[Review] Save the Date

image0Title: Save the Date
Author: Morgan Matson
Genre: contemporary; ya; romance; realistic fiction; family
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) Charlie Grant’s older sister is getting married this weekend at their family home, and Charlie can’t wait for the first time in years, all four of her older siblings will be under one roof. Charlie is desperate for one last perfect weekend, before the house is sold and everything changes. The house will be filled with jokes and games and laughs again. Making decisions about things like what college to attend and reuniting with longstanding crush Jesse Foster all that can wait. She wants to focus on making the weekend perfect.

The only problem? The weekend is shaping up to be an absolute disaster. There’s the unexpected dog with a penchant for howling, house alarm that won’t stop going off, and a papergirl with a grudge.

There are the relatives who aren’t speaking, the (awful) girl her favorite brother brought home unannounced, and a missing tuxedo. Not to mention the neighbor who seems to be bent on sabotage and a storm that is bent on drenching everything. The justice of the peace is missing. The band will only play covers. The guests are all crazy. And the wedding planner’s nephew is unexpectedly, distractedly cute.

Over the course of three ridiculously chaotic days, Charlie will learn more than she ever expected about the family she thought she knew by heart. And she’ll realize that sometimes, trying to keep everything like it was in the past means missing out on the future.

Review: 3 stars

I had a hard time with this rating. I waffled between a 2 and a 3 star. It wasn’t that this story was bad, but it wasn’t my favorite read either, and there were points where I wanted to DNF it.

So. The not so good:
Charlie as a narrator is annoying and narrow sighted. I guess that comes with being a teenager (I feel like a broken record saying this) but I was so fed up with reading her perspective. I have read so many books with teenager narrators and can read page after page without being 1. Bored to tears 2. Rolling my eyes or 3. Mad as hell. But Charlie was infuriating. She wanted everything to be just so, and if it didn’t fit her perfect vision, she didn’t handle it well.
I think it frustrated me the most because people try to warn her but she doesn’t listen. I hate obstinate narrators. Like, you don’t have to be perfect, but dang girl, give the people around you a break when they aren’t either.
The good:
I laughed out loud at some of Morgan Matson’s clever writing. She had some really sweet family moments and some really funny family dynamic moments that hit. Very well written. The GMA interview in particular made me actually laugh… like, legit out loud, so I think that’s saying something.
When Charlie does eventually learn her lesson (it’s not a spoiler, every protagonist learns SOMETHING), that’s where I felt like i could get behind her character a little.  Matson writes, “but now, in this moment, she no longer seemed Perfect, the one who knew everything, the one who was always right. Because he wasn’t. He was in the wrong with Brooke —and what’s more, I could see it and he couldn’t. It was the latest revelation in a night that had been chock-full of them. But it felt like it had tilted the world on its axis a little. Because who was Danny if he wasn’t my big brother, the one who could fix anything and do everything? Who was I if I wasn’t looking to him for answers?
“As I drove on in silence, my headlights cutting through the darkness, I realize that maybe it meant we could be closer to equals. Maybe I could actually find out who he was, now that I wasn’t blinded by the vision of him that I had been holding onto you, the one left over from when I was six and he was the best person in the world” (372).
Like, Charlie felt so inauthentic and obnoxious to me before this, and then this scene, it felt like I’d lived that scene myself with a few people. Where you suddenly see them in a real and honest light and your opinion of them shifts (for good or ill) and you can’t go back to seeing them any other way.
I also really enjoyed the Bill plotline. Bill wasn’t pushy or invasive. He did his job as a character. Nice, Billiam.
The alright:
The minor characters add depth. The “what can go wrong, does” aspect of Linnie’s wedding is so outrageous it almost stops being funny. Everyone knows a Jesse. Mike is a real one. They should have let DJJJ handle wedding music.
Overall, I went with 3/5 instead of 2/5 because Charlie figures it out in the end. And because it made me laugh. And because I didn’t DNF it after all. And because of Waffles.

 

An Enchantment of Ravens Review

51kirZzj7BLTitle: An Enchantment of Ravens
Author: Margaret Rogerson
Genre: fantasy; ya; faerie; romance
Synopsis: (from Amazon) Isobel is an artistic prodigy with a dangerous set of clients: the sinister fair folk, immortal creatures who cannot bake bread or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. They crave human Craft with a terrible thirst, and Isobel’s paintings are highly prized. But when she receives her first royal patron—Rook, the autumn prince—she makes a terrible mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes—a weakness that could cost him his life.

Furious, Rook spirits her away to his kingdom to stand trial for her crime. But something is seriously wrong in his world, and they are attacked from every side. With Isobel and Rook depending on each other for survival, their alliance blossoms into trust, then love—and that love violates the fair folks’ ruthless laws. Now both of their lives are forfeit, unless Isobel can use her skill as an artist to fight the fairy courts. Because secretly, her Craft represents a threat the fair folk have never faced in all the millennia of their unchanging lives: for the first time, her portraits have the power to make them feel.

Review: *SPOILER REVIEW*

I had a hard time deciding between a three-star and a four-star rating for this book. I truly enjoyed this book, and for 95% of it, I had a really hard time putting it down. I love Rogerson’s writing style. I started reading her books backwards. (If you’d like to read my Sorcery of Thorns review, click HERE.) In a book world overwrought with series, Rogerson has delivered two really beautifully written standalone novels with strong, badass women – obvious requirement of mine – and really well-crafted plot lines.

Isobel is a master of her Craft, and as such, she has power over faeries, which is really cool. They want something from her that they can’t do themselves. I haven’t seen that before in other faerie stories, and I read a lot of them.  She, like other heroines in faerie stories, knows not to trust faeries, and uses her smarts to keep herself and her family safe.

This is how she meets Rook. Rook, the autumn prince, is a fun character. Cocky AF, but different than other fae, because he can feel emotions and he can acknowledge them. He has this keen interest in Isobel from the beginning and he trusts her to be his companion too. I liked her aura of protection, and the way Rogerson wrote in his magic.

In fact, I like the way she built her world, and everything in it. I like faerie worlds and magic generally. I like the way magic is written, but particularly how Rogerson wrote in each particular faerie’s gift. They weren’t just a mass of fair folk, they were individualized, and the courts were so vast and clear and distinct too. I enjoyed that immensely.  One scene I specifically enjoyed was when Isobel realized the feast in the Spring Court was all an illusion. When everything starts to decay, it was written so masterfully!

That being said, I still waffled on whether or not this book rated a three- or four-star rating. In the end, I think it came down to the way Rogerson developed the climax of the story for me. It felt rushed and almost forced. She got to experience the entire world because of Rook, so I understood, and even respected her love and admiration for Rook, but when she was willing to die for him, it felt like too much. And then, like, practically, how does that even work, as her being Queen of the fae? And Rook – he was confounding! Like, how does he feel so deeply when fair folk aren’t meant to feel as he does? Like, the whole charade of Isobel going to the Spring Court was to paint human emotions on to the faerie portraits, but Rook feels everything so deeply and with so much humanity, I just didn’t understand it.

I really, really enjoyed this book. Honestly. I just have questions, that’s all.

 

Galatea Book Review

Screen Shot 2019-10-26 at 2.31.45 PM.pngTitle: Galatea
Author: Madeline Miller
Genre: fantasy; mythology; short stories; retellings; historical fiction
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) In Ancient Greece, a skilled marble sculptor has been blessed by a goddess who has given his masterpiece – the most beautiful woman the town has ever seen – the gift of life. Now his wife, Galatea is expected to be obedience and humility personified, but it is not long before she learns to use her beauty as a form of manipulation. In a desperate bid by her obsessive husband to keep her under control, she is locked away under the constant supervision of doctors and nurses. But with a daughter to rescue, she is determined to break free, whatever the cost…

Review: 4 stars.

I think it’s safe to say at this point that I’d read anything Miller writes. She’s written two of my favorite books of all time — you can read my review of Song of Achilles HERE and my review of Circe HERE — and I’m a Classics nerd. While I didn’t jump on the Percy Jackson train, I can appreciate what it did for the genre. Miller takes a more sophisticated approach to myth retellings though, and it’s just brilliant.

Galatea is very different though. If I think of her work thus far on a continuum, in terms of her readership, it reminds me a lot of JK Rowling’s writing. Like, with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, that book was clearly YA, meant for children around Harry’s age, but by Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix, that YA line was very blurred. So much of what Harry was going through in (arguably) 4-7 were ADULT.

Galatea was much of the same. While Galatea is not connected to Song of Achilles or Circe, I think her writing style has evolved with each text. Song of Achilles seemed very YA, even if it isn’t marketed as such on Goodreads. It’s a quick read, lower lexile, all that, and it’s soft and sweet and kind.

And then with Circe, Miller’s writing is harder. And maybe that’s because Circe’s story is harder, but Circe’s feminist eye is open so it’s kind of reaffirming, and the Odyssey tale is so much more charged because of it. Guys. Circe was one of two books that made me change how I rate books. (Internment was the other in case you’re wondering.) That’s how beautiful I thought it was. But like, Miller’s style seemed to evolve in my opinion. A more adult audience required, sort of thing.

And then there’s Galatea (see this is definitely a Galatea review). This is definitely an adult short story. (Less than a 30 minute read for most readers, I’d say). This Pygmalion retelling is not beautiful and sweet or hard and reaffirming. This is tragic and difficult. Right out the jump there’s fuck and confusion, and a woman in a hospital being told to lie down, and a nurse who doesn’t seem to listen.

And later, Galatea tells the reader that if she doesn’t play the game (listen to the orders of her doctors) they’ll give her a tea that stops her tongue from working and makes her piss the bed.

This is not beautiful, but it is really, really good. It has something to say. At its core, almost, as a reminder. The Pygmalion myth is a good reminder about how men are rarely satisfied, and Galatea brings that right to the forefront in such a cutting way.

Again, I’m left breathless, waiting for her next text. Fingers crossed that it’s Medusa. Especially after some of the undertones here, I think it would be a perfect transition.

Sorcery of Thorns Review

IMG_1283Title: Sorcery of Thorns
Author: Margaret Rogerson
Genre: fantasy; ya; lgbt
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) All sorcerers are evil. Elisabeth has known that as long as she has known anything. Raised as a foundling in one of Austermeer’s Great Libraries, Elisabeth has grown up among the tools of sorcery—magical grimoires that whisper on shelves and rattle beneath iron chains. If provoked, they transform into grotesque monsters of ink and leather. She hopes to become a warden, charged with protecting the kingdom from their power.

Then an act of sabotage releases the library’s most dangerous grimoire. Elisabeth’s desperate intervention implicates her in the crime, and she is torn from her home to face justice in the capital. With no one to turn to but her sworn enemy, the sorcerer Nathaniel Thorn, and his mysterious demonic servant, she finds herself entangled in a centuries-old conspiracy. Not only could the Great Libraries go up in flames, but the world along with them.

As her alliance with Nathaniel grows stronger, Elisabeth starts to question everything she’s been taught—about sorcerers, about the libraries she loves, even about herself. For Elisabeth has a power she has never guessed, and a future she could never have imagined.

Review: 4 stars. This was another Lit Coven selection — if you are looking for a badass book club that is primarily YA fantasy, look no further. You can find them HERE. Last month we read These Witches Don’t Burn (my review of that is HERE) and I loved that one too. So, you could say that my book club picks out some bomb titles for us to review.

So, this month, it’s Sorcery of Thorns. As you read from the synopsis above, this one is about a girl who is framed for a crime, and then has to figure out how to stop the actual perpetrator(s) from continuing their crime spree. I had some predictions as the text went on, but not really. Like, about 100 pages in, I thought I knew who, but I had literally no idea how until it was revealed.

In my These Witches Don’t Burn review, I said I was usually pretty good at predicting things, but maybe I’m not as good as I thought after all. (Lol). In the end, I didn’t really care about not being able to guess because I liked having Elisabeth reveal it all to me. It’s a new experience to be shocked by the big reveal. (okay, so I guess that means I am good at it usually, but not in these two cases?)

I really liked the dynamic between Nathaniel, Elisabeth, and Silas. That trio was so strong and foundational. I mean, I think obviously Silas was my favorite character. With Katrien as a strong second supporting character. Their unwavering devotion to Elisabeth, their faith in her was awesome, and fun to watch unfold. Silas was a strong character’s even stronger sidekick. As demon’s go, he was pretty amazing. The way Rogerson wrote his backstory and character development felt pretty damn spectacular.

Everyone in Austermeer has these preconceived notions of what it means to have a demon, and how those demons feel about their human masters. Elisabeth sees something in Silas that no one else does, and that’s wicked cool. (tangent: but, I HATE that I used wicked there. I didn’t want to use it, but the New England transplant in me couldn’t think of a better word to use, and so I used it, and didn’t replace it). I LOVED Silas and Nathaniel’s relationship too.

Another obvious favorite for me was Nathaniel’s almost acquiescence to Elisabeth. I even marked a page because of how he confessed himself to her. Like he hated it, and only did so begrudgingly. “God, Elisabeth, I’ve been doomed since the moment I watched you smack a fiend off my carriage with a crowbar” (343). All the way through the book he calls her a menace. It starts honest enough, but then basically becomes a pet name of sorts. It’s kinda cute. I like it. PS: Nathaniel is bi, and just so casual about it. He’s like, if you’re gonna talk about my love life, might as well be accurate about it. Like, he trusts Elisabeth enough to be honest with her, but it’s so flippant and just naturally a part of him — well introduced and written in, Rogerson!

What I love the very most is Elisabeth’s attachment and connection to the books. I think every avid read wishes to be as connected to books as Elisabeth is to them. When Katrien explains why she is, I found myself wishing I was her.

“None of this is its fault” (377) she says about a book some of the wardens are using as torture practice. And later, when they need their help, I got seriously over emotional when the books spring forward and do her bidding. A little bit of freedom and a whole lot of sacrifice.

This adventure is so full of story, heart, and vivid world building. There’s so much to take in, so much to want to figure out as you’re reading. I didn’t feel like I was in the 19th century aside from the carriages, the cravats, and the female hysteria. Women can be in the Magisterium, can be Directors of the Collegium, but if they read too many books, they’re prone to hysteria? That was the only jarring thing for me.

The ending was perfect. The last paragraph specifically.

While I would love more in this world, I’m secretly hoping this is where this ends. Goodreads doesn’t have it listed as a duology or as a series, so I’m thinking it’s a standalone and this makes me very happy indeed.

Well Met Review

image2Title: Well Met
Author: Jen DeLuca
Genre: romance; contemporary; fiction; women’s fiction; chick lit *according to Goodreads* <– what does that even mean??
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) All’s faire in love and war for two sworn enemies who indulge in a harmless flirtation in a laugh-out-loud rom-com from debut author, Jen DeLuca.

Emily knew there would be strings attached when she relocated to the small town of Willow Creek, Maryland, for the summer to help her sister recover from an accident, but who could anticipate getting roped into volunteering for the local Renaissance Faire alongside her teenaged niece? Or that the irritating and inscrutable schoolteacher in charge of the volunteers would be so annoying that she finds it impossible to stop thinking about him?

The faire is Simon’s family legacy and from the start he makes clear he doesn’t have time for Emily’s lighthearted approach to life, her oddball Shakespeare conspiracy theories, or her endless suggestions for new acts to shake things up. Yet on the faire grounds he becomes a different person, flirting freely with Emily when she’s in her revealing wench’s costume. But is this attraction real, or just part of the characters they’re portraying?

This summer was only ever supposed to be a pit stop on the way to somewhere else for Emily, but soon she can’t seem to shake the fantasy of establishing something more with Simon, or a permanent home of her own in Willow Creek.

Review: 4 stars.  Well met, indeed! This book was as advertised. Jen DeLuca delivered a laugh out loud, fantastic romance with sweet little moments between sisters and friends throughout. A Boston girl lost, is found in a small town through the Faire of all things.

After the first line, I started tweeting about it — I tweeted through chapter 5, a preview of sorts — you can view those HERE — just because I kept laughing about things and wanted to document my experience as I was reading.

I didn’t just lol, like one does in a text. I actually laughed out loud at parts of this book. I found so much of it not only witty, but also hilarious. Like, there’s the wit between English teacher Simon and Emily, and the banter between them and their Faire personas is great. But then there’s the hilarity of Mitch and his Faire persona, Marcus. He’s just all muscle and heart.

The juxtaposition of Simon and Mitch is good, and well written. It’s not a love triangle. It’s not the typical anxiety driven, cringeworthy fight over the girl — although. They do actually physically fight over her — male centric triangle. It’s actually so much better.

All the characters lift each other up. They are a real small town. Like, the last small towny books and stories I read were Where the Crawdads Sing, and The Lottery. Not such good small town vibes in either. Like, they don’t always treat people the best in those stories, right? Spoiler for WtCS and TL, but like, people literally die in those small towns. But Willow Creek, like, owns it and wins.

April and Emily is a fun sister dynamic to read. They kind of learn sisterhood as the chapters progress. I’ve not read anything like that before, and I really liked it. I liked Emily’s dynamic with her niece too. Like with April, Emily has to learn how to be an aunt too. It’s fun to see her take on these roles.

When Simon fucks up, as all men in romance novels are wont to do, (trust me, they all do), DeLuca does something really, really good. In fact, I’d say she handles it better than any other romance writer I’ve ever read before. I love when Emily puts her foot down, and April backs her up. The bonds of sisterhood, no matter how new, are still strong.

This is a perfect summer read. I am eager to see what else comes from this author!

Be warned. You WILL go googling renaissance faires after. You will look for your local one, and you will try to get tickets if it’s close enough. Just saying.

Gods of Jade & Shadow Review

image1Title: Gods of Jade and Shadow
Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Genre: fantasy; historical fantasy; mythology; mayan; fairy tale;
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) The Mayan god of death sends a young woman on a harrowing, life-changing journey in this dark, one-of-a-kind fairy tale inspired by Mexican folklore.

The Jazz Age is in full swing, but Casiopea Tun is too busy cleaning the floors of her wealthy grandfather’s house to listen to any fast tunes. Nevertheless, she dreams of a life far from her dusty small town in southern Mexico. A life she can call her own.

Yet this new life seems as distant as the stars, until the day she finds a curious wooden box in her grandfather’s room. She opens it—and accidentally frees the spirit of the Mayan god of death, who requests her help in recovering his throne from his treacherous brother. Failure will mean Casiopea’s demise, but success could make her dreams come true.

In the company of the strangely alluring god and armed with her wits, Casiopea begins an adventure that will take her on a cross-country odyssey from the jungles of Yucatán to the bright lights of Mexico City—and deep into the darkness of the Mayan underworld.

Review: 4 Stars. This was a fantastic book. It wasn’t just a fantastic read, it was, like, fantastical. I don’t know enough about Mexican and Central American mythology and wanted to dive into this universe after the first chapter. Sheepishly, my only actual references to anything before this book were movies like The Book of Life and Coco, both of which I thoroughly enjoyed. Because of this, when Book of the Month had this as an option, I jumped at the opportunity, because I’ve always been fascinated with mythology, and boy I’m glad I did.

I love this book though, because I feel like I’m completely drawn in as a third character on Hun-Kamé and Casiopea’s quest. The imagery, the characterization, and the emotion of this book all weaves such a beautiful tapestry. As I was reading, it felt like, at any moment, I could be transported into the 1920’s right with them. Moreno-Garcia’s way with words is astounding.

It took me a full chapter to really get into this book, not gonna lie. I was bored by Cinderella-esque story, but then Moreno-Garcia literally called me out and wrote Casiopea saying she wasn’t some Cinderella type and so I was like, “okay, dang, sorry… guess I’ll give it a shot.” If I’m being honest, it wasn’t until the chest is opened and the quest itself officially began that I truly got invested in the story.

None of the Leyva family is given much backstory, (aside from Martín) except that they treat Casiopea (and her mother) like servants. Even her mother wants her to fall in line and just suck it up, but it all kind of serves a purpose— there’s no guilt when she leaves, and as a reader, I have no second-hand guilt about her leaving anything behind when her quest begins either.  I guess that’s the intention, and because it works, it furthers the plot along.

I really loved moving through Mexico with Casiopea and Hun-Kamé. Getting to see the different states through Casiopea’s eyes was a joy because Moreno-Garcia really captured the “small village girl experiencing the big city” vibe. From the train rides, to the carnivals, it was so exciting to read.

My absolute favorite part of the book was Juan. The charmer. I went on a short twitter rant about him. (You can view it HERE.) I legit laughed out loud when he threatened to crush her every bone. When he promised to drown her and use her bloated body as an instrument. And then when he backed off so quickly and held his hands up, “I thought we were just playing” — seriously. He was my favorite stop on their quest.

Each stop on their quest had a different feel. Someone had secret wisdom for Casiopea, just in case she needed to get out of a bind, Juan brought humor to a tricky situation, an immortal seductress brought temptation and revealed hidden truths, and a sorcerer helped them relay on each other.

The hardest part for me— although beautiful — was when Hun-Kamé explained to Casiopea the reality of what would come should they succeed. “There is no ‘after,’” she whispered (245).

That part hit me straight with an obsidian knife to the heart. Like she’s willing to walk the Black Roads for you bro. And now there is no after. Ouch.

But then later, Moreno-Garcia got me again when Xibalba sees in Hun-Kamé’s soul and “the flowers, linked together, spoke to her. They said, “My love.” (326)  She still has to go back to the Middleworld alone, but at least he’s feeling it, too! I think there’s a speck of dust in my eye.

Overall, this book was beautiful, adventurous, and full of heart. I loved the language, the Mayan myth, and the spirit of the story. It’s made me want to find more stories with the same energy so I can learn more and immerse myself in the culture even further.

It’s a great read that I’d definitely recommend!

Moxie Review

Title: Moxie
Author: Jennifer Mathieu
Genre: contemporary; feminism; ya; realistic fiction
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) Moxie girls fight back!Vivian Carter is fed up. Fed up with her small-town Texas high school that thinks the football team can do no wrong. Fed up with sexist dress codes and hallway harassment. But most of all, Viv Carter is fed up with always following the rules.

Viv’s mom was a punk rock Riot Grrrl in the ’90s, so now Viv takes a page from her mother’s past and creates a feminist zine that she distributes anonymously to her classmates. She’s just blowing off steam, but other girls respond. Pretty soon Viv is forging friendships with other young women across the divides of cliques and popularity rankings, and she realizes that what she has started is nothing short of a girl revolution.

Review: 4 Stars. I read this book on the heels of Samira Ahmed’s Internment. (You can read that review HERE). To say Moxie was a departure from that would be a gross understatement. However, this book was fun and a delight to read. Vivian was a strong and caring and carried the book the whole way through. She was a three dimensional character and really well written by author, Mathieu. She was nerdy and unsure, but strong and caring when she saw others needed her to be so.

Inspired by her mother’s glory days, she creates a zine for her school to empower the girls to fight back against the patriarchal structures in place that hold them back.

What I like is that Mathieu brings up events that are relevant for all girls in all high schools. Dress codes, rape culture, inappropriate groping, lack of administrative support… these are all things girls face in countless high schools.

What’s more, these girls, through their collective coming together because of the zine get actual results. It’s really cool.

The boyfriend character is interesting. He keeps doing this “not all guys” thing and I think I get that he’s trying to learn, and Mathieu is trying to make a point, but his repetitive “I’m not those guys, I’m sensitive, look at me, I get it, you’re cool,” schtick didn’t really sit well with me. I’m wondering if she did this to point out how annoying it is, but the fact that Viv and he stay together in the end makes it all the worse. Like, sure, he’s trying, and sure, he’s quasi-supportive, but like… just because he’s the first guy that ever showed interest in her doesn’t mean she has to stay with him and teach him how to be “not all guys.”

I don’t think it was Vivian’s job to teach him how to be a decent guy. It’s not her job to teach him to shut up and just listen. It’s not her job to realize that girls who say the administration tried to cover up a rape or attempted rape aren’t lying.

/rant
Either way, this book was GOOD. Really good. That boyfriend piece is really just a small part of the plot and the rest of it is really female empowerment centered. The female friendships are strong and the driving force of Vivian’s kickstarting Moxie in the first place. The girls in this high school stand proud and tall together, even when they aren’t sure how to do so, and it’s really remarkable. This book is inspiring. And quick. It was fast paced, fun, well-written, and going in my classroom library.

Moxie girls fight back!