Favorite Yearly Reads

Book Review: The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

The Most Fun We Ever Had is an ambitious debut at over 500+ pages. It’s a multi-generational family saga spanning decades with Chicago-based husband and wife, David and Marilyn Sorenson along with their four adult daughters. It is a character-driven story told through multiple narratives that covers parenthood and sisterhood, old rivalries, adoption, grief, coming-of-age tales, and family dysfunction.

This novel was highly anticipated as well as hyped in the book community, and ultimately saw mixed reviews so I was hesitant on writing a review myself because I felt like all sides were discussed. I did read this book at the beginning of 2020—it was actually my first book of the year and since then I have not stopped thinking about it and have looked for similar books of the genre to read so wanted to share my thoughts.

While at times it is too wordy and over-detailed, with certain characters who are less than civil and often annoying, I found myself drawn to the Sorenson family and their stories because they were messy, funny, challenging, and complicated but also sincere and loving. Some characters had grown over the course of 500 pages while others found acceptance with who they are as individuals or the inner turmoil they were facing, but what I appreciated was the distinctive personalities each of them had and how authentic and realistic they were portrayed. There were certainly characters who I could not stand because of mannerisms, tone-deaf remarks, or lack of sympathy they had towards every one around them, but I thought the author did a good job at keeping them distinct from the handful of other characters. Often times when there is a story with multiple characters, they all sort of mesh together and you cannot differ whose’s perspective you are reading, but that was not the case with this novel.

The Most Fun We Ever Had was an immersive, turbulent story that I could not wait to finish because I wanted to find out the conclusion to the character’s stories, however it was not without it’s flaws—I think this book could have been cut by 100 pages and the character’s own stories would not have gone without any substance or progression. Despite that, this was a book that I loved and reminded me how engaging multi-generational family sagas can be. I found this book to be one that offered an intimate portrayal of the complex dynamics of family and realistically flawed characters who were relatable in various ways and did not shy away from being imperfect.

Synopsis

“When Marilyn Connolly and David Sorenson fall in love in the 1970s, they are blithely ignorant of all that’s to come. By 2016, their four radically different daughters are each in a state of unrest: Wendy, widowed young, soothes herself with booze and younger men; Violet, a litigator-turned-stay-at-home-mom, battles anxiety and self-doubt when the darkest part of her past resurfaces; Liza, a neurotic and newly tenured professor, finds herself pregnant with a baby she’s not sure she wants by a man she’s not sure she loves; and Grace, the dawdling youngest daughter, begins living a lie that no one in her family even suspects. Above it all, the daughters share the lingering fear that they will never find a love quite like their parents’.”

Hardcover, 532 pages
Published June 25th 2019 by Doubleday Books

Goodreads | Amazon | Author’s Website

4 Star Reads, Adult Fiction, Book Reviews

Book Review: The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida by Clarissa Goenawan

★ ★ ★ ★

Clarissa Goenawan’s second novel, The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida expands upon the world of Rainbirds, her debut novel. There is simplicity yet depth and elegance when it comes to her prose that is refreshing and something that I appreciate about her writing style. So it was no surprise when I read the entirety of this novel within 5 hours while sick in bed. I would like to thank Clarissa Goenawan and Soho Press for sending me an advanced copy.

It follows three friends of Miwako, a Tokyo university student, who seek to understand why she disappeared to a remote village and committed suicide. Before going further into the review just yet, I want to put a disclaimer that the book does obviously involved suicide and death, which is clear in the synopsis, but also sexual assault. It is not detailed, but it is mentioned so I just want to state that for those who would like to know prior to reading.

The story is told through three parts and character perspectives—Ryusei, Chie, and Fumi, who are all trying to understand what lead Miwako to make the decision she did and what was going on in her life prior to that day. Each part offers a different perspective, but also allows the reader to see the facade Miwako altered depending on who she was around to hide what she was going through. It alternates between past and present, so we also get a glimpse into the others’ lives and how Miwako impacted them. Miwako is a compelling and quite frankly cryptic protagonist, but all of the characters are fleshed out and relatable with their own emotions and personal challenges that they are facing. The story deals with not just death and grief, but sexuality and gender, coming-of-age struggles, sexual assault, and the inner turmoil of secrets and our decisions. There is this lingering sense of hopelessness throughout the book, but by the end of it, there is hope again for the characters, even though you know there are still challenges ahead.

Goenawan’s storytelling takes a tragic or dark history of a character that needs to be unraveled and shows the vulnerability and challenges that people face when they desperately want to uncover the truth but also reveals the strength that they have too. Sometimes, in a way, it had me questioning whether or not what was taking place was actually reality. I find her stories tend to have this otherworldly atmosphere with some mystical elements scattered throughout despite it seeming like contemporary, so part three of this story was not surprising and I enjoyed the way it concluded.

Synopsis

“University sophomore Miwako Sumida has hanged herself, leaving those closest to her reeling. In the months before her suicide, she was hiding away in a remote mountainside village, but what, or whom, was she running from?

Ryusei, a fellow student at Waseda who harbored unrequited feelings for Miwako, begs her best friend Chie to bring him to the remote village where she spent her final days. While they are away, his older sister, Fumi, who took Miwako on as an apprentice in her art studio, receives an unexpected guest at her apartment in Tokyo, distracting her from her fear that Miwako’s death may ruin what is left of her brother’s life.”

Hardcover, 288 pages
Expected publication: March 10th 2020 by Soho Press

Goodreads | Amazon | Author’s Website

I received a copy in exchange for an unbiased review from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Adult Fiction, Currently Reading, New Releases

6 Books I Want to Read this Summer

When it comes to summer reads, I tend to reach for character driven stories or fast-paced thrillers. Now that it is officially summer (hello to the not-so-welcomed humid 90 degree days!) I wanted to share a couple of the books I am hoping to read over the next few months.

The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo

A dazzling, multi-generational novel in which the four adult daughters of a Chicago couple–still madly in love after forty years–recklessly ignite old rivalries until a long-buried secret threatens to shatter the lives they’ve built. Spanning nearly half a century, and set against the quintessential American backdrop of Chicago and its prospering suburbs, Lombardo’s debut explores the triumphs and burdens of love, the fraught tethers of parenthood and sisterhood, and the baffling mixture of affection, abhorrence, resistance, and submission we feel for those closest to us.

The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri

Nuri is a beekeeper; his wife, Afra, an artist. They live a simple life, rich in family and friends, in the beautiful Syrian city of Aleppo–until the unthinkable happens. When all they care for is destroyed by war, they are forced to escape. But what Afra has seen is so terrible she has gone blind, and so they must embark on a perilous journey through Turkey and Greece towards an uncertain future in Britain. On the way, Nuri is sustained by the knowledge that waiting for them is Mustafa, his cousin and business partner, who has started an apiary and is teaching fellow refugees in Yorkshire to keep bees.

Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson


Amy Whey is proud of her ordinary life and the simple pleasures that come with it—teaching diving lessons, baking cookies for new neighbors, helping her best friend, Charlotte, run their local book club. Her greatest joy is her family: her devoted professor husband, her spirited fifteen-year-old stepdaughter, her adorable infant son. And, of course, the steadfast and supportive Charlotte. But Amy’s sweet, uncomplicated life begins to unravel when the mysterious and alluring Angelica Roux arrives on her doorstep one book club night.

Strangers and Cousins by Leah Hager Cohen

In the seemingly idyllic town of Rundle Junction, Bennie and Walter are preparing to host the wedding of their eldest daughter Clem. A marriage ceremony at their beloved, rambling home should be the happiest of occasions, but Walter and Bennie have a secret. A new community has moved to Rundle Junction, threatening the social order and forcing Bennie and Walter to confront uncomfortable truths about the lengths they would go to maintain harmony.

We Went to the Woods by Caite Dolan-Leach

Certain that society is on the verge of economic and environmental collapse, five disillusioned twenty-somethings make a bold decision: They gather in upstate New York to transform an abandoned farm, once the site of a turn-of-the-century socialist commune, into an idyllic self-sustaining compound called the Homestead. Initially exhilarated by restoring the rustic dwellings, planting a garden, and learning the secrets of fermentation, the group is soon divided by slights, intense romantic and sexual relationships, jealousies, and suspicions. And as winter settles in, their experiment begins to feel not only misguided, but deeply isolating and dangerous.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.

What are you reading this summer?

So there you have it, the few books I’m hoping to pick up this summer! What is everyone else planning on picking up? If you’ve read one of the books listed above, please share your thoughts!

3 Star Reads, Adult Fiction

Book Review: Foe by Iain Reid

★ ★ ★
Foe is described as a “taut, psychological mind-bender” and while that is fitting, for me it was more of a slow burn, character driven story that is centered around relationships and isolation. It had that uneasiness within the first couple of pages that never leaves long after you’ve finished reading it. I cannot discuss too much into the plot, and to be honest, not much actually happens in this story—it relays a lot on dialogue and the thoughts of one character, our main protagonist.

Junior and Henrietta live a quiet life in solitude on their farm. One day a stranger from the city arrives with news: Junior has been randomly selected to travel to space. Henrietta won’t have a chance to miss him though, because she won’t be alone, she will have company that’s already been arranged.

The chapters are short, some less than 2-pages, which I personally like because it makes the story feel like it’s progressing quicker and I can get through a handful of chapters in one go when I’m reading during free time throughout the day. I also found it a well fit for this type of novel due to the lack of events that went on and how this was heavy on inner monologue.

I am torn between a 2 1/2 or 3-star review because while this was lackluster in areas due to not much taking place and seemed to drag on despite being a relatively short novel, it ended on a surreal note that left me as a reader stunned. It was a predictable ending to some, but not one that I had in mind or thought about once while reading the story. The protagonist, Junior, offers a rather distorted narrative due to his troubled psyche and the strain this unwelcoming event has caused on their quiet, isolated farm. There is an unsettling feeling surrounding the surprise guest that seeps into the energy of the farm, and that makes it difficult to analyze the situation and piece together the unknown due to the complexity and uncertainty that builds.

If you are someone who enjoys thrillers with some science-fiction, or just an intriguing, keep-you-guessing quick read that you can read within a day or two, I would say pick up Foe and see for yourself. If you have read it, tell me your thoughts! Did you expect the ending or were you just as surprised?

Synopsis


“In Iain Reid’s second haunting, philosophical puzzle of a novel, set in the near-future, Junior and Henrietta live a comfortable, solitary life on their farm, far from the city lights, but in close quarters with each other. One day, a stranger from the city arrives with alarming news: Junior has been randomly selected to travel far away from the farm…very far away. The most unusual part? Arrangements have already been made so that when he leaves, Henrietta won’t have a chance to miss him, because she won’t be left alone—not even for a moment. Henrietta will have company. Familiar company.”

Kindle Edition, 272 pages
Published September 4th 2018 by Gallery/Scout Press

Goodreads | Amazon | Author’s Twitter

4 Star Reads, Book Reviews, Non Fiction

Book Review: Dead Mountain by Donnie Eichar

deadmountain
★ ★ ★ ★

One of my reading intentions this year was to read more nonfiction, and this was an excellent choice for my first read of 2019. Dead Mountain is riveting and informative nonfiction through the perspective of documentary filmmaker and author, Donnie Eichar, who sets out to piece together the mystery that is the Dyatlov Pass incident— the unsolved deaths surrounding the nine hikers in the northern Ural Mountains in Soviet Union (now Russia) between February 1st and 2nd in 1959. After coming across the story of the Dyatlov Pass incident, Eichar became fascinated with discovering the truth about what happened to the nine hikers on that fatal trip. The book uses the hiker’s personal journals and photography, government records, interviews with living relatives, and investigator notes to retrace the hikers’ story.

The book is essentially a reversed engineered investigation—told through three different timelines and alternates throughout until focalizing at the end: opening with the hikers in 1959 as they begin their excursion to obtain a Grade III in hiking, the reporting of the hikers missing and the investigation that soon begins, and following Eichar as he investigates the mystery by retracing the hikers’ route for any missed clues to that un-witnessed night.

As someone who doesn’t read much nonfiction and finds it sometimes hard to hold my interest, Eichar does a great job at outlining the day-to-day lives of the hikers and the investigating process that took place, writing it in a way that was not dry or overwhelming with unnecessary information for the reader. What happened to the hikers is still unknown, but Eichar tries to discover a logical theory to what actually took place during that night and eliminate those theories that have stirred up throughout the years. One of his concerns through the entire process of crafting this book was humanizing the hikers who lost their lives and the tragic story, he does it in a way that is always respectful to all those involved.

Dead Mountain is about a very odd tragedy, but Eichar did an excellent job at providing logical, science-based explanations and theory to what could have happened to the hikers, and he does so in a way that was compelling and informative for those curious about the Dyatlov Pass incident.

Synopsis 

In February 1959, a group of nine experienced hikers in the Russian Ural Mountains died mysteriously on an elevation known as Dead Mountain. Eerie aspects of the incident—unexplained violent injuries, signs that they cut open and fled the tent without proper clothing or shoes, a strange final photograph taken by one of the hikers, and elevated levels of radiation found on some of their clothes—have led to decades of speculation over what really happened. This gripping work of literary nonfiction delves into the mystery through unprecedented access to the hikers’ own journals and photographs, rarely seen government records, dozens of interviews, and the author’s retracing of the hikers’ fateful journey in the Russian winter. A fascinating portrait of the young hikers in the Soviet era, and a skillful interweaving of the hikers narrative, the investigators’ efforts, and the author’s investigations, here for the first time is the real story of what happened that night on Dead Mountain.

Kindle Edition, 288 pages
Published October 22nd 2013 by Chronicle Books LLC

Goodreads | Amazon

New Releases

Anticipated Releases of 2019

Hello and Happy New Year! 2019 is another exciting year for the book community with all the new titles releasing this year. I thought there was no better way than kicking off a bookish year with my first post being about my top 6 anticipated releases of 2019!

The Wicked King by Holly Black

After the jaw-dropping revelation that Oak is the heir to Faerie, Jude must keep her younger brother safe. To do so, she has bound the wicked king, Cardan, to her, and made herself the power behind the throne. Navigating the constantly shifting political alliances of Faerie would be difficult enough if Cardan were easy to control. But he does everything in his power to humiliate and undermine her even as his fascination with her remains undiminished.

The Burning Chambers by Kate Mosse

France, 1562: Nineteen-year-old Minou Joubert receives an anonymous letter at her father’s bookshop. Sealed with a distinctive family crest, it contains just five words: SHE KNOWS THAT YOU LIVE. But before Minou can decipher the mysterious message, a chance encounter with a young Huguenot convert, Piet Reydon, changes her destiny forever. For Piet has a dangerous mission of his own, and he will need Minou’s help if he is to stay alive. As the religious divide deepens, and old friends become enemies, Minou and Piet both find themselves trapped in Toulouse, facing new dangers as tensions ignite across the city. All the while, the shadowy mistress of Puivert Château—obsessed with uncovering the secrets of a long-hidden document—strengthens her power and waits for the perfect time to strike…

The Farm by Joanne Ramos

Nestled in the Hudson Valley is a sumptuous retreat boasting every amenity: organic meals, private fitness trainers, daily massages–and all of it for free. In fact, you get paid big money–more than you’ve ever dreamed of–to spend a few seasons in this luxurious locale. The catch? For nine months, you belong to the Farm. You cannot leave the grounds; your every move is monitored. Your former life will seem a world away as you dedicate yourself to the all-consuming task of producing the perfect baby for your überwealthy clients. Jane, an immigrant from the Philippines and a struggling single mother, is thrilled to make it through the highly competitive Host selection process at the Farm. But now pregnant, fragile, consumed with worry for her own young daughter’s well-being, Jane grows desperate to reconnect with her life outside. Yet she cannot leave the Farm or she will lose the life-changing fee she’ll receive on delivery–or worse.

The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin

It begins in a big yellow house with a funeral, an iron poker, and a brief variation forever known as the Pause: a free and feral summer in a middle-class Connecticut town. Caught between the predictable life they once led and an uncertain future that stretches before them, the Skinner siblings—fierce Renee, sensitive Caroline, golden boy Joe and watchful Fiona—emerge from the Pause staunchly loyal and deeply connected.  Two decades later, the siblings find themselves once again confronted with a family crisis that tests the strength of these bonds and forces them to question the life choices they’ve made and ask what, exactly, they will do for love. 

The Far Field by Madhuri Vijay

In the wake of her mother’s death, Shalini, a privileged and restless young woman from Bangalore, sets out for a remote Himalayan village in the troubled northern region of Kashmir. Certain that the loss of her mother is somehow connected to the decade-old disappearance of Bashir Ahmed, a charming Kashmiri salesman who frequented her childhood home, she is determined to confront him. But upon her arrival, Shalini is brought face to face with Kashmir’s politics, as well as the tangled history of the local family that takes her in. And when life in the village turns volatile and old hatreds threaten to erupt into violence, Shalini finds herself forced to make a series of choices that could hold dangerous repercussions for the very people she has come to love.

The Last Woman in the Forest by Diane Les Becquets

Marian Engström has found her true calling: working with rescue dogs to help protect endangered wildlife. Her first assignment takes her to northern Alberta, where she falls in love with her mentor, the daring and brilliant Tate. After they’re separated from each other on another assignment, Marian is shattered to learn of Tate’s tragic death. Worse still is the aftermath in which Marian discovers disturbing inconsistencies about Tate’s life, and begins to wonder if the man she loved could have been responsible for the unsolved murders of at least four women.


Yearly Reading Goals

2019 Reading Goals

Hello everyone!

Can you believe there are only two more days until 2019? It does not even feel real, but we are already entering a new year, and with that comes reading challenges and goals to set out and accomplish within the next 12 months. It won’t be long before Goodreads will pop up with a notification to set our reading goal for 2019!

Reading Challenges

Throughout the years reading challenges have expanded and you will find a challenge for just about any reader, whether a child or someone looking to diversify their reading experience. The POPSUGAR 2019 Reading Challenge is here with 50 book prompts rather than their standard 40, with an additional 10 “advanced” prompts for those really looking to push their reading boundaries in the new year. 52 books in 52 weeks offers a variety of categories suggested by readers who participated in the previous year’s challenge, with prompts like “a self-published book” that is a great way to discover lesser-known authors or newly published, or the “an ugly cover” prompt, which is quite individualized in terms of what you consider to be an “ugly” book cover. New to me, The Birth Year Reading Challenge encourages you to discover and read books published in the year you were born, all while giving you the chance to win a prize.

Girlxoxo has compiled a master list of all the reading challenges for 2019 and it is continually being updated when more become available, so do not forget to check that out before settling on just one!

Reading challenges—while a great way to discover new authors and explore genres—is not something I will be participating in this coming year. I’ve tried numerous times in the past and never completed the challenges no matter how much I planned, and part of that is due to me being a mood/seasonal reader rather than someone who plans and sets a TBR (something I’ll expand on in another post, at the beginning of the year). I rather set some attainable and practical reading goals that I’ve thought about for some time, so that is what I’m going to do!

Reading Goals

I don’t necessarily like the term “goals” and was never really fond of New Years Resolutions because I feel like at the beginning of the year we are too compelled to set goals and challenges, and quickly they become lost when life becomes hectic after the new year bliss settles and we get back to routines. I prefer to consider some of the bullet points below as things I intend to do throughout the next year that I want to become a part of my lifestyle. Personally, I prefer to read whatever I am in the mood for rather than follow a prompt list. I also do not want to put too much pressure on myself because I want to be able to enjoy reading and I know a lot of us can feel overwhelmed or get into a funk when we stop enjoying the books that we are reading because we are so focused on finishing challenges and goals.

Keeping in mind that I was a bit overwhelmed trying to read this past year between college, work, and other life commitments, I am keeping it simple and flexible. So a minimal, realistic approach is my take on reading goals in 2019!

  • Read 24 books. One nonfiction and one fiction a month. Graphic novels will be counted towards my goal.
  • Tackle unread books. I buy maybe 5 books a year, utilize my library, and receive numerous from publishers, but there are books on my shelves from up to 6 years ago that I have not begun reading, and I’d like to start.
  • Donate books. Keeping the previous point in mind, donating unread books that I am no longer interested in or books that I have read, but do not want to keep is something that I plan on doing this year—both to local bookstores and libraries.
  • Shop local or indie. When I do buy books, whether for myself or a gift, I do want to make it a point to shop local or at independent bookshops.
  • Read a classic. Just one. Maybe I will surprise myself and read more, but I would like to include at least one classic in my wrap-up at the end of 2019.
  • Read every day. Now obviously my textbooks do not count. I want to read at least 20 minutes every morning or evening and while I usually do not have the focus after reading for academics, I want to make time each day for what I am currently reading.
  • Journal reading. For this I mean, utilize the pages in the back of my planner and keep a list of all the titles I read throughout the year, perhaps with a short blurb of my thoughts and rating. It’ll help when I write reviews and a place to keep notes on what I have read.

So that is it! My reading goals are simple and can easily become a part of my daily routine—that is what I want for my 2019 reading year.

What are your thoughts on reading goals and challenges? Have you thought about what you plan on reading this coming year?

Favorite Yearly Reads

2018 Reading Wrap Up

The year is not over yet and while I am still reading two books, I couldn’t resist typing my wrap up post because I wanted to talk about all the books I’ve read this year and how, finally, at 24-years-old, I read the entire Harry Potter series! In terms of ratings, I had 22 4-stars, 19 3-stars, 11 2-stars, and 3 1-star reads. My average rating was 3.1, which for me is a good thing! I don’t necessarily feel that a 3-star rating is bad because for me, it means I liked the book, regardless of any minor issues I found with it and would recommend it.

First Review of 2018

The first novel of the year that I read was The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O’Neill, about two gifted orphans who travel around the city performing artistic routines but are separated as teenagers and sent to work as servants during the Great Depression. The story follows their lives until they finally reunite and set out to accomplish their childhood dream. My full review is available here—while I like to keep my reviews short, I couldn’t with this one! It was a story that I had so many feelings about and it is definitely one of my lengthier reviews, but I was passionate about it.

In fact, it is one of the books out of the year that was my favorite, even if it wasn’t a 5-star read. You’ll actually find that even though I did not have any 5-star reads this year, I have quite a few 4-star favorites.

I read a variety of genres this year but mainly stuck to fiction. I read some great graphic novels, including Draw Stronger by Kriota Willberg—perfect for those creative types to keep self-care and their well-being in mind—and Drama by Raina Telgemeier. I did not read as much nonfiction as I had hoped, but the one that stands out the most is Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond, that I read for my sociology class. A well-deserved winner of The Pulitzer, Evicted was an eye-opening, research-driven story about the lives of those affected by poverty and the cycle of eviction. If I can encourage you to read nonfiction in 2019, it would be Evicted.

Favorite Novels of 2018

My favorite novels of the year ranged from a memoir about a girl who leaves her survivalist family and goes on to earn a PhD from Cambridge University, to a young-adult fantasy novel involving her parents’ murder and an enchanting-yet-dark realm with fae. Below are the top 5 favorite books that I read this year! You can find the reviews for all expect The Cruel Prince and Educated here on my blog.

  1. Rainbirds by Clarissa Goenawan
  2. English Animals by Laura Kaye
  3. The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
  4. As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner
  5. Educated by Tara Westover

Authors I’m Looking Out for in 2019

There were two debut novels this year that I adored, and because of that, I discovered new authors that I’m looking out for in the coming year while anticipating their upcoming and/or future releases. These are authors that I had looked up on Goodreads or social media—not yet finished reading their novels—because I wanted to know what else they had available to read.

Clarissa Goenawan’s debut novel, Rainbirds was an atmospheric family mystery with hints of magical realism. It is a story that immerses you from the beginning pages with its beautifully written lyrical prose. Complex characters with a compelling story, I am looking forward to reading what she publishes in the future.

Laura Kaye’s writing style has this old-fashioned atmosphere to it—English Animals being an impressive debut that showcased that captivating air. English Animals had a simplicity to it in terms of a writing style that at times did become tedious, but it was authentic to seeing the story through the protagonist’s perspective, who happened to not be a native English speaker. I saw on her website that she is finishing up her second novel, so I’m going to be keeping an eye on any upcoming news.

Harry Potter Series

Year after year, I set a goal to read one Harry Potter book a month but never got around to it for one reason or another, until this year. Finally, at 24-years-old, I have read the entire series of Harry Potter! Mainly because of my boyfriend, who had read the series multiple times, and wanted us to read it together. So we began reading a book each month, and just finished the last one in time to marathon the movies over the holidays.

I liked the books, especially The Prisoner of Azkaban, Order of the Phoenix, and Half-Blood Prince. I do wish I had read the series as a child because as an adult, from my perspective, it does not have that same impression on me as it would have if I were younger with it being an enchanting spectacle. I had some conflictions about certain aspects of the story that were not detailed or just glossed over without any further explanation or perhaps being forgotten about later on in the series. That doesn’t mean that I did not like the series, because despite that I enjoyed it. It is one that I would consider reading to my nieces and nephews in the future. I found it magical, adventurous, and entertaining. It was deep and subtle when it needed to be, had the complexes that a novel builds on while maintaining simplicity for all ages to enjoy, and had a cast of characters that I couldn’t get enough of. Although I am forever bitter over Dobby—do not get me started on that.

Last Review of 2018

Northwood, a novella told in written passages and free-verse poetry that comes down to a tainted love affair and the struggle between desire and obsession, written by Maryse Meijer, is my final review of the year. My full review can be read here, but without a doubt, you’ll want to add this to your TBR of 2019.

So that is my reading wrap up for this year! I did not read as much as I wanted to, but I am okay with that! I discovered new authors, read many books that I thoroughly enjoyed, and appreciated new writing styles.

How was your reading this year? Did you reach your Goodreads goal? Discover a new genre or author you liked?

Currently Reading, Young Adult Fiction

Happy Holidays!

The semester is officially over and I’ve spent most of the week baking and reading as much as possible. My current read is The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee, whose previous novel in the Montague Siblings series, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, was one of my favorite reads of 2017. If you have not read it, I highly recommend it! It’s a fun, quick read with a cast of strong, witty characters and a heck of an adventure that awaits them. I remember reading The Gentleman’s Guide last year within one night, and how eager I was for the sequel that I requested it as soon as possible for my library to purchase it and put me on the hold list. So when I received the notification for The Lady’s Guide, I put down the other book I was reading to get to this.

The Lady’s guide to Petticoats and Piracy is about Felicity Montague, who after a year on a whirlwind tour across Europe with her brother Monty, has returned to England to avoid a marriage proposal and enroll in medical school. Since administrators see men as the only ones suited for science, Felicity sees an opportunity open when a doctor she idolizes is set to marry an old friend of hers in Germany. Despite suspicions when a mysterious young woman offers to pay Felicity’s way as long as she disguises herself as a maid, Felicity agrees and soon finds herself a part of another whirlwind adventure and pulse-pounding odyssey through Germany, Zurich, and the Atlantic ocean.

The end of the year is near and it’s hard to believe 2019 is less than two weeks away, but this is not the final post of the year. I’ll be posting my yearly wrap-up next week and my 2019 anticipated releases shortly afterward. I hope everyone has a safe, fun, and festive holiday!

3 Star Reads, Adult Fiction, Book Reviews

Book Review: Northwood by Maryse Meijer

9781948226011★ ★ ★

Northwood is a novella told in beautifully written passages and free-verse poetry, about an artist who flees to the woods to pursue her artwork in isolation. What begins is a tainted, violent love affair with a married man—and the struggle between desire and obsession, and the brutal nature of intimacy. Meijer has crafted an eerie fable that combines fairy tales, mythology, horror, and mysticism into a strange and memorable experience. Fans of Grimm fairy-tales or Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado, Northwood is the next book you need to add to your list.

I found this to be not just a haunting story, but a riveting journey of a relationship that is conflicted when pain becomes pleasure, and seeking it out desperately despite the risks and impact it has not just physically, but mentally. Meijer creates world-building that is vivid and captivating, with complex and mysterious characters. I found that as the story progressed, the descriptions and character’s mental stay show obvious signs of wither and become disorienting, as the obsession, violence, and desire conflicted and immersed with one another.

Between the beautiful, fiery prose and free-verse poetry and the exquisite style of white-on-black text bound in a vibrate red hardback, this novella is a piece of art. Meijer’s writing is bold and atmospheric, it brings light to emotions and experiences—despair, brutality, desperation, love, vulnerability, and healing—unlike any other written word I have come across.

Synopsis 

Part fairy tale, part horror story, Northwood is a genre-breaking novella told in short, brilliant, beautifully strange passages. The narrator, a young woman, has fled to the forest to pursue her artwork in isolation. While there, she falls in love with a married man she meets at a country dance. The man is violent, their affair even more so. As she struggles to free herself, she questions the difference between desire and obsession—and the brutal nature of intimacy.

Hardcover, 102 pages
Published November 6th 2018 by Black Balloon Publishing

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Thank you to Sarah from Catapult for sending me a copy.  I received a copy in exchange for an unbiased review from the publisher. All opinions are my own.