A Court of Wings & Ruin

Image result for a court of wings and ruinTitle: A Court of Wings and Ruin [III/VI]
Author: Sarah J Maas
Genre: Fantasy; Romance; Adventure; War
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) Feyre has returned to the Spring Court, determined to gather information on Tamlin’s maneuverings and the invading king threatening to bring Prythian to its knees. But to do so she must play a deadly game of deceit—and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well. As war bears down upon them all, Feyre must decide who to trust amongst the dazzling and lethal High Lords—and hunt for allies in unexpected places.

Review
: As with ACOTAR and ACOMAF, Maas clearly understands the written word. She has brought us back into this Prythian universe, into the heart of the battle, and all the while we know exactly what we’re in for, because we know Feyre. A character as complex and daring as any heroine I’ve ever seen, Feyre can handle everything thrown at her, without the savior that most female heroines are bent on having in books elsewhere. She’s flanked by powerful characters on all sides. The depth of the relationships all intensify and become much more realistic in this third installment of the series. The Feyre and Rhysand relationship intensifies in the most delightful way. He’s everything I look for in a male lead. He’s tender, loving, and trusting. He’s strong and selfless, and at times, you want to knock him upside the head because he’s being too selfless. All that being said, I quite enjoyed the diversity of the minor characters in this one, more so than the others.  The yummy Helion, the sweet Tarquin, and Mor! OMG Mor….All that’s to say that I can’t wait for Book 4 in the ACOTAR series.

Dreaming in Cuban

Image result for dreaming in cubanTitle: Dreaming in Cuban
Author: Cristina Garcia
Genre: fiction; magical realism; historical fiction
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) Here is the dreamy and bittersweet story of a family divided by politics and geography by the Cuban revolution. It is the family story of Celia del Pino, and her husband, daughter and grandchildren, from the mid-1930s to 1980. Celia’s story mirrors the magical realism of Cuba itself, a country of beauty and poverty, idealism and corruption. DREAMING IN CUBAN presents a unique vision and a haunting lamentation for a past that might have been.
Review: I really enjoyed reading this book. I loved how Garcia was able to switch perspectives and give us effortless magical realism. Pilar’s character, divided and unsure is my favorite of the women, and I love her journey. From sharing her abuela’s thoughts before bed to being an artists, Pilar truly finds herself in this novel. All of the storylines and character arcs are interesting and bittersweet.

The Brief & Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Image result for oscar waoTitle: The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
Author: Junot Diaz
Genre: fiction; contemporary; magical realism
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) Things have never been easy for Oscar, a sweet but disastrously overweight, lovesick Dominican ghetto nerd. From his home in New Jersey, where he lives with his old-world mother and rebellious sister, Oscar dreams of becoming the Dominican J. R. R. Tolkien and, most of all, of finding love. But he may never get what he wants, thanks to the Fukœ-the curse that has haunted the Oscar’s family for generations, dooming them to prison, torture, tragic accidents, and, above all, ill-starred love. Oscar, still waiting for his first kiss, is just its most recent victim. Diaz immerses us in the tumultuous life of Oscar and the history of the family at large, rendering with genuine warmth and dazzling energy, humor, and insight the Dominican-American experience, and, ultimately, the endless human capacity to persevere in the face of heartbreak and loss. A true literary triumph, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao confirms Junot Diaz as one of the best and most exciting voices of our time.
Review: When I picked this book up originally, I thought I was going to love it — outcast nerd who likes weird things and wants to be a famous writer someday — but I couldn’t really get all the way into it. I liked that it was told through another perspective, and I love the cultural dissonance between the two characters, but for some reason, when I finished the book, I wasn’t inspired. Yunior’s storyline is bittersweet — he can’t figure out what he wants and with this engrained idea of who he has to be and how he has to act, he doesn’t really grow up until the end. Oscar is the complete opposite of that. He realizes that he can only be who he is, even if it “sucks” because it’s “all he has.” I wouldn’t consider Oscar to be “wondrous” but I do like his “I’d die for love” attitudes.

​Overall, I enjoyed it. Just not as much as everyone said I would.

Goblin Secrets

Image result for goblin secretsTitle: Goblin Secrets
Author: William Alexander
Genre​: YA; fantasy
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) In the town of Zombay, there is a witch named Graba who has clockwork chicken legs and moves her house around—much like the fairy tale figure of Baba Yaga. Graba takes in stray children, and Rownie is the youngest boy in her household. Rownie’s only real relative is his older brother Rowan, who is an actor. But acting is outlawed in Zombay, and Rowan has disappeared. Desperate to find him, Rownie joins up with a troupe of goblins who skirt the law to put on plays. But their plays are not only for entertainment, and the masks they use are for more than make-believe. The goblins also want to find Rowan—because Rowan might be the only person who can save the town from being flooded by a mighty river.
Review: In this day and age, with the book world as oversaturated as it is, finding a fantasy book that has magic, a hero’s quest, and a prophecy is almost commonplace – but that’s not what you’ll get in William Alexander’s Goblin Secrets. This book has familiar elements from all of those tropes but in Zombay, even with the threat of a prophesized flood, nothing is as it seems. The main character, Rownie, is a little boy who doesn’t even have his own name, and yet, he is plucky and tough. It is easy to see why this book received a National Book Award as William Alexander’s quality of writing, narrative style, and structure is easy to follow and his characters are both charming and brave. In the city of Zombay, Tamlin (the politically correct term for goblins) believe in hope and magic and prophecy, and need Rownie’s help to make it come to pass. They accept Rownie as one of their own and tell him to “Stand and move with purpose. Move the way the mask would prefer you move” (103) because what they do for Zombay is mysterious… something “ancient and grand” (101).

​This book, originally written for middle grade readers, is full of steampunk, action, and questing for them to enjoy. Rownie, an orphan running from the witch that is his caregiver, Graba, is looking for his missing brother throughout the town of Zombay. Rownie, while on the run from Graba, comes upon a band of goblins (Tamlin) whose home, despite their social status, is Zombay. Born and raised in Zombay, but changed – the term used for people who become goblins – are not seen as real citizens even in their hometown. In this, Alexander does something clever – he introduces social commentary into the novel without seeming to be on a soapbox. He does this in little ways, for instance he writes, “UnChanged folk do not touch Tamlin, as a rule. They seem to believe that it would give them freckles” (106). Without being political, Alexander introduces inequity and discrimination into a novel meant for preteens.

The story is told from a 3rd person point of view which allows the reader to enter Rownie’s mind throughout the book. Alexander writes in the main character’s emotions and thoughts in a way that lends itself to its readership. Rownie “does not run” (60) from his problems – although he does run from the Guard – but instead, faces them as a hero who is on a quest must. Alexander’s style posits for strong truths and deeper meanings into the hero’s quest. Semele, the Tamlin who takes Rownie in, says, “We are always using masks and a lack of facts to find the truth and nudge it into becoming more true” (95). In a city full of liars, Rownie realizes that actors, who “pretend” because “It’s kind of [their] job” (95) are the only ones who can help him find his brother and save Zombay from the prophesized floods. into Rownie’s journey with simple, yet beautiful prose. It isn’t Graba or his brother who “gather beside Rownie” (219) throughout this journey through the flood and back, it’s the Tamlin. Alexander’s book, written in Acts and Scenes, like the drama it is, is a journey for the truth. Rownie, an orphan and a misfit, goes on a quest for his brother, but ends up finding out what he’s truly made of in the process.

Always Running

Image result for always runningTitle: Always Running
Author: Luis Rodriguez
Genre: nonfiction, memoir, crime, urban
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) Always Running is the searing true story of one man’s life in a Chicano gang—and his heroic struggle to free himself from its grip.
By age twelve, Luis Rodriguez was a veteran of East Los Angeles gang warfare. Lured by a seemingly invincible gang culture, he witnessed countless shootings, beatings, and arrests and then watched with increasing fear as gang life claimed friends and family members. Before long, Rodriguez saw a way out of the barrio through education and the power of words and successfully broke free from years of violence and desperation.
At times heartbreakingly sad and brutal, Always Running is ultimately an uplifting true story, filled with hope, insight, and a hard-earned lesson for the next generation.
ReviewAlways Running has been a book I’ve gone back to over and over again as a story that still needs telling. Every time I read it, I’m surprised and impressed by how Luis Rodriguez can tell such a heartbreaking story so beautifully. In the synopsis they say “at times heartbreakingly sad and brutal” and they aren’t lying. This book is sad, brutal, and graphic. But. Every single word means something in Rodriguez’s story. Every anecdote he relays to the reader is purposeful and compelling. I hate that the things he writes about from his childhood are still relevant — the police brutality, the general attitude toward the “other”, laws and policies that are detrimental to those outside of the majority, those without power. The way Rodriguez writes about gangs and his upbringing is still relevant. I love this book, and I’d recommend it to high schoolers or older without reservation.

Fried Green Tomatoes

Image result for fried green tomatoes bookTitle: Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe
Author: Fannie Flagg
Genre:  fiction, historical fiction, LGBT, feminism
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) It’s first the story of two women in the 1980s, of gray-headed Mrs. Threadgoode telling her life story to Evelyn, who is in the sad slump of middle age. The tale she tells is also of two women — of the irrepressibly daredevilish tomboy Idgie and her friend Ruth, who back in the thirties ran a little place in Whistle Stop, Alabama, a Southern kind of Cafe Wobegon offering good barbecue and good coffee and all kinds of love and laughter, even an occasional murder.
Review: If you’ve seen Fried Green Tomatoes and liked it, you’ll love the book a thousand times more. The book answers all of those ambiguities from the movie and sheds more light on all of the characters. Ruth and Idgie’s relationship is pure and beautiful and clearly defined. Ninny as a storyteller is wonderful and Evelyn is much more defined.

If you haven’t seen the movie, this book is told from multiple perspectives in multiple eras. Depression Era south, 1980’s Birmingham. It’s got everything you’d expect a historical fiction novel to have — a busybody with her own news column, family, love, loyalty, action, and humor. When you read this, you’ll fall in love with Flagg’s characters — from Smokey Lonesome, the hobo who tramps around the country on the rails, to Idgie Threadgoode, feminist icon who defies gender roles in a time where women were meek and obedient.

The only thing that stopped me from giving this a 5/5 is how Flagg wrapped up a few of my favorite characters. The writing style is unique — each voice is distinct, and no one gets left behind.

Two or Three Things I Know For Sure

Image result for two or three things i know for sureTitle: Two or Three Things I Know For Sure
Author: Dorothy Allison
Genre: memoir, LGBT, nonfiction, feminism
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) Bastard Out of Carolina, nominated for the 1992 National Book Award for fiction, introduced Dorothy Allison as one of the most passionate and gifted writers of her generation. Now, in Two or Three Things I Know for Sure, she takes a probing look at her family’s history to give us a lyrical, complex memoir that explores how the gossip of one generation can become legends for the next. Illustrated with photographs from the author’s personal collection, Two or Three Things I Know for Sure tells the story of the Gibson women — sisters, cousins, daughters, and aunts — and the men who loved them, often abused them, and, nonetheless, shared their destinies. With luminous clarity, Allison explores how desire surprises and what power feels like to a young girl as she confronts abuse.

Review: it’s  rare that I’m surprised by books anymore but Dorothy Allison’s Two or Three Things I Know For Sure was a happy surprise. I was drawn in by her writing style first. It’s simplistic, but descriptive, word work was refreshing. I felt connected to Allison’s words and stories. She broke up the text  by using family pictures. The pictures provided their own beautiful storyline too. Her life wasn’t always easy, and her descriptions of those struggles and tough issues really enhanced her storytelling. It felt a little like stream of consciousness writing, like there were some stories that needed to be told in that exact moment. I’ve felt that way too — she pulled at one thread and then the fabric started to unravel.

Tithe

Image result for tithe holly blackTitle: Tithe
Author: Holly Black
Genre: Fantasy, YA
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) Sixteen-year-old Kaye is a modern nomad. Fierce and independent, she travels from city to city with her mother’s rock band until an ominous attack forces Kaye back to her childhood home. There, amid the industrial, blue-collar New Jersey backdrop, Kaye soon finds herself an unwilling pawn in an ancient power struggle between two rival faerie kingdoms – a struggle that could very well mean her death.
Review: Before reading this, the only thing I’d read from Holly Black was The Darkest Part of the Forest. So, coming into Tithe, I expected something similar in terms of writing and engagement. With this book though, I was not immediately pulled in by Kaye like I was with Hazel, and it took until Black revealed her true nature for me to even be interested in the story (about page 100). That being said, I did read it and like the plot after all, but I wasn’t entranced by Kaye, Corny, or Roiben at all. 3/5 stars.

Fix Me

Image result for fix me lisa cronkhiteTitle: Fix Me
Author: Lisa Cronkhite
Genre: Mystery
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) Penelope Wryter’s life has been a mess ever since her sister committed suicide a year ago. Now Pen’s hooked on Fix, an illegal drug that makes her feel, think, and see differently. The hallucinations are intense, but there’s one vision that keeps Pen coming back for more–Nate. He’s the only person who cares about her. Too bad he’s just a side effect of the drug. Pen knows she’s going nowhere fast. She’s desperate to change. But when she tries to say goodbye to Nate, he professes his love for her making her more confused than ever. Then, when a girl from school goes missing during a bad Fix trip, Pen realizes she may be in a lot more danger than she ever imagined. Unless Pen straightens up and faces reality quick, she might be the next missing girl on the list
Review: Going into this book, I only had the synopsis as a guide for what I was getting into and it sounded promising. I appreciate what this book was, but the writing isn’t my style. It had a good mystery, but the writing was too jumbled. Perhaps the writing was jumbled to mirror a teenager’s brain on Fix? Pen goes through a lot in this book. She’s still dealing with her sister’s suicide, trying to figure out who she is on Fix. She learns that she has to let go of Nate in order to get sober, and she struggles with the threat of another loss. The mystery of local missing teens is woven into Pen’s recovery in an interesting way. The ending felt forced, and the Tabatha sub plot seemed weirdly unconnected in the scheme of things.

*Special thanks to the author for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Graelfire

Image result for graelfireTitle: Graelfire
Author: Stephen Chamberlain
Genre: Science Fiction; Retellings
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) Graëlfire is a gripping new twist on Grail mythology. Based on the medieval legend of the Grail as a stone that fell from Heaven, the story is set in present-day Switzerland and medieval Occitania within a fictional cosmos where universes emerge from primordial Graëlfire – the source of all Creation.
Review: I really enjoyed this book. I found it on Netgalley and realized it was something I couldn’t put down only after a few pages. The characters are vibrant and original, as is this new telling of a Grail myth. I loved the two varying timelines and how they wove together through the same quest. Lena and Raphael are an interesting team and their dynamic made this read much more compelling. Gideon’s arc was intriguing and as the story continued, his tale made me much more bound to finishing it.   A Grail story for sure, but not like Dan Brown in any way. This supernatural Grail quest was full of adventure, sure, but it had more of a plot, more purpose. It wasn’t church against humanity, it was more than that.