Monday, July 16, 2018

Bonfire by Krysten Ritter


I'm a lover of stories. This blog is targeted towards my love of books but really - that stems from my love of stories. Stories are told in various ways. Actors tell stories. So, it shouldn't be too much of a stretch to assume that an actress would feel drawn to writing a book and like...do a good job at it. Actors are story tellers (reading is basically at least a third of job their description). Krysten Ritter's debut novel 'Bonfire' is the evidence.

I found that most of the poor-er reviews on Goodreads came across tainted by this expectation that the novel had to be on a whole different level because the author's primary career. It's my pet peeve when a book is judged like it's got to be something on a whole other level when it doesn't have to be. Example : You read a review of a historical romance novel. And they spend most of the time complaining about how unrealistic and stupid it is to have it be completely focused on the relationship and how they wish the heroine would spend less time thinking about the hero, etc. And thus because of this opinion they give it a bad review. It's a historical romance novel. You open a book from a specific genre section, be ready to get that genre. If you don't dig the genre - don't read (coughs-review-coughs) it. Same principle applies here.

Bonfire by Krysten Ritter


Visual Description: A bonfire with orange sparks cast out over the pitch black cover. Font: modern, white, thin and angular. Krysten Ritter is low capped. Title is all caps. 'A novel' is off in the corner, smaller and italicized. 
Publishing: November 7th, 2017. Hutchinson
Page Count: 288 (hardcover)
Find the Author: Goodreads
"Should you ever go back? It has been ten years since Abby Williams left home and scrubbed away all visible evidence of her small town roots. Now working as an environmental lawyer in Chicago, she has a thriving career, a modern apartment, and her pick of meaningless one-night stands. But when a new case takes her back home to Barrens, Indiana, the life Abby painstakingly created begins to crack. Tasked with investigating Optimal Plastics, the town's most high-profile company and economic heart, Abby begins to find strange connections to Barrens’ biggest scandal from more than a decade ago involving the popular Kaycee Mitchell and her closest friends—just before Kaycee disappeared for good. Abby knows the key to solving any case lies in the weak spots, the unanswered questions. But as Abby tries to find out what really happened to Kaycee, she unearths an even more disturbing secret—a ritual called “The Game,” which will threaten the reputations, and lives, of the community and risk exposing a darkness that may consume her. With tantalizing twists, slow-burning suspense, and a remote, rural town of just five claustrophobic miles, Bonfire is a dark exploration of the question: can you ever outrun your past?" - Blurb nabbed  from Goodreads


Before I forget - I have a paralegal degree. While I don't have much experience with environmental agencies and law - the last class (most fresh in my mind) was all about Administrative Law.

Returning to a small hometown with success and a mission that compromises the feelings of the people you left behind feelings towards you...it's a premise that's been done before. However, I'm never the one to judge the re-used premise. Especially when it's a classic. Because in the familiar premise is the freedom of choices and a unique perspective - a different take. And that is endlessly fascinating to me. It's a known premise for a reason - it's resonating. It's not just something that's repeating in the fictional world - it's a premise that plays out hundreds and thousands of times over history in the everyday world.

In Bonfire's case - it plays out with the themes of toxic. Toxic environmental factors, toxic friendships, toxic homes, toxic habits, toxic fears. Accompanying 'toxic' is the theme of overcoming and what it takes to get through and recover - for real. There's a difference between running away and suppressing and the rebirthing experience of true recover from toxicity. It plays a recurring theme in Abby's (MC) characterization and plot and the characters around her. Each person is either not recovered but pretending or still actively participating in toxicity or never ever recovered and knows it and now is just..living in the aftermath. Sounds like a fun town, amIright? 

Abby literally stars in two different stories in the same book. Two stories that merge together in the end. It's not entirely surprising - most 'two stories' come together as a general rule so the book doesn't suck. In Bonfire it plays out as (perhaps unintentionally) a homage to the female intuitive powers. The breed of female intuitive powers that are usually considered crazy by those not experiencing them within themselves. I almost thought, as the reader, that she was projecting her obviously suppressed emotions onto certain things and that her (again) suppressed emotions were getting tangled with her purpose in returning. However, (and I won't spoil how it goes down) it doesn't take the reader much to realize that there are two stories and they're heading towards each other in a twisted way. The questions are 'who, what, when, where, why?' do they converge?

Four out of five. Because it's a solid read with solid writing with texture and a theme that has depth.

Until next time,

Jess

P.S. I must confess - the entire time I was reading it I heard Ritter's voice narrate it in my head. As in - the voice over narration stuff she does for Jessica Jones. Not a terrible way to read a book, imo. lol.

Friday, April 27, 2018

The Radical Element : 12 Stories of Daredevils, Debutantes, & Other Dauntless Girls



A purple cover with graphic designs of a girl in a dress with an umbrella, playing cards, old time film reel and camera, a guitar and clouds. In the center is a dark silhoouete of a girl's windblown head, she's looking off into the distance. The title is in gold. On very top "12 Stories of Daredevils, Debutantes, & other Dauntless girls. Center title (girls head between the tmwo words) 'The Radical Element'. Below 'edited by Jessica Spotwood'.

Publishing: March 13th, Candlewick Press
Pg Count: 320 pgs, hardcover
Find the Editor: goodreads

"To respect yourself, to love yourself—should not have to be a radical decision. And yet it remains as challenging for an American girl to make today as it was in 1927 on the steps of the Supreme Court. It's a decision that must be faced whether you're balancing on the tightrope of neurodivergence, finding your way as a second-generation immigrant, or facing down American racism even while loving America. And it's the only decision when you've weighed society's expectations and found them wanting. In The Radical Element, twelve of the most talented writers working in young adult literature today tell the stories of the girls of all colors and creeds standing up for themselves and their beliefs—whether that means secretly learning Hebrew in early Savannah, using the family magic to pass as white in 1920s Hollywood, or singing in a feminist punk band in 1980s Boston. And they're asking you to join them." - Nabbed from Goodreads Blurb

This is book two in the Tyranny of Petticoats series. I dearly hope that there are more books to come. I have loved historical fiction since I was a little girl and was introduced to The American Girl series and so this anthology series naturally has a special place in my heart. And I am pleased to be able to say that The Radical Element is just as great as it's predecessor. (link to my thoughts on the first book here). The Radical Element includes a variety of heroines, settings, and themes. Each author delivers. And the works combined create a multi-colored tapestry of the young, female face of American history. And the anthology includes in their diversity a face that is often over looked and especially so in American History.

The Disabled Girl.

It's only in the past decade or so that I've noticed a real turn in the way that persons with disabilities are portrayed and how much people are trying to actively represent people of all dis/abilities in their works. However, there's still quite a ways to go. Me Before You, anyone? (There's a reason this disabled girl has not blogged about that book on her book blog. lol). When I was a kid and my love for historical fiction was probably at it's apex - there weren't any disabled characters. Hell, there weren't many disabled characters ever. So to find in my hand an anthology that has intentionally main characters who are disabled and female and in history - well...my tween self was pretty damn excited. There was inner-tween squealing and hand clapping going on in the back of my head.

I appreciate that there is a representation of both a visible disability and a invisible disability. It's no spoiler since it's literally in the description blurb above ('balancing the tightrope of neurodivergence'). In years of never getting any representation and then to get it in one of my favorite genres...it makes me a happy girl. Both stories are void of any of the ableist traps. I won't lie - one is a bit cheesy, but I'll take it!

With short stories it's hard to give out information without giving out the majority of the plot..and essentially the whole story. I think with an anthology of short stories it's best if you keep it well...short! The anthology gives everyone a little bit of everything. It spans to the eighties. It is inclusive. You even get a little bit of each genre within the genre...with in the genre. Magical realism, mystery, law drama, etc.

The Radical Element continued to give me what I loved about the first installment and it gave me more.
And I want more. I think you'll want more too. And when I say I want more - I mean, I want more inclusion in the fiction I read. More accurate, un-ableist stories.

Until next time,

Jess 

Saturday, March 10, 2018

The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl In The Tower by Katherine Arden


Maybe I'm naturally inclined to fall in love with stories of brave, magical girls in medieval worlds who are not the typical princesses or damsels. Now that I write that I'm thinking "Well, duh I love those kinds of stories. Why wouldn't I? WHO WOULDN'T?". I think a large majority of the books I love end up being brave, magical girls in faraway times and places. My Grammy asked over Thanksgiving last year...do you ever read non-surreal books? I had to think for a moment. I like what I like! Although, I should probably work on getting a little more variety in reading diet. It's just so hard when there are books like this out there. Actually - this isn't just a fantasy novel. It has history in it. It's set in Medieval Russia so yea...variety. 

There's a lot of parts and thoughts of my experience with the books that I want to share. I think it's safe for you to assume that I highly suggest that you read them. AND when you do so...know that they are part of a trilogy. The third and final installment will be released next year! 

I don't think the author meant to write a trilogy. The Bear and the Nightingale was her debut novel (neat note - she wrote it in Hawaii. Interesting since it's set in Russia and predominantly in the winter time). Bear and Nightingale could stand on it's own however its one of those novels in which finding out that there are more stories to be written makes you deeply, deeply happy as a person, a reader, and a human. 

And so, without further ado...I introduce the best damn thing I've blogged about all year. 

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden


Visual Description: A wintery night-time forest (colored blue) is pictured with a mysterious glowing cabin and a figure of a girlish woman entering it.
Publishing: January 10th, 2017. Del Rey Books
Page Count: Hardcover, 322 pages.
Find the Authorwebsitetwitter
"At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows. And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales." - Nabbed from Goodreads

We start out slow, drawing out the foundation and foreshadowing possibilities for extended story telling, and giving us enough time to feel the loss and tragedy of Vasya's tragic birth and her mother's decision. We meet her family before we even meet her. And it is this opening picture that sews the emotional core to the reader's subconscious mind. The span of time encompassed in this first book's plot is over sixteen years so while Vasya (Vasilisa) is just a little girl (getting into scrapes) we learn about the political and grown up decisions that lead her unfortunate step mother to be married to her father. Vasya's home is deep within the wilderness. Her Father is a a great Lord but in the first scenes he is in the stables helping an animal give birth to a baby.

Arden does an illustrious job of bringing feudal Russia alive for the reader. A giant oven with a bed over for it for the elderly and sick, descriptions of food (or the lack of it), women covering their hair, the use of a steaming bath house, dangers and lore of distant 'Tatars' invading, reverence of paint icons. A poetical voice lyrically and quaintly describes the world in a way that could only be described from someone who lived in that world. You forget that the author wrote this in Hawaii, had gone to college, grew up with TV and cereal for breakfast, and knows (I'm assuming!) how to work a microwave.

And the CREATURES...the magical, strange, ancient creatures! Everything it seems has a guardian or a creature of its own. A little stout man creature protects the hearth, a prophecy giving bathhouse spirit, a guardian caretaker of the horses in the stables. You will fall in love with them like I did. Russia folklore creatures are both fairies and goblins rolled up in one. Both terrible and endearing. Strange and familiar. Good and bad.

Family and the love that is held by Vasya's family is absolutely rejuvenating. From the premise and the death of her mother in the start you might naturally assume that Arden will follow the trope that Vasya is forlorn and unwanted by her family. Despite her step-mother's malice against her Vasya is given nothing but love and loyalty from her siblings - even from her half-sister (her step-mother's daughter). Her brothers protect and love her. Her father loves her and though his attempts might be stunted by his perceptions of the world and as it 'should be' - he loves her and that love is rarely if ever questioned by the audience. Her grandmotherly nurse Dunya is a mother and guardian to them all. Their home is cozy and warm because of the strength of their family.

And that warmth and strength is what keeps both Vasya and us readers going when the Vasya's world steadily becomes more narrow, more dangerous, and more mysterious. By the time we are in the middle of the book she is a strong-willed teenager who does not fit the cage that, as a woman of that time, she was born to, a Frost King has been seeking her since she was a girl, a Priest is obsessed with her, her tormented step-mother conspires against her, her Father wants to marry her off (apparently the Dad Solution of feudal Russia - get your daughter married so she'll settle down....it doesn't go as planned to NO one's surprise), and the ancient creatures that only Vasya and one other can see are warning of a Bear and it's awakening, and a horrible winter to come. And yes, she definitely inherited her mysterious grandmother's mystical abilities.

If I go further, I will give spoilers. And I don't want to do that. Not for the first book! So, go forth, read away!


Disclaimer: Spoilers (mild but telling!) lay below!

The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden


Visual description: A silhouette of a girl on a horse galloping down a slope. A large tower rises behind her and in the background the slopes towers of Moscow look hazy. The sun is rising in the background. Snow flake flurries dust the illustration. 
Publishing: December 5th 2017
Page Count: Hardover, 363 pages.
Find the Author: (same as above, lol)
"Orphaned and cast out as a witch by her village, Vasya’s options are few: resign herself to life in a convent, or allow her older sister to make her a match with a Moscovite prince. Both doom her to life in a tower, cut off from the vast world she longs to explore. So instead she chooses adventure, disguising herself as a boy and riding her horse into the woods. When a battle with some bandits who have been terrorizing the countryside earns her the admiration of the Grand Prince of Moscow, she must carefully guard the secret of her gender to remain in his good graces—even as she realizes his kingdom is under threat from mysterious forces only she will be able to stop." - Nabbed from Goodreads blurb.

She literally just unwittingly throws herself into the fire and then she realizes she's in the fire - she just keeps doing her thing. In 'Nightingale' (don't we love Solovey!?) though she was in danger - she was in the safety of her home. Sure, that home was surrounded by neighbors who called her a witch, the guardian spirits were dying, and vampires were literally rising up from the grave to claw at their door at night - but it was still home. The action, the stakes, the choices are far more daunting and heart-pounding. Little Vasya has grown up. She becomes a woman but on her own terms. And if you think the harshness of her childhood realities was heavy? It has absolutely nothing on Moscow. 

Like in the first book - we are introduced first to her family. In this case - it is her sister and brother (Olya and Sasha) in Moscow. Instead of one chapter - we spend a good chunk with them setting up the environment that we know that Vasya is destined to be in eventually. Women aren't just sheltered and covered - they are secluded, separated, partitioned away from the men. They can only go out to church and to visit to each other. If a woman was to step out of this norm - they would bring disgrace and ruin to their family and the repercussions could be a matter of home or no home. On the plus side - her niece sees a ghost of a mysterious girl wandering around. It turns out that Vasya is not the only one who inherited the mysterious grandmother's gifts.

There are new creatures and some familiar. Vasya has wholeheartedly accepted the mysterious, supernatural world that only she can see. She willingly wishes to learn about her gifts and uses her connection to the supernatural to save herself and others. Solovey is her constant and amusing companion. And whether he likes it or not - Morozco cannot help but watch over her.

The relationship between her and her siblings are more tense and partially questionable than we are used to. These siblings have lived in the dangerous world of Moscow and her appearance is dangerous and startling to their world. It's sad to see the stress between her and her siblings when in Nightingale the love she had for her siblings and that they had for her kept everything going in the darkest times. In the darkest times of this story - Vasya must rely on herself.

I can't go much further without giving away things I don't believe should be given away. 

The same illustrious voice narrates and weaves the new faces of feudal, medieval Russia and yet it matches the new daunting, adventurous pace. Where we spent a whole book to meander through her childhood and to set up her world in 'Nightingale' - we cover a few months in one book in 'Tower'. The tempo is like a fire. At first it's just a flicker, kindling, then it lights and the embers burn, and it slowly crackles and starts to light, and then all of a sudden - it takes off! And when it burns - it burns with passion, heartbreak, and magic. 

There's so many tidbits thrown out through the book - questions that are leading and need to be answered. Where does the magic come from? Her grandmother - who was she and who was her people? The legacy of a line of witches and the weight of being born different in a world where being different and a woman at the same time was considered a curse is explored. What will happen to Morozko when no one believes in him? Some questions are answered in this story and some are still yet to be faced...

So. Go read. It's worth it. 


Until next time, 

Jess

Sunday, November 5, 2017

A Reading Round-Up!


I've been so busy with life that I have completely neglected sharing some of the books that I've been reading, have read this past year, and my thoughts on them. To be honest, I've mostly been listening to books that past few months but that's another post for another time. I wish I had time to devote a full blog post for each book below but alas - time. I have yet to perfect the art of making time slow down/quicken up so that I might get all the things done that I want to. So, I'll just call this a reading round-up.

FYI - these aren't in any specific order of preference.


Sad Girls by Lang Leav


 Publishing: May 30th, 2017. Andrews McMeel Publishing
 Page Count: Paperback, 362 pages.
 Find the Author: website
 “Your first love isn’t the first person you give your heart to  —it’s the first one who breaks it.” Sad Girls is the much   anticipated debut novel from international best-selling   author Lang Leav. A beautifully written and emotionally   charged coming of age story, where young love, dark   secrets, and tragedy collide. School is almost out for   Audrey, but the panic attacks are just beginning. Because   Audrey told a lie and now her classmate, Ana, is dead. Just as her world begins to spin out of control, Audrey meets the  enigmatic Rad—the boy who could turn it all around. But will their ill-timed romance drive her closer to the edge?" - Nabbed from Goodreads


Lang Leav is one of my favorite poets and this is her debut novel. It's a book that inspired me into the mood for Lana Del Rey. Emotional wanderlust mixes with melancholy and equals into a coming of age story that borders on the surreal. It has a many dark aspects - drug abuse, sexual abuse, self-harm, anxiety, depression. It's name really tells it all - Sad Girls. Sad. Leav's ability to write an emotional impact doesn't go away with the challenge of novel writing. It's a sad novel. I wouldn't go as far as to say it's a devastating novel. It's just a sad one. Read it with a hot cup of lemon honey tea - I did. 


The Copenhagen Affair - Amulya Malladi

Publishing: May 30th, 2017. Andrews McMeel Publishing
Page Count: Paperback, 362 pages.
Find the Author: website 
"Sanya was always the perfect wife, but after a breakdown at her office, it’s her husband Harry’s turn to step up. His proposal? A temporary move to Copenhagen, Denmark’s capital city. He needs to be there to close a business deal and figures the change of scenery will do her good. Within Copenhagen’s glamorous high society, one man stands out—not only because of his intriguing scar but because he sees Sanya in a way Harry hasn’t for years. As allegations of white-collar crime arise, she learns of Harry’s infidelity, and having an affair with Anders seems ever more tempting. Surrounded by old money, smoked fish on dark breads, and way too many bicycles, Sanya slowly moves from breakdown to breakthrough, but where will she end up—and with whom?" - Nabbed from Goodreads Blurb


This is a novel with two natures - two different tones weaving within and out of each other. One is a story of depression and the journey of recovery. It's not an overnight, snap your fingers, "a trip to a new city cures all" action that gets you out of depression. It's a journey of self discovery, new habits, new perspectives, and break through(s). The second is a romantic comedy. It's a funny, chick-lit story that lifts up the shadows of the book and gives you a well-rounded story. It is also a love letter to Copenhagen. Be warned you'll be looking up vacays in Copenhagen through out and after reading. 

Dorothy Must Die (Dorothy Must Die #1) - Danielle Paige

Publishing: April 1st, 2014
Page Count: Hardcover 452 pgs
Find the Author: website
"I didn't ask for any of this. I didn't ask to be some kind of hero. But when your whole life gets swept up by a tornado - taking you with it - you have no choice but to go along, you know?
Sure, I've read the books. I've seen the movies. I know the song about the rainbow and the happy little bluebirds. But I never expected Oz to look like this. To be a place where Good Witches can't be trusted, Wicked Witches may just be the good guys, and winged monkeys can be executed for acts of rebellion. There's still a yellow brick road - but even that's crumbling." - Nabbed from Goodreads

I had been waiting to read this book for a while when I was able to find it on my libraries digital library. I wasn't sure if it would be worth a purchase to read since it was a series and a author I hadn't heard before. It would definitely be worth a purchase. It's a interesting, unique flip-the-script take on OZ. Paige isn't afraid of cliffhangers or killing your darlings - so be warned. Despite the heavy emotions and do-or-die energy of the series there's a lot of humor and odd and pop-sugary elements that lift up the plot. I should probably do a whole post about the series instead of just a blurb at the end of a round up. It deserves that much for sure. However time is not my friend. I can definitely see the series popping up again.

And those are some of the books that have filled the corners of my time these past couple of months. I hope your autumn has been filled with good reads and good-busy times too.

Until next time,

Jess

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Book to Movie : Brooklyn

I'd like to say that I am the kind of reader that always finds and reads the book before they watch the movie. However, goals are meant to be a work in progress and that is definitely a goal. The best that usually goes down is me finding out a interesting upcoming movie is based on a book then putting said book on my endless TBR List and never getting to it until after I watch the movie because my goals are noble but I've got a patience problem. lol. This is basically what happened with Brooklyn. However, this is a weird once-in-a-rare-moon thing, in which...I like the movie better the book? As in...LOVE THE MOVIE...could barely finish the book.

Brooklyn




Both the book and the movie share the same plot. 
Blurb from the Book (Goodreads)
"Eilis Lacey has come of age in small-town Ireland in the hard years following World War Two. When an Irish priest from Brooklyn offers to sponsor Eilis in America -- to live and work in a Brooklyn neighborhood "just like Ireland" -- she decides she must go, leaving her fragile mother and her charismatic sister behind. Eilis finds work in a department store on Fulton Street, and when she least expects it, finds love. Tony, who loves the Dodgers and his big Italian family, slowly wins her over with patient charm. But just as Eilis begins to fall in love with Tony, devastating news from Ireland threatens the promise of her future" 
Blurb from the Movie (IMBD)
"An Irish immigrant lands in 1950s Brooklyn, where she quickly falls into a romance with a local. When her past catches up with her, however, she must choose between two countries and the lives that exist within." 
The movie blurb is decidedly less explanative than the book blurb but both plots are basically identical. There's the usual merging of common characters, blending of plot points, creative choices to accurately translate the written novel scenes to film that naturally happens when you go book to movie. But, the basic plot is identical. So why, on earth can I love the movie and not the book? 


The Book

I keep wondering why it received such RAVING reviews. If the movie hadn't happened, if Goodreads didn't have a bunch of 5-star ratings, if the critics weren't like - 'Yea, this one!!"...I would have probably chosen it but then put it back down. Novel Eilis blends into the background of her own story. She's the star yet..I don't really connect with her. It took me a while to figure it out but then it came to me...she has no personality. She's categorically a Mary Sue. Why, why, why did the author get such kudos for writing this? 

You could completely tell that it was written by a man. If he wrote under a gender neutral pen name I would still guess...written by a dude. There is little to no effort to get into the female perspective. His descriptions are one a man would make. Her emotions are flat, barely expressive, and when they are...they're meh. I wanted to ride along this ride with her...but I couldn't. 

This was just worsened by the ridiculously dull dialogue. I get it was the fifties and life was simpler. Talk was more formal and polite...but this was just weird. There was very little variation between the way the character's spoke. He had a huge list of possible dialects, attitudes, mannerisms to have fun with but failed to deliver at all. I mean, it's about Brooklyn...New York City. Her boyfriend was Italian American, her fellow boarders were young, independent women, she was Irish...and yet....nada.

I'm sorry but I have to go back to the written by the man thing. I've read lots of books where you get the masculine vibe from the narration but it didn't bother me. I think the reason it bothered me so much in Brooklyn was because the story could have, would have been something extraordinary.  Courage and resilience, homesickness slowly blending into finding-your-self, dealing with the double-standards and rigid confines of womanhood in the 1950's are common sense elements to write. Not just common sense - necessary to write a accurate portrayal of character's plot line. Her story was very real - as in...single, immigrant women coming to America on their own because home had no future to offer. It's a real, tangible story to write. He just completely failed. I haven't read any other of his books but it would disturb me if this is his perception of women. 

Eilis was SO PASSIVE. I don't feel like she genuinely felt attracted to Tony (her love interest). I don't think she really felt her choice at the end was THE CHOICE but more like the lesser of two evils. She is coddled and patronized (which I do understand is part of the way women were treated in the 1950s however...there is no depth to it), people always make her decisions for her, she is supposed to have all these emotions but does nothing substantial or moving with them. It's disturbing and patriarchal and completely out of sync to the beating, realness of a female main character.

Yea, I don't like the book. 

And I could go on and on about it. But, guess what? I LOVED THE MOVIE. And I much rather spend my brain energy writing about why I loved it and how it rocked my world than how much the novel sucked the soul out of my body through my completely appalled eyeballs. 

Please just throw out everything I just ranted about above and refresh your brain because it does not apply to the movie. At all. 

The Movie


First off, the most important aspect about the film is...Saoirse Ronan. 



She brought Eilis to life. Where in the book there is passivity - there is quiet watching, where there is no emotion - there are a thousand subtle emotions, where there is a cardboard personality - there's a statuesque, intelligent young woman with a heart of a girl next door. She is such a delight to watch in any film but this one has got to be my favorite of hers. She brings a subtle beauty and a stoic graceful charm to the plot. The story being told is a very simple, to the point story. It's rooted in a reality lived by many, many young woman through out recent history.

I think we like to imagine that immigrants, especially those who came alone, were scrappy and adventurous and chose to come to America because of the lore of the streets paved with gold. We neglect to remember that many of them came out of sheer need for a future in a desperate move at survival. Our movie Eilis lives in a small village where she has little to no prospects. No opportunity for a skilled job, no potential husband, a life destined to take care of her mother. Her sister, knowing that she's sick, wants Eilis to have a better future. So she does what big sisters do. She took charge and made things happen. Eilis is not a passive character but she does go along with things. Mostly because....who could turn down such an opportunity?

The movie follows the book closely from her rocky passage to her job and relationship with the Priest who helped sponsor her. But, with SO MUCH MORE. The true and honest truth that she just went along with what other people decided catches up to her and she gets brutally homesick. You can feel it in a visceral way that it is lacking in the depthless novel.

What I really appreciated about her journey was her independent sense of self. She receives a great deal of help from other people and she finds herself thriving. The help that she receives does not negate her. We all get a helping hand, we can get chances - it doesn't mean what we accomplish is anything diminished. Our movie Eilis is Captain of her Own Ship. Whether or not she initiated her voyage or was sent on it by others doesn't matter. Sometimes (this case in particular) a loved one needs to push you away from the dock before you can determine where you're going to go.

It's easy for stories to fall into the trap of "The Hero-Man comes, they fall in love, her happy ending tastes a little like settling but it's cool because you know..Prince Charming...right?" Considering the source material and the time period and the main characters gender it's mildly and perhaps completely miraculous that that ISN"T how the focused love story feels like as it unfolds.

Thus it would be completely remiss if I didn't acknowledge #TONYANDEILIS. #COUPLEGOALS.


I'll be damn if Tony isn't exactly what I would like from a suitor. He knows what he wants, affectionate, adorable, respectful - runs blocks in sewer-dirtied work clothes just to get you in time so you don't think that he blowing you off. Asks his little smart-ass brother for help in writing letters to you. Genuinely admires the kind of woman you are and wants to partner up with it - not squash it or take advantage of it. Yes, I know -- SPOILERS. They don't make 'em like Tony anymore. They really don't.

It's another testament to the strength and character of Soairse Ronan's acting capabilities. I don't think it's entirely contingent on her. You can't cover up a fake out happy ending with one strong woman's brilliant performance. However - she packs a hell of a punch. The entire spirit of the film felt authentic and real and realistic. It was a brilliant snapshot of a women's life in a time where women didn't have a lot of choices. Yet she was given many, yet she took them, and yet she found herself in a life that was aligned with who she was and what she wanted but in a place she had never imagined herself capable of being. It's a tangible fairy tale.


"And one day the sun will come out - you might not even notice straight away, it'll be that faint. And then you'll catch yourself thinking about something or someone who has no connection with the past. Someone who's only yours. And you'll realize...that this is where your life is." 

The most poignant and memorable and resounding quote from the end of the movie. It sums up Eilis and her journey. Because ultimately - the movie (and the attempt that was made in the novel, I believe) was about a young woman who didn't really want to go on a journey but she did and it was right and she flourished and sometimes..well...most times - you have to make that leap. You never know what's coming around the corner. You just never do. 

All in all? Don't waste your brain on the book. Rent the movie. Watch it a few times. And then go Tumblr the hell out of Eiris's gorgeous facial expressions and #EilisandTony.

Until next time!

Jess











Sunday, May 21, 2017

Roses of May - Dot Hutchison

Publishing: May 23rd, 2017, Thomas & Mercer.
Pg Count: 302 (e-book)
Find the Author: Goodreads
"Four months after the explosion at the Garden, a place where young women known as the Butterflies were kept captive, FBI agents Eddison, Hanoverian, and Ramirez are still entrenched in the aftermath. With winter coming to an end, the Butterflies have longer, warmer days of healing ahead. But for the agents, the impending thaw means one gruesome thing: a chilling guarantee that somewhere in the country, another young woman will turn up dead in a church with her throat slit and her body surrounded by flowers. Priya's sister fell victim to the killer years ago. Now she and her mom move every few months, hoping for a new beginning. When she ends up in the madman’s crosshairs, the hunt takes on new urgency. Only with Priya’s help can the killer be found—but will her desperate hope for closure compel her to put her very life on the line?" -Goodreads Blurb

Last year I reviewed The Butterfly Garden after picking it up on a whim (after having seen it suggested on my Amazon page a gazillion times). It was the start of what is now entitled the 'The Collector Trilogy'. It's being released on the 23rd. And like it's predecessor - I basically read the entire book in one night because I needed to see how it ended. 

If you haven't read The Butterfly Garden yet - don't read this book. It has too many recurring characters and references to the Garden from the first book to make proper sense to read alone. I, myself, kind of wish I had reread Garden before reading this one. However - the new characters and the developing of old ones is original and organic. The tone, and general theme, of this book is different. Whereas Garden was about trauma and how to survive and what you might do to do survive...Roses of May was about what to do after. What happens when you survive, when you're the one left behind? The theme of recovery is layered several times over within the plot. 

Familial bonds - both by blood and by choice - are also a recurring theme. As is the refreshing and clear difference between a healthy relationship and a unhealthy one. Priya, has a tight bond with the 'Quantico 3'. Eddison who has been handling her sister's case since the start in particular. When you have a series centered around the obsession of young girls/women in the most sadistic, creepy-as-fuck way I think it'd be easy to fall into the trap of making all adult male figures a crap-shoot. There is no confusion as to the platonic, paternal nature of the relationship between Eddison and Priya (and her mother). Just because family is blood doesn't mean they are Family. Looking back on the Butterfly Garden I'm beginning to see a re-occurring theme linking the series together. Ultimately the theme shifts from - what to do after surviving...to making the active stance to no longer being a victim. It's a deeply personal choice and it means different things to different people and I felt that Hutchison effectively communicated this.

My biggest pause on this book was the corny tone the narration took. At times it felt like Hutchison was forcing the lightness into the interactions of the characters. Adding humor, little quirks, and insights solely to re-affirm the shifted tone. I say that because you jump from the anonymous POV of the pervy serial killer stalking and talking about his victims to another character (usually Priya or Eddison). Perhaps that's what made it seem corny. Hutchison can rock the darkness. She is most excellent about it. The contrast between light/dark, good/evil is tangible in Roses. In ways that it was most certainly not in Butterfly.

I also thought Priya's Mom was a little crazy for letting her daughter do what she did. However, I won't spoil it. I just want to add that no kid of mine would ever, ever have to be put in a situation like Priya was. Definitely not to my knowledge and not on my watch.

3 out of 5 stars! Just like the Butterfly Garden. I genuinely look forward to the conclusion of this trilogy. I have a strong suspicion who and what case it might entail. ;)

Until next time..happy reading!

Jess


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Foretelling - Alice Hoffman

Publishing: Oct. 25th, 2016. Open Road Media.
Page Count: 72 pgs (e-book)
Find the Author: website

"Born out of sorrow in an ancient time of blood and war, Rain is a girl marked by destiny. Her mother, Alina, is the proud queen of a tribe of female warriors, yet she refuses to touch or even look at her only daughter. Determined to win her mother’s love and take her rightful place as the next queen, Rain becomes a brave and determined fighter. But the dream of a black horse clouds her future, portending death. As one devastating battle follows the next, Rain hopes for a different life for her tribe beyond never-ending bloodshed. Peace, mercy, and love, however, are forbidden words in her language—can Rain teach her sisters to speak in a new tongue before it’s too late?" - Nabbed from Goodreads. 

I've been seeking a take on the Amazon culture for a while (outside of Wonderwoman) now. Having Alice Hoffman, author of my beloved Practical Magic, write one was like getting an extra chocolate bar out of the vending machine. Trust in an author goes a long way. It leads you to buy a book without reading based on the expectation that it's worthy to stand on your shelf. It deeply pains me to say that I am happy I didn't buy this book in physical form. Because...it doesn't quite stand up to Hoffman's reputation. 

Yea, that hurt to say. 

She brought me PRACTICAL MAGIC. 

IT'S ABOUT THE AMAZONS. 

And yet...it doesn't stand up. 

We open up on a young Amazonian narrating her life. Her mother is cold towards her, she's raised by the Priestesses, tutored by the best warriors. The premise, the plot is pulling towards the readers. Brings you in with such hope. The world building that is told (told not shown - but more on that later) is shiny and hopeful...at first. And you keep reading because you want to have more...except you don't exactly get it. My personal pet peeve is when a world is built and it's entirely and utterly confusing - you can't figure a picture in your head of what's going down. That's NOT what happened. Foretelling might not live up to Hoffman's reputation but it's still Hoffman we're reading. The problem I faced was that I couldn't connect to the characters, the world was told far more than it was shown, and it went way too fast. The book (in e-book) was only 72 pages. It read like a rough draft (a good one, but still a rough draft) where the characters needed to be fleshed out and the narration needed to be crafted with visual and emotion-based world building. 

72 digital pages was not enough to fully flesh out the plot. There was so much the reader could have experienced. It read like a myth being told - which makes sense considering it is about the Amazons - but what you wanted (and expected) was a novel. 

A positive of Foretelling was the imagery inspired by the many animals Rain and her people were close to. Not just horses - but bees as well were sacred to them. Rain bonded and raised a bear cub as close to her as her horse. The bear became part of her spirit, her strength, her personality. For those who know a little about animal symbolism - it reads as a nod to foreshadowing, a extra foundation of which to understand Rain's personality and motives. 

As for the actual prophecy part of the novel named "The Foretelling"...it was a surprising twist. The prophecy is a mixture of symbolism, self-perpetuated destiny, and the circle of life. Also bad (or excellent) timing. It's a fitting tribute to Rain's journey and of course, she would act the way that she did. It's got all the makings of a emotional punch in the heart. The kind that makes you cry, freak out, get WAY into a fictional story so far that you wonder if you're kind of maybe a nut job - but it...just doesn't deliver the blow. 

I literally pouted after finishing up the 72nd page.  That was it? I wanted more! THERE WAS SO MUCH MORE WE COULD HAVE EXPERIENCED. Novels are meant to give experiences, they're meant to have so much written that the author is forced by their editor to cut their precious baby scenes out. What I read wasn't a finished novel. It was the bones of an potentially excellent novel written by a talented author. Hence, the experience I was expecting (and looking forward to) wasn't what I got.

It wasn't a waste of my Saturday evening. However, I couldn't suggest purchasing it to put on your shelf (the highest degree of recommendation I can give). If you are intrigued by myths and by the Amazons, if you enjoy Alice Hoffman - borrow it from the library or catch the digital on sale. 

3 out of 5 stars. 

Until next time, 

Jess

© Bird, Books, and Coffee. Made with love by The Dutch Lady Designs.