Ko’s The Leavers drew my attention and interest. Though the core of the novel revolves around the personal natures and relationships of the main characters, the circumstances that serve as a backdrop for these characters do a fantastic job of subtly highlighting the intricacies of the United States’ immigration system and many injustices that stem from it.

For more than a decade Daniel Wilkinson knew nothing about his birth mother’s disappearance. One day she had been with him, talking about possibly moving to Florida, and another she never came home from work. But then an old friend from his childhood contacts him out of the blue with a clue to start him on the path towards finding her again and learning the truth about why she’d left him. Continue reading

Book Review – A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

After finishing A Court of Thorns and Roses, I immediately put myself on the waitlist for the second novel in the series, A Court of Mist and Fury. But waiting for a copy through the library became too tedious so I caved and bought a copy instead and have rarely been happier with the decision (I went ahead and bought the third novel, A Court of Wings and Ruin before finishing the second so the review for that book won’t be too far behind this one). Though A Court of Thorns and Roses is a wonderful well-contained novel in its own right, A Court of Mist and Fury expands on Sarah J. Maas’ universe beautifully, taking the foundational elements of the first novel and building the characters, their back stories, and their relationships with incredible skill and detail. The trauma of the first novel’s final act is central to where the characters find themselves at the start of this second book and its harsh realities force a new perspective onto everything and everyone.

Though months have passed since Feyre’s trials Under the Mountain and having been remade as High Fae, Feyre still has stomach churning nightmares and her life at the Spring Court hasn’t been as restorative as she might have hoped. So far the High Lord of the Night Court, Rhysand, hasn’t bothered her or Tamlin regarding the bargain she made with him during her trials, but with her wedding to Tamlin approaching and Tamlin clearly worried with diplomatic matters he’s not telling her about, Feyre continues to stall in moving past her trauma. When Rhysand finally calls in his half of the bargain she struck, Feyre’s time away from Tamlin and the Spring Court help to open her eyes to how much she has changed since her human days Under the Mountain. Perhaps the love she gave her human life for isn’t enough for her fae life. Continue reading

Book Preview – The Space Between the Stars by Anne Corlett

I like to think I’m a big science fiction fan but I tend to favor what’s probably better considered to be light science fiction. The Space Between the Stars by Anne Corlett is precisely the kind of light science fiction that I love. While it delves into the science and philosophy of a potential future for human kind—and how we might easily become almost entirely wiped out as a species—the real focus of the novel is the emotional side, the personal side, the human side that remains and endeavors to survive against all odds.

Jamie, like the entire human population scattered across the inhabited planets, has been at the mercy of a devastating virus that spreads quickly and leaves nothing but dust in its wake… except for those zero point zero zero zero zero one percent who somehow manage to survive and recover. The planet where she’s been living and working for a few months to hide from some personal (relationship) troubles is on the outskirts though and didn’t have a large population to begin with. Jamie’s panic lasts a few days as she makes her way to a port town and tries to send a signal to see if there are any other survivors out there. She doesn’t have to wait long and soon she has joined several others on their way to the capital planets and eventually back to Earth itself. But as survivors gather in larger and larger numbers, the underlying issues of the society that’s been wiped out prove to have survived the virus along with them. Continue reading

Book Review – Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Usually when I find new books to read it’s through recommendations or hearing something about them first. In this case, I moved by complete and total impulse. I saw the cover while I was shopping and it reminded me of one of my favorite books, The Night Circus, so I copied down the title and looked it up when I got home. The premise sounded intriguing enough and I’ve been on a streak of young adult aimed novels that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed so I went ahead and read it. While it has its moments, Caraval doesn’t quite fulfill the promise of its premise and leans too heavily into melodrama for my personal tastes.

For years, Scarlett had hoped that she and her sister might be invited to the magical Caraval game her grandmother had told them stories about that is held every year. But as she got older, Scarlett realized it was far more important to get married so she could leave her abusive father behind and take her sister, Donatella, to safety with her. Shortly before her nuptials (to a man of her father’s choosing and whom she has never met) she receives the long desired invitation to Caraval. It’s dangerous to go but Donatella won’t let Scarlett say ‘no’ and once they arrive on the island where Caraval takes place (with a little help) it turns out that the game the Caraval Master, Legend, has in mind is a more personal one for Scarlett. Donatella is kidnapped before they’ve even been there a full day and clues have been left behind for Scarlett and the other Caraval players to puzzle out in order to find Donatella and win Legend’s prize of a wish. But not everyone involved in Caraval is who they seem; magic and lies bend expectations and mislead and it’s up to the players not to get carried away by the game they’re playing. Continue reading

Book Review – Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Victoria Aveyard’s Red Queen series is one I’ve had recommended to me several times but having read some young adult targeted series that were only okay or completely disappointing, I had put it off. Having crawled out of that disappointing streak, I finally put the first book on my library request list and then had to wait forever for it to become available but I’m happy to find that my search for compelling young adult fantasy-ish series is over for a while as I have a few books to catch up on in this series (and from everything I’ve heard, the second and third novels are just as engaging as the first but I’m looking forward to finding out first hand). Aveyard’s fantasy world wherein social and political strata have long been established and maintained based on blood and ability as well as the best means for bringing about change to such a system all speak to the political and social turmoil in the world today—in some chilling ways.

Mare Barrow is a Red pickpocket doing everything she can to help her family get by while her conscripted brothers are away fighting their Silver king’s war but her days are numbered as she reaches the age of conscription herself and her prospects for exemption remain nonexistent. When an unusual encounter lands Mare with a job at the palace and exemption from conscription, she thinks she might finally have found a way to protect at least some of her family. But an accident on her first day reveals Mare to be something neither Reds nor Silvers knew existed—a Red with the abilities of a Silver. Eager to protect the established hierarchy and perhaps appease disgruntled Reds and the growing threat posed by the radical Scarlet Guard, the royal family covers up the truth and presents Mare as a lost Silver restored to her kind and keeps her close. But Mare still bleeds Red and she doesn’t plan to let the royal family rewrite her truth so easily. Continue reading

Book Review – After the Bloom by Leslie Shimotakahara

For all the atrocities of foreign wars that take place on the front lines and in the nations where the battles are being fought, there are often atrocities that happen back home; atrocities that get swept under the rug of history or dismissed as unimportant in the larger scheme of things. One such atrocity that is coming to light more in recent years—thanks in part to recent political moves that echo the problematic themes of this atrocity—is the internment of people of Japanese descent during World War II. Until reading Leslie Shimotakahara’s recent novel, After the Bloom which is in part inspired by her own family’s history in the American internment camps, I had no idea that camps like that were established in parts of Canada too. What her novel brings to life so importantly is that these camps had lasting effects at all levels—the individual, the family, and the community.

Rita knew her mother, Lily, had spent time during the war in an internment camp in California but since her mother never really spoke about it, Rita knows very little about that period of her mother’s life. It’s clear that it might be linked to the ways her mother can become ‘confused’ but Rita has more pressing things to worry about in the wake of her recent divorce and subsequent move. That is, until her mother goes missing. The police investigate but with no evidence of foul play, there isn’t much they can do. Rita takes it upon herself to look into why her mother might have left and where she might have gone. The more questions she asks, the more the answers seem to center around an incident that happened at the internment camp. Continue reading

Book Review – Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

Another of the fantastic novels recommended to me by friends, Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies is an examination of a marriage that breaks from the traditions of so many marriage-centered novels. While Lotto and Mathilde face many challenges along the way, they tend to have more faith in their marriage than they do in themselves individually. Exploring the ways they view themselves as well as their spouse, Groff’s writing style is unique and not just in creating two characters with such distinct voices and perspectives.

Lancelot “Lotto” Satterwhite was born to privilege. With family money spouting from a bottled water business and parents who thought he could do no wrong, Lotto seemed poised for greatness from an early age and his mother especially encouraged that attitude to flourish within himself. But everything changed with the sudden death of his father and his mother’s grief-stricken turn inward. Eventually shipped off to a private school in the north, Lotto drifted easily through school and girls until the day he met Mathilde just a few weeks before graduating college. Within two weeks the pair had eloped to the shock of their family and friends. While they struggle to make ends meet in the wake of being financially cut off by his disapproving mother, Lotto is certain of one thing—his and Mathilde’s love for each other—but how much of the Mathilde he loves is really her and how much is who he thinks she is? Does it even matter? Continue reading

Book Review – A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

For me, the best way to find new books and series that I love is through recommendations from friends; they know enough of what I like, and I know enough of what they like, plus there’s the added fun of having someone already there to talk about it. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas was a friend recommendation and I can’t wait to dive into the next book of the series in anticipation of the third novel’s release in early May. Incredible fantasy world building with plot elements that echo (and occasionally invert) classic fairy tales, myths, and legends and engaging characters and pacing are some of the fastest ways to capture my attention.

Feyre may be the youngest of three sisters but when it comes to providing for her family in their relatively recently acquired destitute state, she is the one who can be counted on to keep them all alive. Having taught herself hunting, she has a deer in her sights when a monstrously large wolf enters the scene—a wolf so large, Feyre believes it might be fairy in nature. Given everything that the fairies have done and continue to do to humans, even with the treaty in place, she decides to use her precious ash arrow to be sure she kills it dead. But a few days later an even larger beast appears at her family’s door demanding repayment for the slain fairy—a life for a life—and Feyre must either go to live in the fairy realm of Prythian for the rest of her days or die before her family’s eyes.

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Book Preview – The Shadow Land by Elizabeth Kostova

I have had Elizabeth Kostova’s debut novel The Historian sitting on my To Read shelf for some time so while I recognized her name when her upcoming The Shadow Land came up in my possible preview pile, I hadn’t actually read her work before. The Shadow Land also fell into my recent inclination towards historic fiction that explores the nations of Europe in the aftermath of World War II so I jumped to preview it. Though it proved for me to be slow reading, the depiction of life behind the Iron Curtain in the 1950s is a harsh one that the area struggles to deal with even in the decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Alexandra Boyd decided she needed a change so she signed up to teach English in Bulgaria but before she can even reach her hostel and start to settle in, things begin to go wrong. Assisting a middle-aged man and his elderly parents into a taxi, Alexandra soon discovers that one of their bags has gotten mixed in with her own. Containing the ashes of someone obviously dear to them, she sets about trying to find them again so she can return the urn and apologize for the mix-up. Her taxi driver, Asparuh who tells her to call him Bobby, offers to help her in her efforts to track the family down. Receiving an address from the police, Alexandra insists on returning the remains personally. As she and Bobby follow a trail of breadcrumbs, it becomes clear there’s more to the story of the man in the urn and his family than they realized. Continue reading

Book Review – The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

A few years ago I had a book-a-day calendar on my desk that provided summaries and praise for each day’s title. There were many books from that calendar that made it onto that list and The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery was one of them. An interesting exploration of human interaction, class, and philosophy, The Elegance of the Hedgehog is surprisingly poignant for the simplicity of its setting and premise.

Renée Michel grew up in a poor home far from the city but has spent the last twenty years working as the concierge of a high-end apartment building in Paris, a position she took over from her husband when he died. At the service of the building’s wealthy tenants, Renée spends most of her days hiding her intelligence and observing the interactions of the people in the building with each other, with her, and with the world around them. Paloma is the younger daughter of a diplomat and his wife who live on the top floor. An intelligent and aware child, Paloma is also jaded and sees little about adulthood worth living so she decides she will kill herself at the end of her school term, giving herself some time to make additional observations and attempt to find if there’s something worth staying alive. The death of one tenant and arrival of a new one serves as a catalyst for both Renée and Paloma. Continue reading

Book Preview – My Last Lament by James William Brown

Growing up, I read a lot of novels that centered on the Holocaust and World War II. Many of those novels were part of the public school curriculum and they frequently told tales of the persecuted and the brave people who tried to shelter them. While I still find myself drawn to historic novels set in that time period, in recent years I’ve found many more books that go beyond just the years of the war itself, just the Jews hiding in Germany and Austria and Poland, extending their stories into the years after the war officially ended and the world began piecing itself back together. Seeing examples of the lasting damage and turmoil across Europe after the Nazis had been defeated carries more weight for me now than it would have when I was in elementary and middle school. James William Brown’s upcoming My Last Lament is one such novel.

An old woman now, Aliki lives in the same village in Greece where she grew up but she is among the last of her generation and is the area’s last lamenter. An American student wanted to study and document her laments leaving a tape recorder behind so Aliki can record them when it’s convenient for her. In the process of trying to fulfill the student’s wishes, Aliki records the story of her own life beginning with her teenage days when her small village was occupied by German soldiers and two boys came into her life whom she would constantly find herself torn between. Takis is the young son of the woman who takes Aliki in after her father’s death and becomes a brother of sorts to her, though there is something strange and sometimes dangerous about him. Stelios is a little older than Aliki, a Greek Jew in hiding whom Aliki grows to love. But the lives of all three are threatened and tossed about as Greece reels in political unrest following the defeat and retreat of the Germans. Continue reading

Book Review – In My Father’s Country: An Afghan Woman Defies Her Fate by Saima Wahab

I have had Saima Wahab’s memoir In My Father’s Country: An Afghan Woman Defies Her Fate on my To Read list since I saw her interview on the Daily Show several years ago. Documenting her childhood in Afghanistan and then Pakistan as a refugee before moving to the United States to further her education, become a US citizen, and eventually travel back to Afghanistan to assist US troops during the war–and given the current political climate in the US—it seemed like the perfect time to finally make myself read this book.

First published in 2012, Wahab’s memoir begins with her earliest memories of life in Afghanistan as the Soviets invaded the country and her outspoken and rather liberal father was among the first taken into custody. She never saw him again and her family fled first to her father’s people in their small village and then across the border to Pakistan where they were safer. Wahab notes that even from a small age, she rejected elements of her native culture, especially with regards to how the women were controlled and restricted by the men of their families. Sent to her uncles in the US as a teenager along with her siblings and cousins, she embraced many of the freedoms of American culture even as it caused her to struggle with holding onto and preserving her sense of her culture as a Pashtun woman. Once she begins her exploration of her time working as a civilian alongside US forces in Afghanistan–first as an interpreter and then as a research manager on an HTT (Human Terrain Team) where she helped research and map the cultural differences between the villages in Afghanistan—her narrative focuses on her struggle to reconcile the two sides of her identity, Pashtun woman and American woman. Speaking the language and understanding the culture of the locals, she worked to educate and guide both the US soldiers and the local Afghan peoples as the nations aimed to work together to rebuild her father’s country. Continue reading

Book Preview – A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi

a crown of wishes - book coverLast year The Star-Touched Queen was one of my favorite books of the year and this year Roshani Chokshi’s follow up novel, A Crown of Wishes promises to be an even bigger favorite of mine. Capturing all the lyrical and mythical elements of the last novel, A Crown of Wishes expands upon her already established world but also thematically addresses the power of something very near and dear to my heart: stories.

The coup planned by Maya’s younger sister Gauri has failed and she has landed in the custody of the kingdom of Ujijain whose relationship with Bharata is tenuous and possibly dependent on whether or not they kill her––which is what her brother dearly wants. Vikram, the prince of Ujijain, cannot convince his adoptive father’s council to take him seriously or grant him more than just superficial power over the nation as his father plans to retire. He is tasked with informing Gauri of her approaching execution but a messenger of sorts reaches him first with an invitation to the Tournament of Wishes held by the King of Riches in Alaka, one of the kingdoms of the Otherworld. The invitation is for him and a partner matching Gauri’s description. Rather than announce her death, he gives her the choice to join him in the tournament or not. And so their story begins. Continue reading

Book Preview – The Witchfinder’s Sister by Beth Underdown

witchfinder's sister - book coverOne of my favorite classes in college was a history course where our focus was on witches. We examined various outbreaks of witch scares in Europe and the American colonies, compared how they unfolded and the methods for dealing with the accused, we looked at who the accused tended to be and why they might have been accused (spoiler alert: mostly widows and single women who were in more independent positions than the men in their communities were comfortable with them having). So a novel like Beth Underdown’s upcoming The Witchfinder’s Sister should be right up my alley.

Having just lost her husband in an accident, Alice returns home to her brother, Matthew’s, home where their mother has also recently died. It has been several years since Alice has seen her brother who did not approve of her marriage and in their time apart it quickly becomes clear to Alice that much about him has changed. He has gained a noted position in their old community since he has become involved in taking down complainants’ accounts and questioning accused witches in the area. Alice is horrified but convinces herself that it will all blow over in the end while also piecing together the truth of what happened in her parents’ household that might be driving Matthew in his mission. Will she be able to save anyone from her brother? Continue reading

Book Preview – The Forgotten Girls by Owen Laukkanen

forgotten girls - book coverThis is the second time I’ve inadvertently read a book from the middle of an ongoing series rather than started from the beginning. Incidentally, both series happen to be in the crime/thriller genre and—due in part to the nature of the genre—both worked well enough as standalone novels (the first more so than this one). The Forgotten Girls by Owen Laukkanen will be the sixth book in his Stevens & Windermere series when it is released on March 14.

If you’ve ever seen a crime procedural on television, you’re probably familiar with the facts: that many victims of violent crime are women, that women of color are disproportionately victims of violent crime, and that transients, drug addicts, and sex workers are likely to wind up as victims of violent crime. These are the very demographics that make up the target victims of a dangerous serial killer train hopping around the northern Midwest. It’s a case that falls into Stevens and Windermere’s laps and quickly proves larger and—thanks to the winter weather—tricky hunt for the killer. Continue reading

Book Review – Heartless by Marissa Meyer

heartless - book coverHaving so thoroughly enjoyed Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles, her latest novel, Heartless was one of the first I purchased with the gift cards I received back at Christmas. A stand-alone novel rather than the start of a new series, Heartless delves into the life of the young woman who becomes the Queen of Hearts and terrifies Alice on her journey through Wonderland. Once again, Meyer demonstrates her skill at paying homage to the source material while expanding and incorporating additional elements, including characters from nursery rhymes and poems.

Cath is the daughter of the Marquess and Marchioness of Rock Turtle Cove in the kingdom of Hearts but what she wants above everything else is to open a bakery with her best friend, lady’s maid Mary Ann. Though Cath has already caught the king’s attention with her tasty treats, someone else has caught her eye—the new court joker, Jest. As a Jabberwock begins terrorizing the kingdom, Cath learns that there is more to Jest and his presence in Hearts than she’d originally thought and her dreams will clash with both reality and fate. Continue reading

Book Review – The Girls by Emma Cline

the girls - book coverEmma Cline’s The Girls was one of those books that appeared on so many “Best of” lists that it was inevitable I would eventually have a go at it. While it was pretty good, I don’t know that I agree it was one of the best books of 2016––though, it certainly wound up capturing some of the themes that seemed to plague 2016.

Evie Boyd was born into wealth and privilege as the granddaughter of an icon of Hollywood’s golden age but by the time she’s an adult, she’s more famous for her long-ago association with a small and notorious cult. Though she didn’t participate the night of their most heinous crimes, she’s spent a lot of time reflecting on how she got as far in as she did and exactly why she wasn’t there on the infamous night. Ultimately so much of it boils down to the girls and more specifically, Suzanne. Continue reading

Book Review – The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

raven boys - book coverSince finishing The Lunar Chronicles last year, I’ve been searching for a replacement YA series to become invested in and I think I may have found it in Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Cycle series—or at least, the first book, The Raven Boys has left me still intrigued enough to check out the next book sometime soon. Bringing together mystical and mythological elements I’ve read about in both other novels and studied the histories of over the years, The Raven Boys definitely sets up a larger story than just the one that gets told in its pages.

Blue Sargent has grown up in a house full of psychics—her mother and her mother’s friends—but she shows no ability herself; she only serves as an amplifier or battery of sorts, helping to strengthen those around her. But one thing all the psychics in her life seem to agree on is that she will somehow spell death for her true love—whoever he might be—and must avoid kissing him to protect him… even though she’s just a teenager and has no idea who he might be. But on St. Mark’s Day when she accompanies one of those friends of her mother’s to the Corpse Road and actually sees and hears one of the spirits—a teenage boy named Gansey who attends the local private boys’ school, Aglionby—she might have learned the first bit about him. Blue has her doubts, however, when she actually meets Gansey and his friends, Adam, Ronan, and Noah, and begins assisting them in their search for the historically mythical Glendower and things in their small town of Henrietta begin getting even weirder than any of them could have dreamt.

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Book Preview – The Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers

second mrs hockadayAlways game for a novel set during and around the events of the American Civil War, I didn’t have to read too far into the description of Susan Rivers’ soon-to-be-released The Second Mrs. Hockaday before I knew I wanted to read it. I didn’t think much of the fact that the novel promised to tell the story in question through letters, journal entries, and inquest papers—it actually would have made it more appealing because telling a story through such limited means can lead to particularly creative story-telling. In the case of The Second Mrs. Hockaday however, I think these narrative conventions fail to live up to that potential and ultimately rob the story of some of its natural tension.

Placidia Fincher Hockaday met her husband the day of her step-sister’s wedding and married him the next day when she was but seventeen years old. A widower with an infant son, Major Gryffth Hockaday and his new bride didn’t have much time to themselves before he was called back to the Confederate front lines by his commanders. For the remaining two years the war lasted, they were separated with Placidia running his farm, raising his son, and commanding his slaves. When he returned at the end of the war, he discovered that there were scandalous rumors about just what his wife had been up to in his absence—and with whom. Decades later, the Hockaday children—having buried their parents—begin to uncover their mother’s secrets from those two years, what drove a wedge between their parents, and what brought the couple back together again in the end. Continue reading

Book Preview – The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

bear and the nightingaleI am incredibly happy to be starting a new year of reviews with this book because it was a fantastic book to be reading as this last year came to an end. After finishing it I went back and reread the initial description that inspired me to put it on my preview request list—having forgotten everything about that description in the months between submitting my request and reading the book. I had to laugh because usually, those descriptions feel strategically written with an eye towards marketing—which, of course, they are—but in this case I found completely accurate. Katherine Arden’s upcoming The Bear and the Nightingale reminded me of Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane and is also “recommended” for fans of Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus (which I just got a personal copy of for Christmas so I can read and enjoy it all over again).

It is some years after Pyotr Vladimirovich’s beloved wife Marina died following the birth of their youngest daughter, Vasilisa (called Vasya), but he finally admits that the time has come for him to remarry—mostly so there is another woman around to help with Vasya who appears to take her nurse’s fairy tales a little too literally. Journeying with his two oldest sons to Moscow, Pyotr returns with a devout new wife and a gift for Vasya from an odd stranger. Vasya can do nothing right in the eyes of her new stepmother but it isn’t until a new priest arrives in the village (determined to bring the fear of God to the northern people and save their souls) that more devastating effects threaten the village as the people begin neglecting the protective household spirits of old.

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