Sunday, May 20, 2018

What Should Be Wild by Julia Fine

Thank you Harper Books for the free copy of What Should Be Wild by Julia Fine. All opinions are my own. 

When I began reading What Should Be Wild, I wasn't entirely sure what to expect. I had heard the buzz words "magical realism" floating around the bookstagram sphere and was curious. But not curious enough to read any reviews ahead of time. I knew I wanted my experience with this book to be my own, as it had been far too long since I had read something magical and fairy tale-ish. Something I would not want to put down until it was finished, and I was crossing my fingers this book would deliver. 

My experience with this book was just that. Once I started, I had a hard time distancing myself from the story for very long. I also had a hard time picking up the other book I'm currently reading! I couldn't stop thinking about Maisie. Or the women in the woods. Their stories honestly captured me more than Maisie's did. I was delighted that we were given a chance to peer back in time and witness what had brought them to the woods beyond Urizon. 

If I'm being honest, the ending (particularly the last few chapters) felt rushed in a vague sort of way. It made sense and the ending was satisfying without a doubt, but I wanted more. My understanding of what brought the women to the woods is still a bit shaky. Maybe I've been away from fairy tale reading for too long and am expecting too many answers! Certainly the beauty of some stories are the parts left open for interpretation. But with this one I wanted to know all the details! And the whys. And hows.

That aside, I gave this book four stars on Goodreads because I would most certainly recommend it to a friend. Or strangers I see wandering the aisles of the bookstore looking for something interesting. I loved the story! I loved how different and original the tale was from start to finish, while also developing Maisie's view of the world and her own coming of age. Julia Fine wrote a beautiful tale of a girl with a fairy tale story to tell and I loved it. 

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Black Swans by Eve Babitz

Thank you Counterpoint Press for my advance copy of Eve Babitz's Black Swans!

First, I'd like to say that I honestly cannot believe I haven't crossed paths with an Eve Babitz. Where has she been all my life? When Counterpoint Press sent me a copy of the reissue of Black Swans, I was excited but went in blind in regards to her writing. Reading Black Swans was similar to the reading experiences I have when finishing a Joan Didion book. GIVE ME ALL THE DIDION. I felt the same after closing Black Swans. I immediately hopped on my computer to research Eve Babitz and her other titles.

There is something remarkable about reading a collection of essays like the ones in Black Swans. I felt like a tag along friend of Eve's throughout my reading, as if I was riding along in the car with her. Her writing creates such an easy atmosphere of wit and honesty, almost like a chat with a girlfriend you haven't seen in a pick up right where you left off and there is so much to share. Black Swans didn't lose me in a lot of political depth or name dropping, it carried me through the stories with a sense of familiarity. By the end, I almost felt like Eve and I were friends, ya know? She had shared these moments with me and they felt so personal. Something only a truly memorable author can do.

One of my favorite stories was Expensive Regrets, where Eve writes about a weekend with an Italian write in such a slow and mesmerizing way. I think I had officially fallen in love with the book at that point.

If you are interested in reading Black Swans, you can find it here. Thanks again Counterpoint Press for my copy! I am an Eve Babitz fan for life now.

Monday, April 16, 2018

School for Psychics by K.C. Archer

I'd like to thank Simon Books for my advance copy of School for Psychics by K.C. Archer!

Lately Ive felt like a lot of my reading has been a bit on the heavy side. Sometimes that comes with the territory, since historical fiction is my favorite genre, but after a few books I often times need to give my emotions bit of a break! Finding the perfect easy story to escape into is such a breath of fresh air. 

School for Psychics by K. C. Archer was just that book for me last week! I picked it up at the recommendation from Dana at Simon and Schuster. Instantly, the main character and quick paced story line had me hooked. I read this one easily in about three days and will definitely pick up the next book in the series. I found the plot interesting and it kept me guessing at times, although certain aspects of the story were predictable. I didn't find myself particularly invested in the main character but she was likable enough that I was rooting for her in the end.  

If you enjoy a quick, fast paced read with a cast of characters who may or may not be who they seem, this is your book! 

You can read more about School for Psychics by K. C. Archer here

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

CIRCE by Madeline Miller

Thank you to Little Brown for my early copy of CIRCE by Madeline Miller. 

When I stumbled upon this title in the fall I was instantly captivated by the cover. Beautiful gold detailing and a simple title: CIRCE. I hadn't read Song of Achilles (it is on my shelves, but alas I haven't made time to read it yet), so I wasn't sure what to expect with Miller's writing style or her approach with the numerous characters and stories in Greek Mythology. 

The cast of characters in any Greek myth are long, the gods and goddesses themselves are at once spiteful and forgiving. They play their cruel games and the repercussions resonate through future stories, popping up time and again so that any Greek Myth feels like a culmination of them all (at times). The players are all connected in some way, the gods and goddesses using their deceits and power against each other for fun. Anyone who knows anything about Greek mythology knows this to be true and reading a story like CIRCE is sure to call upon many of the names and places from mythology's most famous legends. Recognizing places, names and events while reading CIRCE was really a delight. It made me reminisce about my high school mythology class and the stories I had long since forgotten about! The Minotaur! Odysseus! 

Circe's character may be one of my favorites this year. She is written so well that by the end of the story I was completely enamored with her. A witch with the blood of Helios, a woman who had loved, a mother struggling to protect her child, a young girl blinded by a first love. The facets to this character were many and Miller wrote each layer of Circe's story so well. She made me want to sit on Aiaia with Circe and listen to her stories.

Overall, I believe this story will be one I think about and recommend for a long time. Escaping into the tragedies of the gods, traveling islands and lands of the past and conversing with strange creatures made for such a respite from the literary fiction I had been reading up to this point. And if that isn't reason enough, here is my favorite quote. That last line, how perfect. 

"I had no right to claim him, I knew it. But in a solitary life, there are rare moments when another soul dips near yours, as stars once a year brush the earth. Such a constellation was he to me." 

Friday, March 30, 2018

I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon

First off, HUGE thanks to Sarah at DoubleDay books for sending out an ARC for me to read in advance and THEN sending me a finished copy!!! Seriously, book people are the best people and this finished copy is just as gorgeous as the shiny ARC I carried around with me for a straight week.

When I first read about I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon, I knew I had to read it. As a lover of the cartoon movie and the soundtrack *SO GOOD* when I was little and then of course, knowing the fates of the Romanov family and the role Rasputin really played in their lives I have always been curious to learn more. It is one of those stories in history that is compelling and tragic and ends in a way that begs for hope, that the fate of the Romanov family was somehow not what it was.

I think what made my reading of this story so special was that I didn't know anything about the real Anna Anderson prior to my reading. And once I began, I didn't allow myself to research anything (sometimes while reading historical fiction I will look up places or events to give myself a frame of reference).
What I truly loved most about I Was Anastasia was how unique the reading experience was. We meet Anastasia as a young girl in the year leading up to the family's banishment to Siberia. We also meet, simultaneouly, Anna Anderson at the age of seventy. While Anastasia's story works forward in time, Anna Anderson's works backwards. Bits of her story line were confusing because of this, but only slightly. I quickly found myself caught up in both stories, wondering how and where (and if!) they would come together in the end. As both narratives played out, I also found myself building more and more hope for Anastasia and the woman that was Anna Anderson....despite everything my rational brain was trying to tell me. The evidence of a brilliant story teller, one who can make you dismiss rational thought/knowledge and hold out for hope!

 In the end, this story left me a little bit hurt if I am being honest. Without giving anything away, I gasped out loud when I turned that final page. And then instantly thought what a remarkable writer Lawhon is to have carried me on this wave of emotions for the entire book only to leave me at that final page, desperate and wondering what just happened but LOVING the whole story just the same.

Well done, Lawhon. I am recommending this book to EVERYONE that I meet. Strangers too. Really anyone that will listen.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi

First, I would like to thank Grove Atlantic for my copy of Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi, as well as the beautiful letterpress bookmark! Thank you! 

When I read the synopsis for Freshwater I was instantly intrigued but also a little hesitant to be honest. This isn't a story I would normally have pulled off a bookstore shelf on my own. But much to my surprise, I ended up really taking a lot away from this story. Freshwater left me rattled, it unsettled me and left me anxious for Ada, the main character. Those things aside, this debut is superbly and bravely written in a way I haven't seen in a long time. A beautiful story about a broken girl, Ada, whose mind has been shattered into other "selves", leaving the reader to wonder if those selves are truly gods or simply parts of Ada's brain struggling to survive the events she has lived through. 

"The world in my head has been far more real than the one outside, maybe that's the exact definition of madness..." p. 93

These fractured selves of Nigerian girl Ada, the collective WE that is telling the story, made me question everything I had previously assumed I knew or felt about depression, suicide, mental illness and multiple personalities. It gave voices to all of those pieces of Ada that had been compartmentalized inside her mind because of early and then later traumas. Some of the passages in this story took my breath away. It was like peering behind a curtain and seeing the truth of something I had only read about. 

I found myself copying quotes into my journal again and again while reading and also needing to take breaks when bits of the story became too intense. Sometimes this meant rereading a passage or two, to grasp the meaning of what was happening between Ada and her opposing selves inside the marble room of her mind. 

As much as this wasn't an "easy" story to read, the writing and imagery has left its mark on my heart and is a story that I won't soon forget. 

240 pages
Published by Grove Atlantic 

Thursday, March 1, 2018

I AM I AM I AM by Maggie O'Farrell

Having not read any of Maggie O'Farrell's novels, I wasn't sure what to expect from her book I AM I AM I AM.  A memoir, this collection of stories illustrates seventeen brushes with death and their affect on O'Farrell's life (emotionally and physically). Thank you Aaknopf of my free copy in exchange for an honest review. 

Each of the stories, some shorter than others, left me with a sense of fear, disbelief, anxiety. O'Farrell writes beautifully and in such a way that you can almost place yourself in her shoes. Reaching for those silver steps under the water, frantically searching for the lock button in your car, hoping against hope that man on the path means you no harm. A few of the stories left me shocked, I can't imagine all seventeen of these scenarios playing out in my own life. Even one or two of them would be more than enough for a person to rationalize. 

"If you are aware of these moments, they will alter you. You can try to forget them, to turn away form them, to shrug them off, but they will have infiltrated you, whether you like it or not." p.32

I sought out this book specifically because of my own experience following the birth of my son five years ago. An event that did not go as planned for myself and left me feeling shocked, pieces of myself strewn about that I clumsily tried to pick up and put back together in the first weeks and months at home with my brand new baby. Knowing one of O'Farrell's stories centered around her own near death labor experience, I was curious. I wanted to read this not just for the "what happened" but for how she put herself back together afterwards. There are few people in my own personal life I can discuss this topic with in any sort of depth, when it comes to having someone truly understand my own feelings. 

When I finally reached the last story, I was tempted to go back and reread a few of chapter. By the end O'Farrell's words had crescendoed to a larger sense of hope. This woman who had escaped deaths grasp so many times, in moments that had one thing or the other happened instead....well it just puts life in perspective. Her strength to battle on, knowing that death can be around any corner at any time (she has proof!) is truly inspiring. Im sure that many people would have been crushed under the weight of just some of those experiences, let alone all of them. I spent a lot of time discussing some of this with my husband as I was reading, including a few "what would you do" moments. One of my favorite parts of reading a good book is wanting to share it with him, to discuss what is happening in a story or bounce my thoughts off of him. 

Thank you Aaknopf for this copy! I truly enjoyed reading it. 

I AM I AM I AM by Maggie O'Farrell
Published by Aaknopf
304 pages