Friday, July 31, 2015

A Dash of Magical Realism

Published: June 13, 1995
Publisher: Putnam Adult
Received: Borrowed from my best friend

"What had she thought, that love was a toy, something easy and sweet, just to play with? Real love was dangerous, it got you from inside and held on tight, and if you didn't let go fast enough you might be willing to do anything for its sake."

Sally and Gillian Owens are orphaned at a young age. They are sent to live with their aunts: two older women who are known throughout their small Massachusetts town as witches. Both girls grow up resentful of their aunts and their aunts' practice, but the girls take this resentment out in different ways. Sally doesn't believe in the aunts' power, but she's always a good girl. She takes care of Gillian, the house, and ultimately her own family. After her husband's untimely death, Sally takes her two girls and moves away from the aunts. Gillian had left years earlier. She sought escape through boys--taking enough time to make them fall in love and then breaking their hearts when she couldn't feel the same. 

"Some people cannot be warned away from disaster. You can try, you can put up every alert, but they'll still go their own way."

Gillian needs Sally's help. Sally's girls are on the cusp of adulthood, but still young enough to be swayed by Gillian's antics. Sally doesn't want her sister being a bad influence, but she still loves her sister. So Sally helps Gillian bury her abusive dead ex in their backyard. But that's only the beginning of the end.

I loved this book. I'm obsessed with the movie. I think I saw it shortly after it came out, when I was young. I loved everything about it. I still love to watch it frequently. The book is really different than the movie. This is one time where I'm glad I read the book after the movie. Because reading the book, I could easily see a movie, but it wouldn't have been the one that was made. The movie took some liberties in basically every area to make the story more cinematic. 

This book really tackles the idea of love in every form. Is love still love if it can wane with devotion? Is it love if you have to take it from someone else? Is it love if it comes with pain? Is it love to want to protect people regardless of age or personal wishes? It looks at relationships from every angle: friendship, romantic love, familial ties. And Hoffman's writing is beautiful. It weaves the illusion of magic in the pages themselves. 

I would recommend this book to fans of magical realism and fans of intricate relationships.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Flowers Survive

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein
Published: Sept. 10, 2013
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Received: Borrowed a copy from the library

Rose Justice is piloting for America during World War II when she's captured by Nazis. They send her to Ravensbruck--the women's concentration camp known for performing atrocious surgeries on their prisoners.

Books set during World War II and the Holocaust are horrifying. I cry every time I read one. But I think it's important to remind ourselves of the atrocities human people can commit against one another. Rose Under Fire tells a unique story in that most of the characters are not Jewish. These are prisoners of war, these are Polish women and Russian women and French women and an American. Obviously the genocide of Jewish people was a major portion of the Holocaust, but there were other people who had to endure the horrors of concentration camps. I appreciated this look into that side of the story too.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Fantasy Round-Up

Hello Lovelies!!

Since I fell so behind in my reviews over the last month and a half or so, I decided to group some reviews up by genre. Here's the books I've read with a fantasy twist.

Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu
Published: Sept 27, 2011
Publisher: Walden Pond Press
Received: Borrowed a copy from the library!

In this retelling of The Snow Queen, Hazel and Jack have been next-door neighbors and best friends forever. But after an accident on the playground, Jack changes. He doesn't want to hang out with Hazel anymore. But Hazel knows that this is the normal growth her mom keeps saying it is. So when Jack goes missing, Hazel goes into the forest to find him.

I loved that this retelling keeps the characters young (like my other favorite retelling of The Snow Queen by Mary Engelbreit) and the relationship platonic. The thing I love about The Snow Queen is that Gerda loves Kay because they're friends. It isn't about romance. It's about friendship. Ursu keeps that heart, and I was so so glad. Ursu also mixes in a couple different stories to the core which I found really interesting. 

I would definitely recommend this book to people who enjoy fantasy narratives about friendship.

Fire by Kristin Cashore
Published: Oct. 5, 2009
Publisher: Dial Books
Received: Borrowed a copy from the library!

Fire's bright red hair marks her as other, as a monster. It also draws other non-human monsters to her. She's the daughter of an evil man, and she wants to atone for her actions. Her monstrousness gives her power over others. But she doesn't want to use it. Until Prince Brigan comes to take her to the royal city and his brother, King Nash. Fire might have to compromise her morals in order to save her kingdom. 

Fire starts out tough. Graceling eases readers into the tale. Fire drops you in: a reading trial by fire. Fire is a lot more intense of a read than Graceling. It considers the monster side of human nature and the human side of monsters. I  would recommend Fire to fans of the first book, fans of fantasy novels, and fans of character driven narratives.

Jackaby by William Ritter
Published: Sept. 16, 2014
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Received: Borrowed a copy from the library!

Abigail Rook just moved to the continent from England. And in her search for a place to stay and a job, she meets R. F. Jackaby. Basically Ritter's take on Doctor Who + Sherlock, Jackaby is a detective who can see all the things others can't, including fairies and trolls and banshees. 

I was so disappointed in Jackaby. It reads exactly like Ritter is a fan of Doctor Who and Sherlock and thought, oh what if I just smushed them? Abigail is also supposed to be a "strong female character" who sets off on her own in 1892. However, besides how unrealistic that set-up is, Abigail frequently seems at a loss as to how to even be a 3-dimensional character. Ritter seems to have wanted to write about Jackaby without actually making him the main character. However neither Jackaby nor Abigail are fully developed. In fact, the whole thing was completely predictable. The only enjoyable part was a third character who showed up every so often. 

Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta
Published: Mar. 13, 2012
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Received: Borrowed 

Froi has spent the last three years building a home in Lumatere. He's been trained by the guard and the High Priest, and he's created a family for himself. When Queen Isaboe asks him to go to Charyn to find the king and kill him, Froi agrees. But when he goes to Charyn, he finds himself in a situation he never expected.

This series just gets better. Every book adds more layers to the characters and creates a bigger entanglement of the plot. Froi's a morally grey character, but he grows and he learns. I would highly recommend this series to fantasy lovers.

Quintana of Charyn by Melina Marchetta
Published: Apr. 23, 2013
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Received: Borrowed

This is everything a final book should be. It's got its own plot and its own heartbreak. It wraps up story lines, but it also lets the world exist on its own. I couldn't wait to finish it, but I wanted to read and feel each moment. 

I love how everything works out. It's not perfect in the traditional sense, but it makes sense for the universe and the characters. Stellar finale. 

Have you read any of these? Any books you think I should read based on these? Let me know in the comments!!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Contemporary Round-Up

Hello Lovelies!!

As I mentioned before, I'm really behind on my reviews. So I'm doing a couple of themed round-ups to catch-up. These cover all the books I've read in a certain genre for the last month and a half or so.

With summer time, I felt the need to breeze through a boatload of contemporaries or books which fit the contemporary genre. Here's what I've read so far.

My Love, My Love or The Peasant Girl by Rosa Guy
Published: 1985
Publisher: Holt McDougal
Received: Borrowed from a friend

"When the heads and hearts of fools and children are filled with the images of gods and ghosts, 
what room is there for reason?"

So this walks a fine line between contemporary and fantasy, but I decided to put it here and call it a contemporary with a dash of magical realism. It's a retelling of the Little Mermaid (the Hans Christian Andersen, not the Disney) and it's set on a tropical island. The main character is Desiree, a peasant girl who saves the life of an aristocratic young man after a car accident. Desiree nurses him back to life, although his father comes and takes him away before he awakes. Desiree believes the young man will love her, so she leaves her home and adventures to the big city to meet him.

"Misfortune never waits to be invited in. He comes to the door and takes off his hat, pretending he's welcome. He sits at your table and never leaves until he sees your bones."

This retelling is written so beautifully. It tackles issues of race and class, but Guy writes the dialect. She doesn't mock it or do tags so readers will read it in a specific manner. Her writing and word choice just manages to convey the atmosphere exactly. I'm not sure I enjoyed it. But I enjoyed the experience of reading it.

"For the poor, all gates are difficult to enter--even the gates of heaven."

I would recommend this to fans of the original Little Mermaid, and for people who enjoy reading about different cultures. It was short but managed to make me think a lot. 

Published: Apr. 15, 2014
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Received: Bought a copy for my Kindle!

Lara Jean writes letters to move on from crushes. As soon as she thinks a guy is officially out of her reach (they get a girlfriend or move or whatever), she writes a letter telling them how she felt. She stores these letters in her room where they will never see the light of day. Until each letter is accidentally mailed out to its never intended recipient. Now Lara Jean has to confront these boys face-to-face and in doing so, she creates an even more unexpected situation.

I really enjoyed this one! It's sweet and cute and just reminded me of high school so much. The whole "not knowing who to like or who likes you" never goes away, but this book has the trappings of high school and it really brought me back there. It was such a quick read for me. I couldn't wait to keep reading it, and I loved it. 

I would recommend this to fans of contemporary romances and character driven books. 

Published: Sept. 24, 2013
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Received: Picked up a free copy at school!

"There are so many maybes in life, but sometimes you just have to put your faith in possibility."

I've been meaning to read this for a while since one of my favorite bookbloggers recommended it a couple years back. When I saw it on a stack of free books at my school, I grabbed it. I read it in basically one sitting. Callie was stolen by her mom when she was very young. They've lived life on the road for as long as Callie can remember. Her mom is unstable, but Callie loves her. When Callie's mom is pulled over, Callie's true identity comes to light. Callie moves back in with her father (and his new family) and she has to adjust to her new life. The only thing that feels normal amidst all the weird is her reaction to the older guy she meets at the docks.

This book made me feel all the things. It's heartbreaking and precious and hopeful. It made me think of all the terrible things that people survive and how people can help each other survive. I would recommend it to fans of contemporary romances and character driven novels. 

P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han
Published: May 26, 2015
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Received: Borrowed from a friend, thanks Melissa!

"I can see now that it's the little things, the small efforts, that keep a relationship going."

In this sequel to To All the Boys I've Loved Before, Lara Jean picks up right where the first one ends. Lara Jean had a bit of a disaster on her ends after the last one, and here she needs to pick up the pieces. She's made her choice, but now she has to find out if it's reciprocated. Then someone else steps into the picture. 

I loved this one just as much as the first one. It's a little bit repetitive as far as plot goes (so for people who hate that, this might not be for you), but I enjoyed it. Lara Jean is a very sympathetic character, and I found myself rooting for her even when she was making choices that I could see were completely awful. I would recommend this for fans of the first book, fans of contemporary romances, and fans of character driven books.

Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway
Published: Jun. 23, 2015
Publisher: HarperTeen
Received: Picked up a free copy at school!

Emmy remembers the day Oliver was kidnapped by his father. She remembers the note which said he liked her. She remembers watching him get in the car with his dad. And she remembers all the moments since when he didn't come back. Until ten years later, Oliver's fingerprints come up during a lab class. Now Oliver is back, but he's had ten years to change, and Emmy's been focused on who he used to be.

I loved this book! It was a quick read for me, another one I devoured in a single day. I'd never read books where the child was kidnapped and returned home until this summer, and then I read two within a single week. But they were so different, and the characters were so realistic for both of them, that I loved them both on their own. Emmy & Oliver is about all the little ways people change over the years, and all the quirks they keep even as they grow-up. 

I would recommend this book to fans of contemporary romances and character driven plots.

Published: Jan. 1, 2013
Publisher: Running Press Kids
Received: A gift from my lovely friends Melissa and Steve!

Frenchie Garcia has spent the last year spiraling into depression. Her parents think it's because of the end of senior year. Her friends think it's her pulling away from them. She's the only one who knows that she spent a magical night last year with her crush--the night before he killed himself. In an effort to heal, Frenchie decides to recreate the night with a guy who apparently likes her. 

This book made me think about how people interact with one another. It hit me in the heart and reminded me of some of my own past. I can't say I loved this book. But I can say that it affected me. I think it's worth reading. But it does come with some fairly heavy emotional baggage. Not for people looking for fluffy reads. 

The Nature of Jade by Deb Caletti
Published: Feb. 27, 2007
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Received: Bought a copy

Jade's had anxiety for about as long as she could remember. It's why she watches the elephant stream from the zoo down the road. It keeps her calm. And that's where she first sees the boy with the baby. She decides she wants to meet him, and of course, everything changes from there.

I wanted to like this book more than I actually did. It was nice to read about a character with anxiety who goes to a therapist. It was good to see that aspect of life normalized. But the story part just left me wanting more. Caletti was striving for realism, which I think she achieved, but it also isn't generally what I'm looking for in books. I get that sometimes relationships don't work, but in books, I want things to work out. I want the improbable to happen. I want people to get together and get better and get everything happy by the end. So I would recommend this book for people who prefer realistic depictions of life. 

What about you lovelies? Have you read any of these contemporaries? What else would you recommend to me?? Let me know in the comments!!