Title: 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.
Review: Always 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.
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: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children [Book I/III]
Author: Ransom Riggs
Genre: paranormal; fantasy
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of curious photographs. A horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar… And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive. A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.
Review: I read this book while flying back from California last summer. I had a six hour flight to kill, and this was the way to do it. A little bit suspenseful, this book was a fun read. I was so intrigued as I followed Jacob through his adventure. I loved this book but did NOT love the movie. It is SO SO SO SO SO different. So if you’re thinking of cheating yourself here, don’t. Read the book, it’s ALWAYS better.
Jacob as a protagonist is a good lead – you’re following in his footsteps as he learns about his family’s past and his place in the legacy. Everything is not what it seems to be, and Miss Peregrine is a good – but mysterious – tutor. The relationships between characters are thoughtful and sweet, something the movie doesn’t quite to justice to.
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.
Title: The Little Stranger
Author: Sarah Waters
Genre: Mystery; Gothic
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) The Little Stranger follows the strange adventures of Dr. Faraday, the son of a maid who has built a life of quiet respectability as a country doctor. One dusty postwar summer in his home of rural Warwickshire, he is called to a patient at Hundreds Hall. Home to the Ayres family for more than two centuries, the Georgian house, once grand and handsome, is now in decline, its masonry crumbling, its gardens choked with weeds, the clock in its stable yard permanently fixed at twenty to nine. But are the Ayreses haunted by something more ominous than a dying way of life? Little does Dr. Faraday know how closely, and how terrifyingly, their story is about to become entwined with his.
Review: I compared this book to Wuthering Heights for a class assignment and was surprised by how well written this book was. It’s got a dash of paranormal, a smidgen of mystery, a heaping spoonful of haunted, and a small bit of romance. If you’re interested in a haunted house and a bit of an annoying lead, this book is for you.
Following Dr. Faraday, the reader is allowed access to the Ayres family estate which has seen better days. His narration made me roll my eyes a bit while reading. He’s a grown adult, but stunted by the events of his past, he acts like a whiny child while around the Ayres. He is constantly trying to measure up to the grandeur of their name (or at least what their name used to be) and finds himself falling short all the time. Meanwhile, the Ayres family is going THROUGH some ish. There’s a supernatural element to the house that can’t be explained, an energy that is toxic. This energy leads to a building tension and later, a series of unfortunate events.
If gothic fiction is your thing, I think you’ll enjoy this one.