American Supernatural Tales edited by S. T. Joshi

American Supernatural Tales edited by S. T. Joshi
Publisher/Year: Penguin Books, 2007
Format: Paperback
Pages: 477
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Goodreads

Summary

The ultimate collection of weird and frightening fiction by American writers

It takes an unusual caliber of writer to deliver readers into the terrifying beyond–to conjure tales that are not only unsettling, but unnatural, with elements and characters that are all the more disturbing for their impossibility. From Edgar Allan Poe to Stephen King, American authors have excelled at journeying into the supernatural. You’ll find them here, including H. P. Lovecraft, Shirley Jackson, Ray Bradbury, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and others. An unprecedented anthology of phantasmagoric, spectral, and demonic writing, American Supernatural Tales celebrates our enduring need to be spooked and horrified.

What I thought

If you are looking for a collection of “supernatural”/horror short stories, look no further. This was a solid sampling of stories from some of the genre’s best authors. I was so excited to dive into this one to not only read selections from some of my favorite authors, but also to discover some of the other greats that I hadn’t read before. As with any collection, there were some stories that I enjoyed more than others, but for the most part, I really liked what I read and even found a few new favorites. I also really enjoyed Joshi’s introduction and found his commentary on the genre to be fascinating, although I highly disagree with his opinion of Stephen King. All in all, I thought this was a comprehensive anthology and one I’d like to add to my own shelves!

Here’s my rating of each story:

–“The Adventure of the German Student” by Washington Irving ⭐⭐⭐
–“Edward Randolph’s Portrait” by Nathaniel Hawthorne ⭐⭐⭐
–“The Fall of the House of Usher” by Edgar Allan Poe ⭐⭐⭐
–“What Was It?” by Fitz-James O’Brien ⭐⭐⭐⭐
–“The Death of Halpin Frayser” by Ambrose Bierce ⭐⭐
–“The Yellow Sign” by Robert W. Chambers ⭐⭐⭐⭐
–“The Real Right Thing” by Henry James ⭐⭐⭐
–“The Call of Cthulhu” by H. P. Lovecraft ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
–“The Vaults of Yoh-Vombis” by Clark Ashton Smith ⭐⭐⭐⭐
–“Old Garfield’s Heart” by Robert E. Howard ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
–“Black Bargain” by Robert Bloch ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
–“The Lonesome Place” by August Derleth ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
–“The Girl With Hungry Eyes” by Fritz Leiber ⭐⭐⭐⭐
–“The Fog Horn” by Ray Bradbury ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
–“A Visit” by Shirley Jackson ⭐⭐⭐⭐
–“Long Distance Call” by Richard Matheson ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
–“The Vanishing American” by Charles Beaumont ⭐⭐⭐⭐
–“The Events at Poroth Farm” by T. E. D. Klein ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
–“Night Surf” by Stephen King ⭐⭐⭐⭐
–“The Late Shift” by Dennis Etchison ⭐⭐⭐⭐
–“Vastarien” by Thomas Ligotti ⭐⭐⭐
–“Endless Night” by Karl Edward Wagner ⭐⭐
–“The Hollow Man” by Norman Partridge ⭐⭐⭐⭐
–“Last Call for the Sons of Shock” by David J. Schow ⭐⭐⭐
–“Demon” by Joyce Carol Oates ⭐⭐⭐⭐
–“In the Water Works (Birmingham, Alabama 1888) by Caitlin R. Kiernan ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Startup by Doree Shafrir

Startup by Doree Shafrir
Publisher/Year: Little, Brown and Company, 2017
Format: E-book
Pages: 304
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Goodreads

Summary

“A biting and astute debut novel [with] many delights.” –Lara Vapnyar, New York Times Book Review

Recommended as a book to read this month by BuzzFeed, Bustle, Entertainment Weekly, Fast Company, Nylon, Town & Country and Lit Hub

One of the most anticipated books of 2017–Vulture, BuzzFeed, The Millions, Nylon, PopSugar, and Book Riot’s “All the Books” Podcast

From veteran online journalist and BuzzFeed writer Doree Shafrir comes a hilarious debut novel that proves there are some dilemmas that no app can solve.

Mack McAllister has a $600 million dollar idea. His mindfulness app, TakeOff, is already the hottest thing in tech and he’s about to launch a new and improved version that promises to bring investors running and may turn his brainchild into a $1 billion dollar business–in startup parlance, an elusive unicorn.

Katya Pasternack is hungry for a scoop that will drive traffic. An ambitious young journalist at a gossipy tech blog, Katya knows that she needs more than another PR friendly puff piece to make her the go-to byline for industry news.

Sabrina Choe Blum just wants to stay afloat. The exhausted mother of two and failed creative writer is trying to escape from her credit card debt and an inattentive husband–who also happens to be Katya’s boss–as she rejoins a work force that has gotten younger, hipper, and much more computer literate since she’s been away.

Before the ink on Mack’s latest round of funding is dry, an errant text message hints that he may be working a bit too closely for comfort with a young social media manager in his office. When Mack’s bad behavior collides with Katya’s search for a salacious post, Sabrina gets caught in the middle as TakeOff goes viral for all the wrong reasons. As the fallout from Mack’s scandal engulfs the lower Manhattan office building where all three work, it’s up to Katya and Sabrina to write the story the men in their lives would prefer remain untold.

An assured, observant debut from the veteran online journalist Doree Shafrir, Startup is a sharp, hugely entertaining story of youth, ambition, love, money and technology’s inability to hack human nature.

What I thought

I am absolutely blown away by how much I enjoyed this book! At the risk of sounding pessimistic, I have to admit that this book wasn’t one that initially appealed to me, if simply for the fact that I know absolutely nothing about big city startup culture. But it kept showing up everywhere and I kept seeing readers raving about it, particularly people whose taste I inherently trust. So I had to see what all the hype was about, and I’m so glad I did!

Startup was compulsively readable, and I was truly loathe to put it down. I think what did it for me was that for as much as I found this cast of characters to be mostly unlikable humans, I couldn’t help but want to read about their antics. And don’t mistake me, I have no issue with reading about unlikable characters–to me, that makes them more human and relatable. It was utterly addictive reading to see what questionable choice any one of them would make next.

The most impressive aspect of this debut was Shafrir’s writing. It’s smart, witty, and, at times, hilarious. With Startup, Shafrir offers readers a satirical and timely take on millenial, technology-driven culture. It gave me a lot to think about and to examine in my own life, with regards to technology and social media use.

Honestly, the only thing that kept this from being a five-star read for me was that although this was timely, I hesitate to say that it’s timeless. I’m not sure that this is a book that I will ever feel the need to revisit. Unlike some reviewers, I was actually okay with the ending (once I gave it some thought), and I don’t feel the need for a sequel or any more concrete explanations. Not everyone enjoys open-ended conclusions, though, so without spoiling anything, just be aware that Shafrir leaves her readers with multiple questions.

With that being said, I still would highly recommend this book, and I will definitely be looking forward to reading more from Shafrir in the future.

Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama

12971662Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama
Publisher/Year: Farrar Straus Giroux, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 295
Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 1/2
Goodreads

 

 

Summary

Monstrous mermaids. Vengeful ghosts. A century-old curse. 

When fierce mermaid Syrenka falls in love with a human named Ezra, she abandons her life underwater for a chance at happiness on land. The choice comes with horrific and deadly consequences.

Generations later, seventeen-year-old Hester knows that love and death are inextricably linked for the women in her family. Is it an undiagnosed genetic defect, or a curse? Hester’s solution is to avoid love altogether, until she meets an enigmatic stranger named Ezra and feels drawn to him in a way she can’t explain or resist. Ezra may be able to help her tease apart the strands of her family’s strange history: Ezra knows a thing or two about curses.

The answers Hester seeks are waiting in the graveyard, in the crypt, and at the bottom of the ocean–but powerful forces will do anything to keep her from uncovering her connection to Syrenka and the tragedy of so long ago.

Monstrous Beauty is a dark and brilliantly plotted thriller about sacrifice, enduring love, and hope.

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What I thought

I loved this book! As a fan of fairy tales, I really enjoyed how the author portrayed the folklore of mermaids. Like a true fairy tale, this story was very dark & evocative. Actually I was surprised by just how dark, gruesome, and even gory the plot was in some parts. That is not to say that this book is all doom & gloom, but it does get pretty tragic. I would recommend this for more mature readers, as it does touch on some heavy topics, including death, gore, rape, and grief.

But anyway, back to my original point, which is that the writing was deliciously atmospheric. To me, it felt like the perfect rendition of mermaid folklore. When I think of the ocean, the words that come to mind are: dark, mysterious, tempestuous, eerie, beautiful, and lush. I think Elizabeth Fama captured that perfectly with her writing.

I also enjoyed the two storylines–one set in the past & one set in present day. I was worried that this would make the flow feel choppy, but it felt natural to me. In reading the sections set in the past, I was able to figure out the mystery before Hester did. I didn’t find that to be a bad thing though, I thought it added to the suspense as I watched Hester start to piece together the clues.

I will say again that I absolutely loved this book, but there were a couple things I wasn’t crazy about. The first one was something minor: Hester’s swearing. Now, I’m not a saint myself & swearing in books doesn’t bother me in the slightest. I guess it just sounded unnatural in her case? Unnatural & unnecessary. But that wasn’t really the thing that bothered me. I loved this book, but I did not buy the insta-love.

****SPOILERS AHEAD****

I get it, what the author was trying to do with the Ezra-Syrenka-Hester thing. I just never really felt the connection between Ezra & Hester. I would think if Ezra was a ghost, he would know that Hester is Syrenka’s descendent, so on his part, it felt a little creepy. And as for Hester, I really didn’t get how she went from this cynical, anti-love girl to falling instantly head-over-heels for a guy she met in a cave. All that being said, I do recognize that this is a book for young adults and that, as someone who used to be a teenager, teenagers can fall pretty hard & pretty fast. Also, I’m aware that insta-love happens pretty regularly in fairy tales. Maybe I’m just overthinking all of this, but it just kinda bugged me.

Despite the insta-love thing, I did really love this book & I can absolutely see myself re-reading this at some point. I loved the atmospheric writing & the mermaid folklore & the seaside setting. If you are looking for a mermaid tale that’s on the darker side, you NEED to read this!

The Owl Killers by Karen Maitland

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The Owl Killers by Karen Maitland 
Publisher/Year: Delacorte Press, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 509
Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
Goodreads

 

 

 

Summary

From the author of Company of Liars, hailed as “a jewel of a medieval mystery” (The New York Times) and “an atmospheric tale of treachery and magic” (Marie Claire), comes a magnificent new novel of an embattled village and a group of courageous women who are set on a collision course–in an unforgettable storm of secrets, lust, and rage.

England, 1321. The tiny village of Ulewic teeters between survival and destruction, faith and doubt, God and demons. For shadowing the villagers’ lives are men cloaked in masks and secrecy, ruling with violence, intimidation, and terrifying fiery rites: the Owl Masters.

But another force is touching Ulewic–a newly formed community built and served only by women. Called a beguinage, it is a safe harbor of service and faith in defiance of the all-powerful Church.

Behind the walls of this sanctuary, women have gathered from all walks of life: a skilled physician, a towering former prostitute, a cook, a local convert. But life in Ulewic is growing more dangerous with each passing day. The women are the subject of rumors, envy, scorn, and fury…until the daughter of Ulewic’s most powerful man is cast out of her home and accepted into the beguinage–and battle lines are drawn.

Into this drama are swept innocents and conspirators, a parish priest trying to save himself from his own sins…a village teenager, pregnant and terrified…a woman once on the verge of sainthood, now cast out of the Church…With Ulewic ravaged by flood and disease, and with villagers driven by fear, a secret inside the beguinage will draw the desperate and the depraved–until masks are dropped, faith is tested…and every lie is exposed.

 

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What I thought

THIS BOOK, you guys.

I know I keep saying that, but seriously, I cannot gush enough about this book. It has been a while since I have completely fallen in love with a book like I did with The Owl Killers. And that’s saying something because this book was DARK.

This was my work read of the moment, but despite reading this in an office breakroom, I gasped, I laughed, I fumed, I cried. A GOOD book (to me, anyway) is one that gets me to feel, to react. Let me tell you, The Owl Killers fit the bill.

And not only that, but it is very evident that Karen Maitland did her research, which is something that I very much appreciate when it comes to historical fiction. I was transported from my dreary office to the Dark Ages (although, thankfully, I don’t mean that literally). Even down to the characters’ mindsets & world views, everything felt accurate, which I loved.

I know everyone isn’t a fan of multiple points-of-view stories, but I thought it worked exceptionally well here, and I found it so fascinating. You read from one person’s point-of-view and hear their thoughts, and then you see how someone else perceives things, including that other person. I just thought Maitland handled that very well & created a cast of characters I loved (and loved to hate).

I know I will be thinking of this book for some time to come. It has made my list of favorites & I will be eager to check out Maitland’s other books. The Owl Killers is going to be one of my go-to recommendations for outstanding historical fiction. If you are interested in reading about the Dark Ages, you NEED to read this if you haven’t already.

Henry Huggins (Henry Huggins #1) by Beverly Cleary

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Henry Huggins (Henry Huggins #1) by Beverly Cleary 
Publisher/Year: Scholastic, 2000
Format: Paperback
Pages: 155
Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Summary

Henry Huggins had been wishing for some excitement in his life. He never thought it would come in the form of a lost, hungry dog with big brown eyes that just begged for a taste of his ice cream cone.

Of course Henry shared his ice cream, and of course the poor dog wanted to follow Henry home. But long before Henry reached home with “Ribsy” he had spent all his money, been put off three buses, and enjoyed a hair-raising ride in a police car. And that was only the beginning of Henry’s exciting new life!

What I thought

I am so sad that I missed this book as a kid because I loved it now, as an adult. I was a HUGE Beverly Cleary as a kid, so I have no idea how I passed by this one. I’m just glad I finally found it.

Beverly Cleary is simply THE BEST, there’s no other way around it. You can tell that she knew & understood children, which is why she remains so popular among them.

With regards to this particular book, I fell in love with Henry and Ribsy. Henry is such a likeable, clever, adventurous, and ambitious boy, and Ribsy is such a great & oftentimes hilarious sidekick.

I really liked how Henry’s story was told, too, with each chapter being an anecdote versus having an overarching plot. It makes this book ideal for reading to (or with) young readers.

There’s something so wonderful & almost magical about the way that Beverly Cleary can take a simple story about everyday characters and create such a nostalgic, accessible read for all ages.

A definite must-read for young & old, I highly recommend checking out this classic book!

East o’ the Sun and West o’ the Moon translated by Sir George Webbe Dasent

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East o’ the Sun and West o’ the Moon translated by Sir George Webbe Dasent
Publisher/Year: Candlewick Press, 1992
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 40
Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
Goodreads

 

 

Summary

A kind of Scandinavian Beauty and the Beast, this epic romantic story about a bewitched prince and the determined lassie who loves him has just about everything: rags and riches, hags and heroism, magic and mystery, a curse and a quest, wicked trolls, a shape-shifting bear, and finally, a happy ending.

Master children’s book illustrator P. J. Lynch has created a luminous backdrop worthy of this grand adventure, transporting readers to a world of fantasy and imagination.

What I thought

If you are a fan of fairytales and/or a fan of picture books, you NEED to get your hands on a copy of this book as soon as possible.

I had never read this tale (or any of its adaptations) before, and it’s such a lovely, adventurous, romantic, and fantastical story. It instills such a sense of wonder–I know I would have loved this as a child.

As is the case with fairytales, this tale definitely has its dark moments, what between the trolls, the hags, and even the lassie’s mother. And I particularly adored the element of repetition, reminiscent of traditional folklore. This is most definitely a story to be read aloud.

As far as the illustrations go, there really are not words to describe how stunning P. J. Lynch’s artwork is. The illustrations are evocative and atmospheric–they add to that sense of wonder I mentioned.

East o’ the Sun and West o’ the Moon is a gorgeously illustrated fairytale that is not to be missed. I definitely need to add this to my shelves!

Forrest Gump by Winston Groom

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Forrest Gump by Winston Groom
Publisher/Year: Vintage, 2012
Format: E-book
Pages: 257
Rating: 🌟🌟🌟
Goodreads

 

 

Summary (from Goodreads)

Six foot six, 242 pounds, and possessed of a scant IQ of 70, Forrest Gump is the lovable, surprisingly savvy hero of this classic comic tale. His early life may seem inauspicious, but when the University of Alabama’s football team drafts Forrest and makes him a star, it sets him on an unbelievable path that will transform him from Vietnam hero to world-class Ping-Pong player, from wrestler to entrepreneur. With a voice all his own, Forrest is telling all in a madcap romp through three decades of American history.

What I thought

I wish I would have enjoyed this book more than I did, but I just had too difficult of a time separating the book from the movie. I did like it, but I didn’t love it. It was definitely a lot darker than I was expecting, which, in a way, made me appreciate the comedic relief even more. Admittedly, it got a little bizarre for me, but I’m glad I continued reading. I loved how no matter what curveballs life threw his way, Forrest just rolled with the punches & didn’t dwell on too much of anything. There’s something to be learned in that.

Overall, if you’re a fan of the movie looking to read this, be aware–they are VERY different. If you keep that in mind, this is a humorous and, at times, poignant story that is definitely one-of-a-kind and one you won’t soon forget.

Get in Trouble by Kelly Link

Get in T22125258rouble by Kelly Link
Publisher/Year: Random House, 2015
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 🌟🌟🌟
Goodreads

 

 

 

 

Synopsis

She has been hailed by Michael Chabon as “the most darkly playful voice in American fiction” and by Neil Gaiman as “a national treasure.” Now Kelly Link’s eagerly awaited new collection–her first for adult readers in a decade–proves indelibly that this bewitchingly original writer is among the finest we have.

Link has won an ardent following for her ability, with each new short story, to take readers deeply into an unforgettable, brilliantly constructed fictional universe. The nine exquisite examples in this collection show her in full command of her formidable powers. In “The Summer People,” a young girl in rural North Carolina serves as uneasy caretaker to the mysterious, never-quite-glimpsed visitors who inhabit the cottage behind her house. In “I Can See Right Through You, a middle-aged movie star makes a disturbing trip to the Florida swamp where his former on- and off-screen love interest is shooting a ghost-hunting reality show. In “The New Boyfriend,” a suburban slumber party takes an unusual turn, and a teenage friendship is tested, when the spoiled birthday girl opens her big present: a life-size animated doll.

Hurricanes, astronauts, evil twins, bootleggers, Ouija boards, iguanas, The Wizard of Oz, superheroes, the Pyramids…These are just some of the talismans of an imagination as capacious and as full of wonder as that of any writer today. But as fantastical as these stories can be, they are always grounded by sly humor and an innate generosity of feeling for the frailty–and the hidden strengths–of human beings. In Get in Trouble, this one-of-a-kind talent expands the boundaries of what short fiction can do.

What I thought

Ahh, this is going to be a tough one to review. I’m just going to address the elephant int he room–this was just okay for me. I can appreciate what Link did with this collection. Her writing is actually superb & insanely creative. I think the best word to describe it is “surreal.” I really loved three of the nine stories: “Secret Identity,” “Origin Story,” and “The New Boyfriend.” The only one I actively disliked was “Valley of the Girls.” However, that being said, the other five stories left no impression on me. That isn’t to say they were “bad”–just that I didn’t connect with them, which is more my own fault than that of the author’s. Personally, (and this is just my opinion) they were just too “out there” for my taste.

Again, I can’t stress this enough–Kelly Link is a brilliant storyteller. I can see how this was a Pulitzer finalist. I would recommend this collection to fans of surrealism/magic realism, but it was just okay for me.

Finding Emma by Steena Holmes

 

17074570Finding Emma by Steena Holmes
Publisher/Year: 
Amazon Publishing, 2012
Format: Paperback
Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Goodreads

 

 

 

 

Synopsis

“Emma!” Megan ran outside calling her daughter’s name. She stopped in the middle of the driveway and scanned the area. Nothing. She wasn’t chasing butterflies, pulling flowers out of the garden, or playing with dandelions. She wasn’t anywhere. Megan screamed as loud as she could as tears streamed down her face. Emma was gone.

The last time Megan saw her youngest daughter, Emma, was on the little girl’s third birthday. Now, two years later, she sees her daughter’s face in every blonde girl she passes–at the grocery store, in car windows, at the doctor’s office. She is determined to find her daughter, but her commitment borders on obsession as she finds herself following these little girls who resemble her missing daughter.

Her inability to move on after Emma’s kidnapping has distanced Megan from her friends and family. Her two older daughters resent her relentless and fruitless search for their sister, and her husband, Peter, pleads with her to come to terms with Emma’s absence before her obsession causes the destruction of the rest of their family.

Meanwhile, in the same small town, Jack dotes on his granddaughter, Emmie, but has begun to question his wife, Dottie’s, secrecy about Emmie and her mother, Mary. As Dottie slips into dementia, Jack can’t help wonder if there is a dark secret Dottie is keeping from him.

Jack and Megan’s lives collide at the town fair when Megan snaps a photograph of a little girl with her grandparents–an act that could lead to catastrophe for both families.

What I thought

I have to admit, I’m actually surprised by how much I ended up enjoying this book. Although I did have a few issues (which I’ll get into), I thought Finding Emma was a great read.

It is on the “lighter” side of “missing child” stories, but it was still a heartwrenching read. It was definitely predictable, but I still enjoyed reading this. I knew the “whodunit,” but found I had a very difficult time putting the book down because I had to know how it was all going to come together. Like I said, even though it was heartwrenching, raw, and honest, there was still a certain quaint and hopeful feeling. This read like something you’d watch on Hallmark, and I mean that in the best way. I was actually really pleased with that because I was hesitant to read this story anyway because I was afraid it would be too heavy of a read for me right now.

Another thing that pleasantly surprised me was how much I enjoyed Holmes’ writing. Whether anyone likes to admit it or not, there is a stigma surrounding self-published works. But for a self-published author, I found this story to be compulsively readable & emotionally moving.

My only complaint (which really isn’t a big deal, just a personal preference) was that I didn’t really <i>like</i> Megan or Dottie most of the time. I sympathized with them, for the most part, but I thought Megan seemed kind of self-absorbed & I thought Dottie seemed, frankly, kinda mean. But again, putting it in perspective, both characters were dealing with pretty serious issued & they acted like any human would. Maybe not happy-go-lucky, exactly, but then again who really would be? Personally, my favorite characters were Jack & Emma. I’m looking forward to hopefully seeing them in the next book.

If you are looking for a book revolving around family dynamics, the things that make or break us, despair, hope, and most importantly, love–this is your book. This is not a mystery or a thriller, but rather an emotionally moving story of two families in the aftermath of a child gone missing. Now, I need book #2!

Not Otherwise Specified by Hannah Moskowitz

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Not Otherwise Specified by Hannah Moskowitz
Publisher/Year: Simon Pulse, 2015
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
Goodreads

 

 

 

 

Synopsis

Etta is tired of dealing with all the labels and categories that seem so important to everyone else in her small Nebraska hometown.

Everywhere she turns, someone feels she’s too fringe for the fringe. Not gay enough for the Dykes, her ex-clique, thanks to a recent relationship with a boy; not tiny and white enough for ballet, her first passion; and not sick enough to look anorexic (partially thanks to recovery). Etta doesn’t fit anywhere–until she meets Bianca, the straight, white, Christian, and seriously sick girl in Etta’s therapy group. Both girls are auditioning for Brentwood, a prestigious New York theater academy that is so not Nebraska. Bianca seems like Etta’s salvation, but how can Etta be saved by a girl who needs saving herself?

What I thought

Oh my goodness–I LOVED this book. I truly think that Etta has worked her way into my heart–she has definitely made her way onto my list of all-time favorite characters.

More than anything else about this book, I loved Etta’s story. She was so real & flawed & genuine. I can’t speak for how well her story represents black bisexual teenage girls, but as for her “not otherwise specified” eating disorder…it was spot on. Without getting into too much personal detail, let me simply say this: there were a few times I had to put this book down so that I could weep because here Etta was, putting into words some of my own thoughts & feelings that, at one time, I wasn’t even aware I was having.

That’s not to say that this is one of those “sad” books, but rather that it’s just a book that has a lot of feeling. I laughed with Etta, cried with Etta, commiserated with Etta, became annoyed with Etta, and ultimately, cheered for Etta. Being a teenager is hard & it’s confusing, and Etta’s story perfectly encapsulated that. Her voice was so strong & unique (& SO Etta), that it really is hard to imagine her as a fictional character.

This book is so underrated, it’s unfair. This has become one of my favorite reads of 2017. If you’re looking for a diverse book that shows how rough being a teenager can be, this is your book. And more importantly, if you are looking for a genuine story about a girl who decides to defy the labels that are trying to box her in, you have to give this book a try.

Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke

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Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke
Publisher/Year: W. W. Norton & Company, 1962
Format: Paperback
Pages: 123
Rating: 🌟🌟🌟
Goodreads

 

Synopsis

These letters are timeless. Rilke said himself that much of his creative expression went into his correspondence, and here he touches upon subjects and ideas we recognize as characteristic in his poetry. Like so many of his letters, these are addressed to a correspondent he had never seen. Drawn by some sympathetic note in one or another of his poems, some unlooked-for response to what was in their own minds, young people were wont to write him their problems and ask his advice. In this case of the Young Poet the replies form a compact group of ten letters in which every young artist and many another young person will find understanding and good counsel. Those who already know the acutely sensitive observer of The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge and the whimsical inventor of the Stories of God will find here a Rilke clear-sighted, constructive, and eminently positive in his attitude toward life and art.

Biographical notes at the end of the volume give an account of the poet’s own life at the time which will be of interest to all readers of Rilke.

What I thought

I don’t want to go into too much detail about this little book because I feel like the advice & inspiration within is best experienced firsthand.

So, just a couple things:

– I’ve never read any of Rilke’s poetry, but now, having read this, I need to fix that.

– I added so many quotes from this–if this was my copy, it would be riddled with highlights & underlines.

– Rilke is a fascinating person. I was glad to have the background info on Rilke, as it gave good context to the letters. I also have to say, I think these letters are perfectly demonstrative of Rilke’s personality & outlook of many things. As corny as it sounds, I just thought it was a really great thing for him to do–to respond to & form a friendship/mentorship with young Mr. Kappus.

– I do have to note that I don’t think I read the best translation of this (M. D. Herter Norton, 1962). Some of the sentiments were lost on me, I think, due to this.

Overall, even though this little book was something different than my usual reading choices, I thoroughly enjoyed it & it sparked an interest in Rilke’s poetry.

Christmas with Tucker by Greg Kincaid

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Christmas with Tucker by Greg Kincaid
Publisher/Year: Doubleday, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 180
Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Goodreads

 

 

Synopsis

The sleeper hit of 2008, A Dog Named Christmas became a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie a year later, seen by more than twelve million people in the United States alone. Now, in Christmas with Tucker, Greg Kincaid brings back one of that book’s most endearing characters, sharing the moving story of George, a young boy dealing with the loss of his father, and the dog that comes into his life to offer him hope and a touch of courage.

It is the winter of 1962, and Kansas is hit with one of the worst blizzards in its history. It is during this cruel season that twelve-year-old George is called upon to endure more than even most grown men could withstand–the death of his father and the upkeep of the family farm that is his legacy.

When his mother and sisters leave for Minnesota, George has only his grandparents and the companionship of Tucker, an Irish setter, to help him persevere through these most difficult challenges. Can he find the strength to walk the road that leads to healing, find his true self, and ultimately become a man? A coming-of-age story for readers of all ages, Christmas with Tucker is a classic Christmas tale about a young man’s love for his dog, his family, and his farm.

What I thought

I’m a sucker for heartwarming, Hallmark-esque stories and especially those that take place during Christmastime. Christmas with Tucker fit that bill. Not only that, but I also love coming-of-age stories set during the ’60s/’70s, so this book was right up my alley. All in all, I really enjoyed this. Kincaid’s writing wasn’t anything fantastic, but I thought the story is what shone here. I actually teared up at the end. One of the things I particularly enjoyed was that this story wasn’t fluff entirely, it did have substance to it. I can definitely see myself revisiting this around Christmas, and I want to continue with the series. Sometimes predictable, sometimes sappy, and sometimes simply nostalgic, Christmas with Tucker is everything a good comfort read should be.