142 Ostriches by April Dávila

142 Ostriches by April Dávila
Publisher/Year: Kensington Books, 2020
Format: ARC – paperback
Pages: 262
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


Part love letter to the California desert, part intimate portrait of a family reckoning with drug abuse and denial, April Dávila’s beautifully written debut captures the anxieties of a young woman who suddenly bears responsibility amid great stress…

When Tallulah Jones was thirteen, her grandmother plucked her from the dank Oakland apartment she shared with her unreliable mom and brought her to the family ostrich ranch in the Mojave Desert. After eleven years caring for the curious, graceful birds, Tallulah accepts a job in Montana and prepares to leave home. But when Grandma Helen dies under strange circumstances, Tallulah inherits everything–just days before the birds inexplicably stop laying eggs.

Guarding the secret of the suddenly barren birds, Tallulah endeavors to force through a sale of the ranch, a task that is complicated by the arrival of her extended family. Their designs on the property–and deeply rooted dysfunction–threaten Tallulah’s ambitions and eventually her life. With no options left, Tallulah must pull her head out of the sand and face the fifty-year legacy of a family in turmoil: the reality of her grandmother’s death, her mother’s alcoholism, her uncle’s covetous anger, and the 142 ostriches whose lives are in her hands.

What I thought

Thank you to Kensington Books for the free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

So, I have been on a roll with truly excellent books. This was a BEAUTIFUL book that has solidly landed among my favorites this year. And it almost feels like fate that I was reading this alongside All Adults Here because I loved it for a lot of the same reasons. I just LOVE reading about family dynamics, especially when they involve messy & flawed families.

This story was a bit on the grittier side, but I think that really fit with the desert setting. And speaking of the (Mojave) desert, this book felt like Dávila’s love letter to it. I have never personally been there, but she painted this breathtaking view of it. It blows me away that this is a debut novel, and I feel like it is absolutely under-hyped. If you need an escape right now, I’m telling you–read this book. I was completely sucked into this story. There was so much going on, but it was always believable. There wasn’t a moment that it felt implausible, and it managed to be one of the most unique stories I’ve ever read. And oh, Tallulah, I just loved her–she was something else. Even when I could have just screamed at her, she was one of those special characters that I know I’ll find myself thinking of from time to time.

142 Ostriches is one of those books I loved so much that I hugged it when I reached the end. I still cannot believe that this is a debut novel, I was that impressed by it. I absolutely cannot wait for her next book. In the meantime, though, I’ll be here–pushing this book into readers’ hands. If you enjoy stories about crazy, messy families just making it through life, like All Adults Here, for example, I cannot urge you enough–read this book!

All Adults Here by Emma Straub

All Adults Here by Emma Straub
Publisher/Year: Riverhead Books, 2020
Format: Hardcover, B&N Edition
Pages: 370
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


Coming of age isn’t just for kids

Astrid Strick–mother to three grown-up children–has been keeping a secret. Just as she is finally warming up to share her secret with her family, a forgotten memory from her younger parenting days is jostled loose, and it’s not a good one. The secrets are multiplying, it seems, and so are her mistakes. Suddenly, Astrid realizes, she may not have been quite the parent she always thought she was. But to what consequence? And is it too late to set things right?

Astrid’s youngest son, Nicky, is drifting and unfocused, making parenting mistakes of his own. Her single daughter, Porter, is pregnant yet struggling to give up her own adolescence in time to greet a baby. And Astrid’s eldest, Elliot, seems to measure his adult life according to standards no one else shares. But who gets to decide, so many years later, which were the mistakes that mattered? It might be that only Astrid’s thirteen-year-old granddaughter and her new friend really understand the courage it takes to tell the truth to the people you love the most.

Emma Straub’s unique alchemy of wisdom, humor, and insight come together in this deeply satisfying story about adult siblings, aging parents, high school boyfriends, middle school mean girls, the lifelong effects of birth order, and all the other things that follow us into adulthood, whether we like them to or not.

What I thought

I LOVED this book. Absolutely loved it. If you love character-driven stories, like I do, then make sure to get your hands on a copy of this one. This book has so many layers, it would make a perfect book club selection. Straub explores so many topics: family dynamics, the lasting effects that parents can have on their children, how parent-child relationships change with age, sibling relationships, reckoning with the mistakes we make, love, gender, forgiveness, the list goes on. And while some readers found this to be “too much,” I thought Straub wrote with ease about, simply put, life. She really puts a finger on humanity, and her writing of this story amazed me. Life is crazy and beautiful and messy, and Straub perfectly exemplified that with this book. I loved every single character here, and they all felt so true-to-life and real to me that I feel truly sad that my time with them is through.

If you prefer stories that are solely plot-driven, then this book might not be for you. But if you are like me and enjoy reading about characters just trying to make it through this thing we call life, I cannot recommend this one highly enough. I am going to be scrambling to get my hands on Straub’s other books because I have a feeling she’s going to be a favorite author of mine, based off of how much I loved this book!

Black Leviathan by Bernd Perplies

Black Leviathan by Bernd Perlies, translated by Lucy Van Cleef
Publisher/Year: Tor, 2020
Format: ARC – paperback
Pages: 331
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐


Moby-Dick unfolds in a world of dragon hunters in this epic revenge fantasy

A shadow will cover you, larger than that cast by any other dragon of this world. Black as the lightless chasm from whence it was born at the beginning of time.

In the city of Skargakar, residents make a living from hunting dragons and use them for everything from clothing to food.

Lian does his part, carving the kyrillian crystals that power the hunting ships through the cloud sea, but when he makes an enemy of a dangerous man, Lian ships out on the next vessel available as a dragon hunter.

But his new captain hunts more than just any dragon. His goal is the Firstboarn Gargantuan–and Adaraon is prepared to sacrifice everything for revenge.

What I thought

Thank you to Tor and Tor Teen for the free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review!

This is my absolute least favorite type of review to write, so I’m going to keep it short, sweet, and to the point.

I wanted to love this book so much more than what I did. What I DID love, though, was the idea behind this story and the worldbuilding. I mean, Moby Dick but with dragons is easily one of the most unique fantasy premises that I have read in some time. And I loved how it was done! The world here was seriously SO cool, and the world building was so on point that I had this perfect picture in my mind as I read, which is one of my favorite parts of reading good fantasy.

Honestly, I can’t quite pinpoint what it was about this book that didn’t do it for me. I didn’t feel close to any of the characters, and I wasn’t riveted by the plot–but as to why I felt both of those things, I’m not sure. The only thing I can figure is the translation. I thought the translator did a great job, don’t get me wrong. I think maybe the story itself just didn’t translate well.

This really was a good book, I just didn’t love it like I had hoped. If you are looking for a good twist on a classic tale, or if you’re looking for a good old rollicking epic adventure story, I would definitely recommend this one. Even though I didn’t LOVE it, it was still a solid entertaining addition to the genre.