Title: The Hazel Wood
Author: Melissa Albert
Genre: fantasy, contemporary, fairytale
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: her mother is stolen away―by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother’s stories are set. Alice’s only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.” Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland super fan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother’s tales began―and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.
Review: Reading this book was almost like walking into fairy tales for the very first time. It had an almost Grimm feeling to it but in a wholly original way. The author created an amazing cast of characters and a strong narrator, Alice, that made the read swift and adventurous. The twists and turns were unexpected and mysterious and the whole time I read it, I just kept wondering how it would end. I wasn’t disappointed. Albert’s writing style wove truth and story together beautifully. She created a modern, realistic New York City and juxtaposed it perfectly to the fantastical and horrifying Hinterland. As everything in fairy tales are better in threes, I’ll leave at this: I’d 100% read more about Alice. Three times.
*Special thanks to Netgalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Title: 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.
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.
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.
Title: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Author: John Tiffany
Genre: fantasy; magic;
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children. While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.
Review: While this wasn’t Harry Potter a la J. K. Rowling, it was part of the universe and it was fun to get back into that universe after so long. I preordered it and read it as soon as I got it. It took me maybe two hours? It’s a fast read. If you thought Harry was a whiny git, you’ll think the same about his son. If you liked Books 1-7, you’ll like it, but you’ll recognize the differences.
Harry Potter was one of those books that ignited a generation in ways that I’ll forever be grateful for. I think I was hoping for that same spark in what people were calling the 8th book. This is definitely not the 8th book. You’re back in the universe, but it feels almost like there’s a veil there that can’t be removed. It’s not the real thing and it’s painfully obvious at times.
All that said, I’m glad I read it.