Reviews

Review: ARC of Queenie ~ by Candice Carty-Williams

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Review: Queenie ~ by Candice Carty-Williams

Pages 336 (hardbound) ~ Gallery/Scout Press

March 19th, 2019 – Adult Contemporary

My Rating: 4.5/5

Goodreads Description:

Queenie Jenkins is a 25-year-old Jamaican British woman living in London, straddling two cultures and slotting neatly into neither. She works at a national newspaper, where she’s constantly forced to compare herself to her white middle-class peers. After a messy break up from her long-term white boyfriend, Queenie seeks comfort in all the wrong places…including several hazardous men who do a good job of occupying brain space and a bad job of affirming self-worth.

As Queenie careens from one questionable decision to another, she finds herself wondering, “What are you doing? Why are you doing it? Who do you want to be?”—all of the questions today’s woman must face in a world trying to answer them for her.

Note: Thank you to Gallery Books and NetGalley for providing me with the ARC of Queenie in exchange for an honest review. Opinions are all mine.

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My Thoughts:

Queenie is described as being “Bridget Jones meets Americanah.” I haven’t yet read Americanah, but I feel like comparing this book to Bridget Jones doesn’t quite do it justice. Don’t get me wrong, I love Bridget Jones, but while Bridget is dealing with one bad man and silly parents, Queenie is dealing with much more serious issues. It definitely has a similar type of humor and it does deal with Queenie’s many sexual exploits, but underneath the humor, this novel tackles some really heavy and honest issues.

Queenie is a smart, young journalist who wants to use her unique voice to bring awareness to issues that matter to her. Her work as a journalist, so far, has only allowed her to write on trivial matters. But Queenie longs to write about more important topics: Black Lives Matter, police brutality, discrimination, etc. However, Queenie struggles under the weight of this burden because she is simultaneously dealing with the pain of a recent breakup, anxiety, her own racial identity, and a traumatic childhood that she has never really faced. It is painful at times watching her struggle on this journey, but it is also a really hopeful story of self-love, acceptance, friendship, and family.

Queenie’s family and friends were my absolute favorite part of this novel. Her Grandparents (“the water rates!”), her Aunt, her cousin, her mom…they are all such funny, unique, and loveable characters. And I really hope that Queenie’s best friend, Kyazike, is based on a real person because she is just to perfect not to be. I love that each of these characters plays their own unique role in helping Queenie heal.

The therapy sessions were some of the most interesting moments in the novel. We really get inside Queenie’s head here and we also start to see the healing process unfolding. The therapist, Janet, was also such a great balance to Queenie and their dynamic was great to read. I also loved the “Dame it, Janet” Rocky Horror reference. I loved that Queenie ultimately got better due to the therapy, which I think goes a long way in breaking down the stigma that is sometimes attached to therapy.

I relate to so many of Queenie’s struggles, but there is no way that I could possibly relate to all of them. Reading this book opened up a whole new type of understanding for me, and I honestly feel like a better person having read it. I completely believe that everyone will find something worth holding on to in Queenie’s journey.

Queenie comes out March 19!!

For more information on Candice Carty- Williams and her books, check her out on Goodreads & Instagram

Follow me on Instagram @somewhereinpages & Goodreads @erinrossi

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Reviews

Review: ARC of The Beast’s Heart by Leife Shallcross

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Review: The Beast’s Heart ~ by Leife Shallcross

Paperback 416 pages ~ YA fantasy

Paperback February 2019 ~ Ace Publishing

My Rating: 3.5/5 ★★★

Goodreads Description:

I am neither monster nor man—yet I am both.

I am the Beast.

He is a broken, wild thing, his heart’s nature exposed by his beastly form. Long ago cursed with a wretched existence, the Beast prowls the dusty hallways of his ruined château with only magical, unseen servants to keep him company—until a weary traveler disturbs his isolation.

Bewitched by the man’s dreams of his beautiful daughter, the Beast devises a plan to lure her to the château. There, Isabeau courageously exchanges her father’s life for her own and agrees to remain with the Beast for a year. But even as their time together weaves its own spell, the Beast finds winning Isabeau’s love is only the first impossible step in breaking free from the curse. _____________________________________________________________________________

Note: I was provided with an ARC of The Beast’s Heart through NetGalley and Berkley/Penguin Random House in exchange for an honest review.

My Thoughts:  

I have always loved classic fairy tale retellings, Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorites, and The Beast’s Heart definitely did justice to the amazing story. There was so much to love here so I will start with what I loved most.

img_1529What I loved:

  • The POV of the Beast was, of course, my favorite part of this book. It added a really fresh take on a story that has been told so many times. I really liked the connection to the Beast’s family and his legacy/heritage through the portrait of his Grandmother. Also, the legacy of his father that he desperately wanted to escape. This made the Beast a really well rounded, fully fleshed-out, human character rather than just a mythical fairy tale figure.
  • The magic, the land/house, and invisible servants- I really loved that the magic of the land and the house was connected to Isabeau’s arrival. However, I loved that in this version, Isabeau stays of her own accord. The Beast never wants her to stay with him because of her potential to break the curse. He is not even aware of this possibility until at least halfway into the book. Instead, he is interested in her as a person, and their conversations reflect this mutual interest. I also appreciated that Shallcross didn’t attempt to recreate the servants as enchanted tea-cups, and teapots, etc. Instead, they are invisible forces tied to the house and land that seem to be orchestrating things the best they can.
  • Writing Style- the writing was reminiscent of an old fashion classic – think Jane Austen, The Bronte Sisters- I really liked this style and thought that it added another interesting layer to the story.

What I didn’t love:

  • My biggest complaint with the book was that there wasn’t much in the way of conflict between the Beast and Isabeau. While I loved that Isabeau was given a choice in whether she stayed with the Beast or not, this really caused a lack of tension in their relationship. This story is typically one of unlikely friendship/love, but there was nothing really unlikely here. They share mutual respect and admiration right from the beginning. They are considerate and polite to each other and Isabeau never once seems frightened of the Beast. They seem to really like each other, if not love, pretty early on. Therefore, there is no conflict or suspense. 
  • While there is no tension between the Beast and Isabeau, there is tension between the sisters and their father/the Beast and Isabeau’s father. However, this tension is also very simply resolved. I never felt like the book reached any point of tension or suspense. When it did, it was resolved rather quickly. 
  • As much as I loved the connection to the Beast’s family legacy, I really wanted more. I would have loved some flashbacks that showed the relationship between him and his Grandmother/him and his father, rather than just being told what their relationships were like. It’s called the Beast’s Heart, and I really wanted details and experiences that showed what shaped his heart other than Isabeau. All the time spend watching Isabeau’s family would have been better spent diving deeper into the Beast’s character because he was really the most interesting part of the novel. 

For more information on Leife Shallcross and her books, check her out on Goodreads

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Reviews

Review: ARC – The Last Romantics ~ by Tara Conklin

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Review: The Last Romantics ~ by Tara Conklin

386 pages ~ Literary Fiction

Feb 5th, 2019 ~ William Morrow Books

My Rating: 4/5 ✰✰✰✰

Goodreads Description:

When the renowned poet Fiona Skinner is asked about the inspiration behind her iconic work, The Love Poem, she tells her audience a story about her family and a betrayal that reverberates through time.

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.

A sweeping yet intimate epic about one American family, The Last Romantics is an unforgettable exploration of the ties that bind us together, the responsibilities we embrace and the duties we resent, and how we can lose—and sometimes rescue—the ones we love. A novel that pierces the heart and lingers in the mind, it is also a beautiful meditation on the power of stories—how they navigate us through difficult times, help us understand the past, and point the way toward our future.

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“The greatest works of poetry, what makes each of us a poet, are the stories we tell about ourselves. We create them out of family and blood and friends and love and hate and what we’ve read and watched and witnessed. Longing and regret, illness, broken bones, broken hearts, achievements, money won and lost, palm readings and visions. We tell these stories until we believe them.”

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My Thoughts:  

The Last Romantics is such a wonderful study in contrasts. The story of The Skinner siblings feels, at times, to be sweeping and epic, however, nothing beyond what we can expect from an ordinary life happens to these characters. Their lives and loves are both extraordinary and ordinary at the same time. Conklin manages to portray the complexity of sibling love and shows how powerful and true it is, despite all of its flaws. Her writing is both subtle and powerful and really celebrates “ordinary” human life. The writing is raw and unromantic, but still heartwrenching and beautiful. “True love” in all of its forms, is true because it is flawed, and because it is essentially “human.” This book does such an amazing job of celebrating this. I can’t say enough about how much I loved this book.

Below are a few themes that really stood out to me:

The Poetry- Fiona, the youngest of The Skinner siblings and narrator, is a poet and Conklin manages to seamlessly incorporate elements of poetry that both moves that plot forward and adds to our understanding of these characters. The poetry itself was beautiful, but also added such an interesting layer to the novel.

Representations of Grief and Depression- I really liked that Conklin didn’t shy away from a true portrayal of Noni’s grief and depression during “The Pause.” There is nothing mysterious or vailed about her experience. It is gritty and raw but also tinged with moments of beauty. Grief acts as a constant companion to these characters and changes them in profound ways which is something that I really related to and appreciated.

The connection between Parent and Child- The Skinner siblings come together and pull apart throughout the course of the novel. Their shared experiences and trauma bring them closer together, and yet their individual struggles seem to pull them apart. Their desire to protect Noni is a constant source of connection as well. I thought that Conklin really portrayed this complicated connection beautifully.

“We forgave Noni not because she was all we had, although this was true, but because we shared her. She belonged to the four of us, and for one to forgive her meant that the others couldn’t either, and none of us was willing to shoulder the burden of that decision. None of us could bear to take Noni away from the others again.”

Drawback:

The only slight drawback for me was the third person narrative style told by Fiona. I really enjoyed the flashbacks told from Fiona’s POV when it involved her own life. However, when she was narrating for her brother and her sisters, it did, at times, become distracting and kept pulling me away from the story. I started to question how Fiona knew enough of these details to relay the personal intimate experiences of her sibilings. I liked Fiona as the primary narrator, but I feel that Joe, Renee, and Caroline’s experiences would have been better told from their own POV, rather than Fiona’s.

Overall, this was a wonderful and moving story about the triumphs of family and of “true love” with all of its wonderful flaws. The Last Romantics comes out today, February 5th, 2019. Be sure to grab a copy of this amazing family drama.

I was graciously provided an ARC of The Last Romantics by Williams Morrow/Harper Collins, however, these opinions are all mine.

Happy Reading!!

For more information on Tara Conklin and her books, check her out on Goodreads

Follow me on Instagram @somewhereinpages & Goodreads @erinrossi

Reviews

Review: The Clockmaker’s Daughter ~ by Kate Morton

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Review: The Clockmaker’s Daughter ~ by Kate Morton

485 pages ~ Historical Fiction/Literary Fiction

2018~ Atria

My Rating: 4.5/5 ✰✰✰✰✧

Goodreads Description:

In the summer of 1862, a group of young artists led by the passionate and talented Edward Radcliffe descends upon Birchwood Manor on the banks of the Upper Thames. Their plan: to spend a secluded summer month in a haze of inspiration and creativity. But by the time their stay is over, one woman has been shot dead while another has disappeared; a priceless heirloom is missing, and Edward Radcliffe’s life is in ruins.

Over one hundred and fifty years later, Elodie Winslow, a young archivist in London, uncovers a leather satchel containing two seemingly unrelated items: a sepia photograph of an arresting-looking woman in Victorian clothing, and an artist’s sketchbook containing the drawing of a twin-gabled house on the bend of a river.

Why does Birchwood Manor feel so familiar to Elodie? And who is the beautiful woman in the photograph? Will she ever give up her secrets?

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“People value shiny stones and lucky charms, but they forget that the most powerful talisman of all are the stories that we tell to ourselves and to others.”

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My Thoughts:  

This was my first Kate Morton read and I have absolutely fallen under the spell of her writing. It is magical, lyrical, and heartwrenching. Every single line is packed with passion and emotion. Even her descriptions of the old, lovely objects in this book were so beautifully written that I would randomly burst into tears. There is not a page in this book that I don’t have something underlined or annotated. So much of it touches on both the struggle and the beauty of what it means to be human. Themes of home, time and timelessness, past and present, love and loss seem to blur together in this book in such a moving way that it really puts in under its spell. It has been a long time since a book has captured my imagination and my heart the way that The Clockmaker’s Daughter has, and the lives of these characters will stay with me forever.

Below are a few of my favorite themes from the book:

  • Home

img_1296“Love- that’s what she felt, an odd, strong, general love that seemed to flow from everything she saw and heard: the sunlit leaves, the stones of the house, the first that called as they flew overhead. And in its flow, she glimpsed momentarily what religious people must surely feel at church: the sense of being bathed in the light of certainty that comes with being known from the inside out, from belonging somewhere and to someone. It was simple. It was luminous, and beautiful, and true.”

Birdie, Edward, Leonard, Juliette, Lucy, Eliode, and Jack are all searching for their own idea of home. They all find it briefly at Birchwood Manor, but they also learn that home is not necessarily a place but a feeling of being understood. Homes and the feelings they invoke seems to be a passion for Morton and she writes them so well. After finishing the book, I become obsessed with Kelmscott Manor, which was Morton’s inspiration for Birchwood Manor. It was actually the home of Victorian poet and designer, William Morris, and it has a fascinating history.

  • The intersection of lives, time, and stories– Although these characters exist years apart, sometimes centuries apart, all of their lives intersect at some point in the story. It’s a really comforting idea that no matter the time and place, we are always connected – learning and finding solace in other people’s stories.

 

  • Victorian Themes– If you have followed me for any length of time you know that I am complete trash for the Victorian Era. I loved the way that Morton made this story blend so fluidly with prominent themes of this Era. I have always been fascinated with the Pre-Raphealites Brotherhood, so I found her fictional “Magenta Brotherhood” to be a really interesting tie-in. There is also subtle nods to Victorian Literature: Oliver Twist, The Little Princess, and The Secret Garden.

 

  • Power of objects

“She pushed back its leather strap and for the first time in over a century, light swept into the satchel’s dark corners. An onslaught of memories- fragmented, confused- arrived with it.”

The idea that ordinary, everyday objects hold impressions of the past and the people who once owned them is a really prominent theme in the book and one that really resonated with me. It’s a really magical concept to think about the objects we possess becoming imbued with our stories and little pieces of our lives for future generations to uncover.

The only slight drawback for me, (very slight) was that I really wanted more from the ending. Things are alluded to, but not explicitly explained at the end and my greedy little heart just wanted more of these characters and their lives. But this takes absolutely nothing away from the beauty of this story and its writing. If you’re a fan of Historical Fiction (Kristen Hannah, Anthony Doerr, John Boyne in particular) you should definitely check this out. I am really excited to read more from Kate Morton this year!

Happy reading!

For more information on Kate Morton and her books, check her out on Goodreads

Follow me on Instagram @somewhereinpages & Goodreads @erinrossi

Reviews

Review: The Gilded Wolves ~ by Roshani Chokshi

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Review: The Gilded Wolves ~ by Roshani Chokshi

384 pages ~ Young Adult Fantasy

2019 – Wednesday Books

My Rating: 5/5 ✰✰✰✰✰

Goodreads Description:

Paris, 1889: The world is on the cusp of industry and power, and the Exposition Universelle has breathed new life into the streets and dredged up ancient secrets. In this city, no one keeps tabs on secrets better than treasure-hunter and wealthy hotelier, Séverin Montagnet-Alarie. But when the all-powerful society, the Order of Babel, seeks him out for help, Séverin is offered a treasure that he never imagined: his true inheritance.

To find the ancient artifact the Order seeks, Séverin will need help from a band of experts: An engineer with a debt to pay. A historian who can’t yet go home. A dancer with a sinister past. And a brother in all but blood, who might care too much.

Together, they’ll have to use their wits and knowledge to hunt the artifact through the dark and glittering heart of Paris. What they find might change the world, but only if they can stay alive.

My Thoughts:

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In the author’s notes, Chokshi states that she has always had a hard time reconciling the glamour of 1889 Paris- “courtesans and the Moulin Rouge, glittering parties and champagne” with the horrors of the Exposition Universelle, and rapid colonization and anti-Semitism that was also spreading at this time. She states “I wanted to understand how an era called La Belle Epoque, literally The Beautiful Era, could possess that name with that stain.” One of my favorite elements of this book is Chokshi’s ability to explore this question in such an artful and thought-provoking way. She has done exactly what she set out to do in this book. We still get the glitz and the glamour that you would expect of this era, but there is always an underlining push to question history, ownership, and who has the right to tell our stories. As she states, “I wanted to write this trilogy not to instruct or to condemn, but to question….Question what is gold and what glitters.” And she has done exactly that. Besides this artful juxtaposition of the La Belle Epoque Era, we also get an amazing cast of characters who I challenge anyone not to fall in love with, plus an adventure full of magic, myth, and suspense. Below are a few more of the high points for me:

The Characters • So many people have been comparing this to Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, but I honestly found myself relating even more to these characters than I did in SoC. I saw little parts of myself in each one of them. They all have to overcome injustices and their own insecurities, while still staying true to themselves and going after what they want.

  • Severin- “That boy looks like every dark corner of a fairy tale. The wolf in bed. The apple in a witch’s palm.” He is the dark, mysterious, brooding, mastermind that I always seem to fall in love with. He is really interesting because he has found a way to use his troubled past (his 7 fathers, named after the 7 deadly sins) to his advantage. He has an intense love for his friends, but his desire to protect them also causes him to close himself off.
  • Laila- “A way to move through a world that tried to keep her to the sidelines = Don’t capture their hearts. Steal their imagination. It’s far more useful.” L’Enigma- The Mystery. This name is so fitting for Laila because the nature of her life is the only part of her that is the mystery. She has yet to discover how and why she was spared from death as a child. But Laila herself is not a mystery- she is open and loving, smart and determined. She carries great pride in her Indian heritage while trying to understand her future.
  • Enrique- “When he realized he didn’t have the talent, he chose to study the subjects that felt closest to Forging: history and language. He could still change the world….maybe not with something as dramatic or grand as Forging, but in more intimate ways. Writing. Speaking. Human Connection.” Enrique is our brilliant Historian who longs to be part of the change and reform of Paris. Like Hypnos, he is also super witty- his batter between Zofia and Hypnos was definitely a highlight for me.
  • Tristan- “His landscape artistry looked like the fever dream of a nature spirit. It was unsettling and beautiful, and Paris couldn’t get enough of it.” Tristan wants nothing more than to protect his friends, mainly Severin and Goliath (his tarantula), and create his magical plant worlds. But unlike Severin, he is not able to let go of the trauma of his past and he is haunted and broken in ways that are not always apparent.
  • Zofia- “She’d said the wrong thing. She wanted to take it back, but then she remembered Laila’s advice. To perform. To own whatever illusion one cast of themselves.” Zofia’s social anxiety is one of the reasons that I relate to her the most. She is constantly evaluating and questioning herself, and unfortunately, always sells herself short. Everything is a numbers game to Zofia, so she has to work harder than most to live outside of her analytical world. 
  • Hypnos-”I shall keep your identity a secret, L’Enigma. And before I forget, I must tell you I adored your costume. So shiny. I’m rather tempted to see if it will fit me.” Wit beyond measure! He reminded me so much for Lord Henry Wotton from The Picture of Dorian Gray. He is constantly teasing and egging people on, trying to get to the core of what makes people tick, but at the same time, his desire to be loved and accepted by the group is so apparent that you can’t help but love him.

Magic/Heists/Codes/Puzzles •  The magical heist in The Gilded Wolves definitely has Six of Crows vibes but while the characters in SoC rely heavily on stealth and sleight of hand, these characters have to rely on their knowledge of math, history, science, mythology, and religion in order to solve complicated puzzles and codes. It’s one of the elements of the book that puts you right in the action and it’s really exciting to read.

Obviously, I’m a huge fan. This book is thoughtfully written by an author who has clearly set out to pay homage to an era in its entirety- and not just the “beautiful” parts- but the darker, ugly side as well. She wants to show that both of these sides can and did exist simultaneously. But she also manages to give us one hell of an adventure while doing it. I can’t wait for the next installment in this series and to see where these characters go next!

Happy reading!

A HUGE thank you to BookSparks for allowing me to be part of their YA Winter Reading Challange 2019 and for sending a copy of this my way. It has really been a pleasure partnering with this amazing group.

For more information on Roshani Chokshi and her books, check her out on Goodreads & Instagram

I am super excited to be attending Roshani’s signing in Phoenix tonight- I’ll be posting picture and videos over on my Instagram if you’re interested!

Follow me on Instagram @somewhereinpages & Goodreads @erinrossi

Reviews

Review: Once Upon a River ~ by Diane Setterfield

480 pages ~ Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction

2018 ~ Atria/Emily Beatles Books

My Rating: 5/5 ✰✰✰✰✰

Goodreads Description:

A dark midwinter’s night in an ancient inn on the Thames. The regulars are entertaining themselves by telling stories when the door bursts open on an injured stranger. In his arms is the drowned corpse of a little child.

Hours later the dead girl stirs, takes a breath and returns to life.

Is it a miracle?

Is it magic?

Or can it be explained by science?

Replete with folklore, suspense, and romance, as well as with the urgent scientific curiosity of the Darwinian age, Once Upon a River is as richly atmospheric as Setterfield’s bestseller The Thirteenth Tale.

“Along the borders of this world lie others. There are places you can cross. This is one such place.”

My Thoughts:

First, let me say that this book is probably not for everyone. It is a very meandering, atmospheric type of narrative that is more about mood than it is about plot. Although there is a mystery at the heart of the plot, it is not the type of suspenseful mystery that would keep someone up till 3 am trying to get to the bottom of. I would not recommend this to readers who need a fast-paced, suspenseful plot in order to stay engaged. I would recommend this to readers who, like me, enjoy rich, dreamy beautiful prose, simply for the sake of beautiful prose. Fans of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials and Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries would definitely be into this. The plot is slow moving, but this book is more than plot. It is about storytelling in all of its various forms and what those stories provide us. Setterfield has a very distinct style that I can only describe as magical. Here were some highlights for me:

-The celebration of storytelling- As I said above, this book is really a celebration of how stories influence us, inspire us, help us cope, and help us make sense of things we can’t understand. The river, in this story, both gives and takes life, it is both salvation and destruction simultaneously. It both inspires the stories, while the stories, in turn, define the river and what it is capable of. This was really such a beautiful theme, especially for someone who spends their life between the pages of a book.

-Darwinian themes- Because so little was known about the nature of medicine and science during the Victorian era, it was really interesting to see how these characters created stories in order to make sense of things that were, to them, unimaginable.

“Once upon a time, a long time ago, an ape became human. And once upon a time, long before that, an aquatic creature came out of the water and breathed air.”

-Connection to the real Henry Taunt– I had no idea that there was an actual Victorian photographer who floated around the Thames on a boat with a darkroom. When reading Setterfield’s notes at the end of the novel, it was really fascinating to see how her own research of Taunt lead her to create this story. I spent about two hours online mesmerized by his photography. I think that it would have been really lovely if the book included a map of the river and some of Taunt’s photography.

-Setterfield does a remarkable job of making the reader feel as if they’re are part this magical transaction of storytelling. You feel as if you are sitting down at the Swan with a pint, listening to this remarkable tale.

“And now, dear reader, the story is over. It is time for you to cross the bride once more and return to the world you came from. This river, which is and is not the Thames, must continue following without you. You have haunted here long enough, and besides, you surely have rivers of your own to attend to?”

Happy Reading!!

For more information on Diane Setterfield and her books, check her out on Goodreads

Follow me on Instagram @somewhereinpages & Goodreads @erinrossi

Monthly Wrap-Ups

2018 Year in Review

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2018 was a really different type of reading year for me. Prior to this year, my reading experiences have mostly been a solitary affair. I have always been a big reader, but other than college, I never really shared my thoughts or opinions on what I read. At least, not beyond my own reading journal. I am so glad that this year I decided to break out of my comfort zone and start blogging. It has really meant a lot to me to have this small space online and to be able to connect with all of you amazing and thoughtful readers and writers. I love hearing your opinions and seeing what you are reading. I can’t wait to see where your reading adventures take you in 2019!

img_3068In reviewing my 2018 reading, my choices were all over the place. From Fantasy to Mystery, Romance and Historical Fiction, I read a little bit of everything. I read a ton of YA Fantasy this year. Besides reading Harry Potter as a teenager, this is the first time I have read so much fantasy. My daughter has been really into reading the last few years and this is her favorite genre. So, I really wanted to share those books with her. It was really fun reading The Throne of Glass, The Shadow and Bone, and The Infernal Devices series with her. My personal favorite in this genre was The Arc of the Scythe (Scythe and Thunderhead) by Neal Shusterman. My Daughter and I also visited the YA’ll West Festival together this year which was an amazing experience. The level of commitment that YA fans have is staggering!

I also read a lot of Literary/Historical Fiction this year: The Immortalists, Alias Grace, The Witches of New York, The Silence of the Girls, and The Heart’s Invisible Furies. My Mystery selections also went really well this year: Lethal White, The Last Time I Lied, and Final Girls. Riley Sager is one of my new favorite mystery authors. As far as romance goes, I read Roomies, Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating, and London Belongs to Me. Roomies being my favorite romance of the year.

Well, without further ado, here are my top five reads of 2018: (click on the titles to read my full review for each)

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The Heart’s Invisible Furies – Literary Fiction/Historical Fiction:

This was hands down, my favorite book of the year. This book is a thought-provoking, insightful, heartwarming, and bittersweet story of one man, Cyril Avery. As a baby, Cyril is put up for adoption by Catherine Goggin, a young girl who is kicked out of her small parish, country town in Ireland for becoming pregnant out of wedlock. Cyril is taken in by a wealthy couple, who have very little time for him and barely notice his existence. He discovers at an early age that he is gay and his relationship with his best friend, Julian Woodbead, proves to be a complicated one. Over the course of the novel, while in the midst of trying to understand his sexuality, and also find real love, Cyril has to navigate the hypocrisy of Irish society at this time (late 1940s-1980s). In his search for identity and meaning, Cyril’s life, just like all of our lives, is filled with moments of blissful happiness and moments of sorrow and loss. However, there are so many moments in this book that come full circle that it leaves you with a feeling of rightness, despite the heartbreak that you witness. The title couldn’t be more perfect. We all carry around burdens, pain, loss, and injustice that become etched on our hearts. These are our “furies,” and as heartbreaking as they may be, they are also part of what makes this life so beautiful.

 

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The Silence of the Girls – Literary Fiction/Historical Fiction:

Barker does something pretty brilliant in this book- she manages to simultaneously celebrate The Iliad (the original source of this story) and challenge it. Her challenge comes in the form of perspective because her story brings to light the thoughts/feelings/struggles/triumphs of the women in this story- who both A) played a crucial role in the politics and the emotion of the story, and B) whose perspectives were woefully left out of the original. However, her book also celebrates the Iliad. She gives you a sense of the majesty of this story and the complexity of its heroes. I honestly can’t say enough about how much I loved this book- it was a breath of fresh air, it was moving, emotional, honest, and beautifully written. If you’re a fan of Greek Mythology/retellings, you should definitely check this out.

img_2958-1Book of Dust– by Philip Pullman – Fantasy:

Philip Pullman is a master craftsman of the slow spun tale. His rich, building, lyrical style is so comforting that it draws you into a parallel universe. The protagonist, Malcolm, is such as smart and likable boy that you can’t help root for him as he gets caught up in this world of political intrigue, scholarship, and magic. If you are a fan of Narnia or Harry Potter, you would definitely enjoy this.

 

3d2832c7-d396-4ed9-9eec-26ae1753cab5Thunderhead– YA Fantasy:

I really loved Scythe, but Thunderhead takes the loose threads from book #1 and spins them into a whole new world of intrigue, danger, and suspense, with some really cool philosophical questions underlining the whole plot. While book #1 focuses on the Scythedom and Rowan and Citra’s place within it, book #2 continues this journey, but with more connection to the Thunderhead- the vast, all-knowing, God-like “server,” that monitors the world. Instead of being privy to the journals of the Scythes, we now get the journals/thoughts of the Thunderhead. The actions of the Scythes and Rowan, woven together with the thoughts of the all-seeing Thunderhead, created a brilliant contrast. If you’re a fan of YA dystopian, do yourself a big favor and read this series. The next book in the series, Toll, comes out in 2019.

 

0d838b18-8cfb-4c17-ad8c-2407b575136cLethal White– Detective/Mystery:

The same attention to detail and suspense that Rowling gives us in HP, works so well in her detective series. Every tiny detail is crafted to come together at the perfect moment, and suddenly, all of the pieces fit together and it is so satisfying. I have loved every Cormoran Strike novel so far, Cuckoo’s Calling being my favorite, but Lethal White was so much more intricate than the other 3 novels. Unlike all of the other Strike novels, we are not dealing with one crime in Lethal White. There is policial corruption, blackmail, and a repressed memory that, for the majority of the book, we’re not even sure is real). The length was completely welcome for me. I wanted to stay with Strike and Robin as long as I could and continue to take in all of the minute details of the case as they unfolded. I would have welcomed another 500 pages if it meant staying with these two a little longer.

Overall, a great year in books for me. Thank you all for being here and sharing with me. Stay tuned for my 2019 reading goals/TBR coming up in a day or so. Happy New Year, everyone! 

Click here: @somewhereinpages to find me on Instagram and here:  erinrossi to find me on Goodreads. 

Happy Reading!