Title: 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.
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.
Title: Fix Me
Author: Lisa Cronkhite
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.
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.
Title: One Dark Throne [II/IV]
Author: Kendare Blake
Genre: Fantasy; Young Adult
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) With the unforgettable events of the Quickening behind them and the Ascension Year underway, all bets are off. Katharine, once the weak and feeble sister, is stronger than ever before. Arsinoe, after discovering the truth about her powers, must figure out how to make her secret talent work in her favor without anyone finding out. And Mirabella, once thought to be the strongest sister of all and the certain Queen Crowned, faces attacks like never before—ones that put those around her in danger she can’t seem to prevent.
Review: I have been waiting for this book since I read Three Dark Crowns and literally couldn’t put it down all day. It was exactly like stepping back into the world that Blake has created. Fennbirn was just as I remembered it, but the queens were not. Katharine was haunting and I’m still not super sure what happened to her down in that pit, even after finishing the novel. Mirabella was different too. Arsinoe, since she found out who she was supposed to be, was much more clear. Jules as a character was very different too. Overall I really enjoyed this read but some of the character developments felt forced, much more so than in the first book. The last page is interesting. I’m looking forward to whatever Kendare Blake has in store for us next.
Edit: As I kept thinking about this book, I had to drop my Goodreads rating. I would definitely still recommend it, but the characters I liked most changed in ways that felt completely outside of their character arcs and as I continue to think on it, it’s still bothering me.
*Special thanks to the publisher for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Author: Toni Morrison
Genre: Fiction; Classics; Magical Realism; African American Culture
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) Sethe was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but eighteen years later she is still not free. She has too many memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many hideous things happened. Her new home is haunted by the ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved.
Review: I admire Toni Morrison’s writing as much as I admire any writing out there. She is able to create complex characters with ease… characters you come to care deeply about. Sethe is as complex as they come, and after a while, you begin to understand the decisions she makes, even if you could never understand or fathom the horrors she’s lived through. There’s a lot to this story — hauntings, magical realism, love, tragedy, horror. The plot moves swiftly in three sections of a narrative, each more intense than the last. The intensity of the story, the intensity of the trauma, that’s what makes the story so beautiful and difficult to read.
Toni Morrison, like Sandra Cisneros, holds a special place in my heart as a reader and would-be writer. If I could do just an ounce of what they do in their writing, I would feel accomplished.
Title: Accents of Horror: Four Flavors of Death
Author: Chris Snider
Genre: Horror; Short Stories
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) What would you do if you saw a hitchhiker on the side of the road on a rainy night? What if you saw headlights coming at you over a hill, but they disappeared into nowhere? What if the Grim Reaper showed up at your door while you were sitting down to dinner with your family? What if you were an out of work actor and the man who stole your job sat down beside you in a diner? All of these questions will be answered by the characters of Accents of Horror: Four Flavors of Death, by horror writer Chris Snider.
Review: While I was reading this, I continuously thought of who the best audience for this would be, and at the end of the first tale, I realized it would be good for teenagers at a camp campfire. With the right voice and the right mood, these stories could creep anyone out a bit. A few typos got in the way of my enjoyment, but I particularly like the Death tale. It reminded me of Emily Dickinson’s “Because I could not stop for Death.” After reading all of the tales of horror, I definitely had this “looking over my shoulder at any stray sound” vibe going on. Very cool.
*Special thanks to the author for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Title: Shadow and Bone
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Genre: Fantasy; Action; Magic; Romance;
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee. Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. … With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.
Review: Full disclosure. I picked this up, read 45 pages, and then put it down for NINE MONTHS. I bought it on Black Friday and didn’t pick it up again until July. I wasn’t pulled in to read it all in one sitting like I normally am with books but when I picked it back up again, just….
Wow. This book is full of amazing things. It’s got the action and fantasy elements I was looking for but it was also grounded and real. Alina felt like a fully developed character — one who makes mistakes, makes bad decisions. She didn’t immediately have all the right answers and she didn’t get saved over and over again by things or people planted by the author. It wasn’t a romance book masquerading as a fantasy novel. There was romance though. It fit the storyline for sure, but the book isn’t revolved around the love story, instead, it’s about Alina and her journey. Can’t wait to read book two.
Title: Woman Hollering Creek
Author: Sandra Cisneros
Genre: Short Stories, Feminism, Fiction
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) A collection of stories, whose characters give voice to the vibrant and varied life on both sides of the Mexican border. The women in these stories offer tales of pure discovery, filled with moments of infinite and intimate wisdom.
Review: I knew I’d like this book walking in because I adore Sandra Cisneros and I wasn’t disappointed by this book in any way. Cisneros has a way of writing universal truths that force us to slow down and read deeply. I saw myself, I saw my life, and I felt touched. All true books should have this power. If you liked The House on Mango Street you’ll like this one for sure. This is heavier than THOMS in a way I can’t really describe. It’s heart wrenching and gutting in a way I haven’t seen outside Sandra Cisneros. Her writing style makes you feel.
Author: Stephanie Garber
Genre: Fantasy; Magic; Romance
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) Remember, it’s only a game… Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation to Caraval finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner. Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. Welcome, welcome to Caraval…beware of getting swept too far away.
Review: This book was recommended to me by a friend. We’d read The Night Circus together and she’d heard this was the next best thing. I LOVED Caraval. The magic and twists and suspense was out of this world. I can’t wait to see where the story goes from here. My favorite part of this book was how Garber wrote her characters. As a reader, you can’t trust anything Scarlett thinks and feels and the writing style adds so much to that. Everything, even the ending (OMG!) is written with a dramatic flair. From character development to setting the scene, this book is a sheer delight.