Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (3/22/22) – The Wide Starlight

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I think I saw The Wide Starlight on Edelweiss originally, but it’s been on my TBR for a good year and a half. I wasn’t able to go to the library last week, so I’ve been trawling the Kindle library for books to read, and came upon it again. To my surprise, it captured my heart—my first 5-star read of 2022!

Enjoy this week’s review!

The Wide Starlight – Nicole Lesperance

As a child, Eline Davis lived with her parents in Svalbard, raised on her mother’s fairytales. One of those tales cautioned to never whistle at the Northern Lights, lest they sweep you away to parts unknown. But Eline’s mother did just that, and she disappeared.

Ten years later, Eline and her father are living in Cape Cod. Now, the Northern Lights will be visible where she is, and she takes the opportunity to whistle and bring her mother back. Her mother returns, but vastly changed from the mother Eline knew and loved. Along with her return come strange, unexplainable occurrences—strange letters in the bushes, narwhals in the bay, and cloaked figures stalking her at every turn. The only way to make things right is to return to her old home in Svalbard, but what awaits her their may prove more dangerous than what the Northern Lights have in store.

TW/CW: loss of a loved one, emotional abuse, grief, animal death, depression, fire, near-death situations, description of a corpse

I am stunned. I am absolutely in awe. I picked this book up just because I needed a little fantasy to tide me over, but The Wide Starlight ended up being my first 5-star read of 2022!

The Wide Starlight is exactly what magical realism should be. It toes the line between reality and fairytale with the kind of ease I would have never expected from a debut novel. Lesperance’s writing is all-consuming and beautifully dreamlike, calling to mind the fairytale books that our parents told us as bedtime stories. And like an old fairytale, it balances raw reality with all things magical and cryptic. It’s the kind of book to get lost in.

On the subject of Lesperance’s writing, it’s also wonderfully immersive. With every word, I could see Eline’s green house at the top of the world and feel the chill of the Arctic wind at my cheeks. (Granted, it was chilly and snowing outside when I read this…nowhere near how freezing Svalbard is, I imagine) Every word paints a vivid picture, whether it’s of Eline’s harsh world or the stories she was raised on. Each character, from main characters like Eline to the minor characters that rarely appeared, had such an extensive degree of realism, and none of them felt like afterthoughts—everything was fleshed out.

For me, some of the best descriptions came through in Eline’s fairytale flashbacks. Not only did they tie up the loose ends within the world, the fairytales within gave new life to the story of Eline’s family. All of the stories are from Norwegian folklore, but I was particularly interested in the tale of Prince Lindworm—my dad mentioned a similar story recently, but the one he told me about was an Irish folktale. Archetypes are strange little beasts.

There’s also a consistent suspense that never dies down; Lesperance expertly built and maintained tension throughout the novel. Although the plot itself had a relatively moderate pace, Lesperance continually kept me on my toes with obstacles both real and supernatural. Magical realism novels generally keep a slow to medium pace, and it’s difficult to keep the plot moving, but Nicole Lesperance did so with ease.

But what brings The Wide Starlight together, in the end, is its emotional weight. Grief, depression, and generational trauma are ever-present in this novel, but Lesperance handled them in a way that was deeply grounded in emotion but still conscious of its reality. Eline’s journey with grappling with who her mother and grandmother were was a powerful one, and the conclusion she came to was equally powerful—sometimes grief clouds our memories of the people we love. Alongside that, there’s a powerful message about generational trauma; Eline’s mother’s side of the family is fraught with emotional abuse and depression, but not all of it is as one-sided as she once perceived it to be. Ultimately, Eline’s journey leads to forging her own path, informed by her past but not too rooted in it. The Wide Starlight is a book that is certain to stick with you. Certainly still sticking with me.

All in all, a deeply powerful and emotional piece of magical realism that melds fairytales with the harsh realities of family and coping with grief. You don’t want to pass this one by. 5 stars!

The Wide Starlight is a standalone and Nicole Lesperance’s debut novel. She is also the author of the Nightmare Thief duology (The Nightmare Thief and The Dream Spies) and the forthcoming novel The Depths, which is slated for release this October.

Today’s song:

NEW ARCADE FIRE THIS IS NOT A DRILL

That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

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Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (4/13/21) – These Violent Delights

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

A bit of good news before I begin; for one, I got the SAT over with today! I actually feel fairly confident on the math portion, for once. And this afternoon, I got my first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine! I’ll be getting dose 2 in a few weeks, and I’m so relieved.

Anyway, this book has been on my radar for a while, what with it generating mountains of hype before and after its November 2020 release. It finally came to the library recently, and I’m so glad I got to read it! Not 100% worth the hype, but a truly inventive retelling.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Amazon.com: These Violent Delights (9781534457690): Gong, Chloe: Books

These Violent Delights (These Violent Delights, #1) – Chloe Gong

My library copy ft. a cool filter and one of my bookshelves

Shanghai, 1926. A war between the Scarlet Gang and the White Flowers is brewing, and a gruesome illness and rumors of monsters run amok in the city. Caught in the middle are Juliette Cai, heiress of the Scarlet Gang, and Roma Montagov, her ex-lover and sworn enemy. As members of both gangs fall ill to the gory malady, they must set aside their pasts and work together before they fall prey to it.

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TW/CW: graphic violence, body horror, abuse, gruesome descriptions of illness, substance abuse, blood

The hype made my expectations for this one pretty high, but I’m glad to say that These Violent Delights lived up to a good portion of it! Not a perfect novel, but one I enjoyed a whole lot.

First off, can we give a round of applause to Chloe Gong for putting such an inventive twist on Romeo & Juliet? I LOVED the setting, first off; it’s both a time period and a place that don’t usually turn up in YA, and the descriptions made me feel as through I was walking in Juliette’s footsteps. The discussions of racism and colonialism gave another layer of darkness to the setting as well, which made it feel a lot more authentic, especially when we saw it through Juliette’s eyes. The gang rivalry set the perfect scene for an R&J retelling, and a lot of the related scenes gave me some slight Fargo (Year 4) vibes, which is always a resounding YES in my book. And to top all that wondrousness off, supernatural vibes! The fantasy element of the plague and the monster in the river were woven in seamlessly with the historical setting, making for a world that felt lush and wonderfully fleshed-out.

As for the characters, Juliette was probably my favorite; she had a refreshing amount of agency, and she was full of drive and wit. I didn’t like Roma quite as much, but his backstory seamlessly fed into his character and made him feel more authentic. And I LOVE LOVE LOVED Benedikt and Marshall! They had such lovely chemistry, and Benedikt especially (my favorite behind Juliette) had such distinct qualities that truly set them apart in this story. It was also loads of fun to make connections back to Shakespeare’s original work, although…I had one problem: Tyler. I get it that he was supposed to be the Tybalt-surrogate, but…Tyler doesn’t seem like a 1920’s name at all. I get it that most of the Chinese characters in the novel had Westernized names, and I get that Tyler and Tybalt are very similar, but when I think of the name “Tyler,” I think more of 1990’s-2010’s, not 1920’s. I looked it up, and it seems like it was a fairly uncommon name at the time, but I could suspend my disbelief a little bit.

My other problem with the novel was with a certain aspect of the writing. For the most part, it was stellar; like I said, lush descriptions, gripping action, amazing prose. Thing is, there were a lot of metaphors that got stretched out far beyond their use. If some of the metaphors remained at one sentence, it would’ve been fine. However, some of them got dragged out to…entire paragraphs, which…mmm, nope, not my cup of tea. [gets out a pair of gardening shears to trim the purple prose down] Lots of drama in the writing department, but it fit with the story, for the most part. It was a lot to handle sometimes, but given…well, everything about the plot, I can see the point of most of it.

All in all, a high-stakes, high-drama retelling of Romeo and Juliet full of action and authenticity. 3.75 stars, rounded up to 4!

rabbi milligan Tumblr posts - Tumbral.com

These Violent Delights is Chloe Gong’s debut novel, and is the first novel in the These Violent Delights duology. Its sequel, Our Violent Ends, is slated for release in November 2021.

Today’s song:

NEW DANNY ELFMAN ALBUM IN JUNE THIS IS NOT A DRILL

That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Book Review Tuesday, Books

Book Review Tuesday (6/9/20)–Hollow Kingdom

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

This one hasn’t been on my TBR for very long, but I did a Goodreads Monday on it back in January. Aside from the fact that…well, the book basically deals with the zombie apocalypse (forgot about that when I put it on hold), I figured it would be a good read for quarantine. And I was not disappointed in the least! All at once irreverently funny and a beautiful testament to the power of nature.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton

Hollow Kingdom–Kira Jane Buxton

S.T. is a crow, living a comfortable life after being rescued as a chick by a man named Big Jim. Along with Big Jim’s dim-witted bloodhound, Dennis, they live in peaceful harmony just outside of Seattle. But when Big Jim begins acting strangely and lashing out, S.T. faces an unfortunate truth–Big Jim will never be the same again.

With Dennis at his side, S.T. must venture outside the comfort of his home and into the wild. Will they be able to find a cure for Big Jim’s malady–and potentially save the human race?

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Hollow Kingdom was such a unique book! A wonderful deviation not only from your garden variety zombie apocalypse book, but very different from many written from the perspectives of animals.

S.T. has the most clever, irreverent voice–often colorful in language, but capable of deep reverence and wisdom as well. The intellect and mannerisms of these intelligent birds made for no shortage of hysterical interactions and observations between him and the other creatures he encounters, be it the language he picks up from Big Jim or his commentary on other types of animals. I don’t think I’ve laughed as much at a book since I read Good Omens last year.

Buxton clearly put so much detail into the lives and familial structures of all the animals, from the domestic ones to the murders of crows that S.T. and Dennis encounter on their travels. There’s even some little tidbits from other animals across the world, from a Polar bear in the Arctic Circle to a maniacal house cat not far from where S.T. used to live. Buxton’s reverence and love for the animal kingdom truly shines in this novel.

As someone who has grown up with a myriad of pets and watched David Attenborough’s documentaries almost religiously, I connected so much to this book. I haven’t read any books from the perspective of an animal in ages (mostly because I’ve moved over from more MG-leaning novels to YA ones, and animal POVs are incredibly rare in the latter), and Buxton does such an incredible job building this multilayered world of animals, wild and tame alike.

My only criticism is that part of the theme got a bit lost in the writing. Buxton mentions something about the cause of the zombie virus coming from technology, which is an obvious critique of our disconnection from nature and our coddling of electronics. However, the topic doesn’t resurface afterwards, which left me a little confused as to what Buxton was trying to say otherwise.

However, my criticism really ends there. All in all, a clever novel that strikes a perfect balance between flippant and reverent writing and shows a true respect for the natural world. 4.25 stars for me!

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Hollow Kingdom is a standalone, and Kira Jane Buxton’s debut novel. At the moment, she has nothing else out, but I look forward to anything else she writes 🙂

Today’s song:

(Woke up with this song stuck in my head…)

That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!