Sunday, June 23, 2019

Book Reviews - History, Mystery and Middle School Feels

With some unseasonably warm weather (that I desperately want to stay forever), I've been spending lots of post-work time outside reading. In preparation for the upcoming book sale (aka BOOK CHRISTMAS!!), I'm also trying to get through some books in my stack. Granted, I'm just doing it to replenish with even more, but you know. . . 

The Furies by Katie Lowe was a book that I really wanted to love y'all. The problem is that there was a comparison I was always going to draw. You see, I was a teenager when The Craft came out, so anytime there's mention of some teens with dark magic or witchcraft, that's what I'm going to hope the story is like. That want was further amplified given the story involved four girls as pictured on the cover which again made me again conjure up my memory of this poster.

Image result for the craft poster

Anyway, I'm not just here to get nostalgic, and I do want to talk about the book. The story focuses on Violet who arrives at an all girls boarding school. She quickly falls in with a group of girls who are under the "mentorship" of Annabel in an advanced study group with three other girls. In this group, they learn about history, but moreso about mythology and mystery, and this veers more and more into the occult. As you might imagine, in a story set up like this, sh*t starts to go down, and Violet has to figure out who has her back, and what she wants to do. The book was good at building intensity from a plot perspective. However, I wanted to know so much more about the girls in the story. I had so many questions about their backgrounds and their stories and their motives, and that's not just what this one provided. Ultimately, for me, this just scratched the surface of what it could have been. I wanted so badly to be fully immersed in the suspense of this world, but I didn't quite ever get to that page-turning, bone-chilling feels I craved. Thanks to St. Martins Press for the advanced copy of this read.

Read this book if - You want some teen thrills with a lot of dark stuff, witchcraft and such. 

The Humiliations of Pipi McGee by Beth Vrabel was a book that was legit an immersive read about the embarrassment of youth. Holy smokes, y'all. It was so intense (in a good way) about the feelings of how the embarrassing moments of our youth stick with and haunt us that I had to take a moment to just breathe. I again mean this in the best of ways, but goodness. Pipi is in eighth grade, and as she looks to high school, she wants to erase some of the moments from her past that she's been teased and humiliated by. She identifies one mortifying event from each school year, and she sets out to right the course of her existence. And y'all, again, some of these are intense, but what I appreciated is that this book talked about fear and humiliation in a real way. Specifically, the incident from her seventh grade year is one that needs to be in books more, and I appreciated that the author gave space to it in this one. As Pipi tries to fix things through others, she often digs deeper holes and creates bigger problems. She realizes that the quest she is on is not one that is going to be easy, but she's determined to overcome. Pipi was an incredibly relatable heroine, as she was written so authentically. I loved that this book was so, so real in that regard. I think this is a middle grade novel that kids (and honestly, adults like me who've been there too) will really connect with this tale. The want to fit in is so strong, and we all have those days like Pipi has that we wish we could erase - even all these years later. This one hit me emotionally more than I ever saw coming, and I really, really dug it. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look of this September release.

Read this book if - You want a honest and emotional journey of a middle schooler. You're looking for a relatable teen heroine who's just trying to get through.

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd was a book I feel like most people have read, and I have now finally joined the club. Sidebar - This is my second bee adjacent book in a week. Weird. ANYWAY. This book takes place in 1964 and focuses on the story of Lily. Lily's mother died when she was young, and that death still haunts her. She now lives with her father who she calls T. Ray because he does very little to support and love her. She leans on Rosaleen for that. When Rosaleen is caught in a terrible incident with three of their town's most racist and awful residents, Lily and Rosaleen are forced to flee town. Guided by a honey label, Lily found in her mother's things, they head to Tiburon, South Carolina. There they connect with three black beekeeping sisters. From there, the story is a lot of emotions as Lily tries to figure out her mom's connection to this area, and even to these specific women. This is my second book by this author, and she does such a wonderful job at writing characters that you emotionally connect to through their explorations. In this one, all of the characters have a multifaceted story to wade through, and that is what made this one a good coming of age read to check out.

Read this book if - You want a coming of age book with lots of feels. You want something well-written with a whole, whole bunch of feels. You want a read with well-written characters and story.

The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes is first of all a book that's been in my book queue for a ridiculous amount of time. In preparation for the upcoming book sale, I'm trying to read the books I've had the longest. That said, I should have read this sooner as it's such a compelling story. This is the second Jojo Moyes I've read that has a historical mystery layer, and she does a really great job of building these stories and connecting them to a present day happening! This story began in Paris during World War I. Sophie's artist husband Edouard is at war, and she is back at home. She is forced to prepare and serve meals (while she and the French residents are on rations) to the German troops in the area. The Kommandant takes a particular liking to a painting Edouard has done of her, but for Sophie this is a lasting connection to her husband she desperately wants to see again. In the present day, the painting resurfaces on Liv's mantle. She knows little of its history, but she has always connected with the women in the painting. As (bad) luck then has it, it is revealed to Liv what this painting actually is, and this sets in motion quite the chain of events. This was such a compelling read of both Sophie and Liv's stories. There was such emotion in each as they navigated love, relationships, and trying to figure out what the "right" thing to do in tough circumstances was. It had an ending that was particularly powerful as the stories came together. This one was an interesting premise in both past and present, and it kept me reading to figure out what was going to happen to the painting, but more than that, it was what would happen to Liv and Sophie.

Read this book if - You like a story with some suspense that takes place in two worlds. You want an emotional historical (and present) fiction read. 

Until next time!