Winter’s Tales by Isak Dinesen

Winter’s Tales by Isak Dinesen
Publisher/Year: Vintage, 2011
Format: E-book (Libby)
Pages: 400
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐


In Isak Dinesen’s universe, the magical enchantment of the fairy tale and the moral resonance of myth coexist with an unflinching grasp of the most obscure human strengths and weaknesses. A despairing author abandons his wife, but in the course of a long night’s wandering, he learns love’s true value and returns to her, only to find her a different woman than the one he left. A landowner, seeking to prove a principle, inadvertently exposes the ferocity of a mother’s love. A wealthy young traveler melts the hauteur of a lovely woman by masquerading as her aged and loyal servant.

Shimmering and haunting, Dinesen’s Winter’s Tales transport us, through their author’s deft guidance of our desire to imagine, to the mysterious place where all stories are born.

What I thought

  • “The Young Man With The Carnation” ⭐⭐
  • “Sorrow-Acre” ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  • “The Heroine” ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  • “The Sailor-Boy’s Tale” ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  • “The Pearls” ⭐⭐⭐
  • “The Invincible Slave-Owners” ⭐⭐
  • “The Dreaming Child” ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  • “Alkmene” ⭐⭐⭐
  • “The Fish” ⭐⭐⭐
  • “Peter and Rosa” ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  • “A Consolatory Tale” ⭐⭐

This book is easily the most frustrating book I have ever read. I knew going into it that short story collections can be a bit of a mixed bag, as it is. But while I enjoyed the writing style immensely, I couldn’t help but feel exasperated with these stories, as a whole.

Isak Dinesen writes beautifully, simply put. I can’t begin to tell you how many passages and turns of phrase there were that absolutely took my breath away. The writing itself is why I gave this three stars. I liked what I read, I just didn’t get it.

I like to think that between being a lifelong reader and having taken my share of literature courses that my literary comprehension and analysis skills are, at the very least, decent. So, it was very discouraging to me when, upon completing (what felt like) every story here, I was left thinking “huh?” Especially after reading one glowing review of this after another. Maybe I was just thinking about it too hard, or maybe I’m not as smart as I thought.

Ultimately, I finished this book feeling frustrated because I had hoped to enjoy it so much more than I did. Maybe I’d revisit this if I had the chance to read this with a book club or a class, but for now, I’m glad I borrowed it from the library.

Ninth House (Alex Stern #1) by Leigh Bardugo

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
Publisher/Year: Flatiron Books, 2019
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 480
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


The mesmerizing adult debut from Leigh Bardugo, a tale of power, privilege, dark magic, and murder set among the Ivy League elite.

Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug-dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. In fact, by age twenty, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most prestigious universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?

Still searching for answers, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. Their eight windowless “tombs” are the well-known haunts of the rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street’s biggest players. But their occult activities are more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive. They tamper with forbidden magic. They raise the dead. And, sometimes, they prey on the living.

What I thought

Leigh Bardugo’s name is not unknown to me. Previous to this novel, she had taken the YA world by storm. Honestly, I have no idea why I hadn’t read any of her books before this other than my inherent aversion to hyped books (so hipster, I know). And although I was interested in Ninth House, I probably wouldn’t have picked it up now if it hadn’t been for B&N Book Club.

What the hell is wrong with me?!

Hyped books are usually hyped for a reason, and every. single. time. I get to them years too late and fall in love anyway. ::facepalm::

Anyway. On to the book.


Talk about the perfect October read! It was dark and gritty and horrifying and spooky and kickass. And I felt like I should be reading this in my housecoat and slippers by the fire in my dark, wood-paneled library with a pipe and a glass of Scotch on ice.

I don’t even know what Scotch tastes like.

Needless to say, I fell in love with how atmospheric this story was. I’ve never been to Yale, but Leigh Bardugo took me there.

I fell in love with just about everything else in this novel, too. The secret societies and the different magic they used were SO COOL. Alex was an INCREDIBLE heroine. I was rooting for her from page one. She is strong, witty, wily, stubborn, flawed, and so damned smart. At times, I fist pumped for her, and at others, I just wanted to wrap her up in the tightest hug. And Darlington–don’t even get me started on him. How do I love him? Let me count the ways. The banter between the two of them killed me. Other characters I adored included Dawes, Turner, and of course, Lethe House. I mean, I NEED that library!

Leigh Bardugo has expertly combined multiple elements to create one hell of a book. And while there are many moments that are difficult to read, I also appreciated what she was trying to say about many modern issues. And that “just about everything” I mentioned earlier? The ONLY downfall to loving this book so hard is that with that ending, I have ZERO IDEA what I’m supposed to do with myself until Book #2 arrives.

Inland by Téa Obreht

Inland by Téa Obreht
Publisher/Year: Random House, 2019
Format: Hardcover, B&N Edition
Pages: 390
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐


The New York Times bestselling author of The Tiger‘s Wife returns with a stunning tale of perseverance–an epic journey across an unforgettable landscape of magic and myth.

In the lawless, drought-ridden lands of the Arizona Territory in 1893, two extraordinary lives collide. Nora is an unflinching frontierswoman awaiting the return of the men in her life–her husband, who has gone in search of water for the parched household, and her elder sons, who have vanished after an explosive argument. Nora is biding her time with her youngest son, who is convinced that a mysterious beast is stalking the land around their home.

Lurie is a former outlaw and a man haunted by ghosts. He sees lost souls who want something from him, and he finds reprieve from their longing in an unexpected relationship that inspires a momentous expedition across the West. The way in which Nora’s and Lurie’s stories intertwine is the surprise and suspense of this brilliant novel.

Mythical, lyrical, and sweeping in scope, Inland is grounded in true but little-known history. It showcases all of Téa Obreht’s talents as a writer, as she subverts and reimagines the myths of the American West, making them entirely–and unforgettably–her own.

What I thought

Unlike many readers, I have not read Téa Obreht’s debut novel, The Tiger’s Wife. After having finished this, her sophomore novel, however, I am eagerly looking forward to diving into that one.

Inland was a struggle for me, I won’t lie. I’m already a slow reader to begin with, but I inched along at a snail’s pace with this book. I don’t know that I’d say that’s a bad thing, though. Admittedly, it took me a while to get into her writing style, particularly due to the fact that Lurie’s and Nora’s storylines were written so stylistically different. But as I settled into this story, I became utterly entranced. It was still slow-going, don’t get me wrong, but Obreht has such a beautiful, lyrical way of writing that certain passages took my breath away and all but begged to be re-read and pored over.

I also couldn’t help but fall in love with Lurie and Nora. Call them “unlikeable” all you want, but I found Lurie oftentimes hilarious and Nora was so relatable that she became almost dear to me. Both of them, but especially Nora, were the types of characters that will travel with me, even though I ended this book days ago. I knew, at some point, that their stories would connect, which, besides the gorgeous writing and the character themselves, was what kept driving me to turn the pages. And when they did, my goodness, let me tell you–that ending was stunning. I think I held my breath for the final three pages.

Inland is very much a love-it-or-hate-it book (as evidenced during my local B&N book club meeting last night). For some, the magical realism and the open (or is it?) ending work. For others, they don’t. I’m not often a fan of endings that lack definitive answers. Here? I loved it. I feel like I could go on and on and ruminate about this book forever. My thoughts are still constantly churning about this one. (Have I talked about memory as a driving force for Lurie and Nora? No? I’ll shut up now. But seriously, if you’ve read this, message me.)

All I’m trying to say is that this is literature, at its finest. Books such as this one are why I love to read–I want to think and I want to discuss my thoughts. Reading doesn’t always look like this for me, but when it does, I know that that book is special. Inland is one of the special ones. All I can say (read: highly recommend) is to try it.

The Bingo Palace by Louise Erdrich

195326The Bingo Palace by Louise Erdrich
Publisher/Year: Harper Perennial, 2006
Format: Paperback
Pages: 274
Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟



At the crossroads of his life, Lipsha Morrissey is summoned by his grandmother to return to the reservation. There, he falls in love for the very first time–with the beautiful Shawnee Ray, who’s already considering a marriage proposal from Lipsha’s wealthy entrepreneurial boss, Lyman Lamartine. But when all efforst to win Shawnee’s affections go hopelessly awry, Lipsha seeks out his great-grandmother for a magical solution to his romantic dilemma–on sacred ground where a federally sanctioned bingo palace is slated for construction.

Louise Erdrich’s luminous novel The Bingo Palace is a tale of spiritual death and reawakening; of money, desperate love, and wild hope; and of the enduring power of cherished dreams.

What I thought

Louise Erdrich is one of my favorite authors, hands down. She is a slow read for me, but that doesn’t detract from my love for her. Her writing is not for everyone–her stories are told in a very non-linear way. But y’know, I like that. It takes me a long time to read & a bit longer to process, but I like that. Erdrich’s writing makes me think & it makes me feel. It might be different to read a non-linear storyline, but it feels very reminiscent of a normal human thought process. Not to mention, she just has a way of putting things into words that takes my breath away. My copy of this book is simply riddled with favorite quotes.

As for the plot, you can tell that Erdrich draws on a traditional oral storytelling background. The story meanders, forward & backward, dipping into & out of reality. These characters are some of my favorites, too. For as much as he got on my nerves, I couldn’t help but feel bad for (and also somewhat fond of) Lipsha. Shawnee Ray has become one of my favorite of Erdrich’s characters. I hope to see her make her own choices & her own happy ending. Fleur Pillager was another of my favorites, she was such a mystical character.

All in all, I can’t really put my finger on what it is that I loved about The Bingo Palace & Louise Erdrich. She isn’t for everyone, but I have adored everything I’ve read of hers, including this one. If you are looking for an introspective read, I highly suggest The Bingo Palace, as well as Erdrich’s other books.

The Dead Path by Stephen M. Irwin


The Dead Path by Stephen M. Irwin
Publisher/Year: Doubleday, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 374
Rating: 🌟🌟🌟



How long has it been since a novel sent chills up your spine? The Dead Path is a tour de force debut of visceral imagination and taut suspense–featuring the creepiest setting since the sewers in Stephen King’s It.

A haunting visage peering out from the trees sends Nicholas Close tumbling from his motorcycle–setting in motion a series of terrible events that leave him a widower surrounded by startling hallucinations. There is no other way to say it: he sees ghosts. They don’t say a word, but they are seemingly forced to repeat their final, harrowing moments in an endless loop before his eyes.

Fearing for his sanity, and with nowhere else to go, Nicholas returns home to his childhood home. Tallong is a sleepy suburb filled with an eccentric cast of characters and a host of memories from his past…all leading to the overgrown woods on Carmichael Road. As Nicholas attempts to reconnect with his estranged family, he becomes entangled in a disturbing series of disappearances and murders. He is now both a police suspect and the target of a malignant force that draws him to an old secret waiting in the heart of the woods. To stop the town’s violent history from repeating itself, Nicholas will have to face his greatest fears and discover what lies at the end of the path.

The Dead Path is the kind of chilling debut readers love to discover. Stephen M. Irwin’s electric use of language, memorable characters, and suspenseful pacing add up to a creepy, can’t-put-it-down tale full of twists and turns, building up to a surprising and unforgettable conclusion.


What I thought

I should know better than to fall for a “this is the next Stephen King” blurb. I wanted to like this a lot more than I did.

I really did enjoy this story. Being that I’m deathly afraid of spiders, I did find myself getting genuinely creeped out. Honestly, the story is what kept me reading. I just had to know what was going to happen. Even though I wasn’t particularly attached to any of the characters (other than Hannah, whom I adored), I still wanted to see how their fates turned out. And that ending? It was pure gold–totally unexpected & it gave me goosebumps.

Where this book fell flat for me was the writing. SO many people have praised it, so maybe I’m just missing something. The style was just not for me. It was overly descriptive, and what I mean by that is not that he went into too much detail, but that he used all these metaphors that just didn’t click for me. It felt like reaching, like he was trying too hard to be profound. For me, this kept jarring me out of the story, so it felt like I was slugging through this book. Like I said, though, many people love his writing, it just wasn’t to my taste.

Overall, this may not have completely worked for me, but I still think this was a strong debut. If you enjoy horror novels, give this one a try & I promise, you’ll never look at the woods the same! One last note, this book has a beautiful design, including a creepy cover with glow-in-the-dark words!

Get in Trouble by Kelly Link

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






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.

The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry

9205766THE KITCHEN DAUGHTER by Jael McHenry
Publisher/Year: Gallery Books, 2011
Source: Library
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 272
Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟



A mouth-watering debut novel about self-discovery and shortbread…and a magical talent, both bitter and sweet.

After the unexpected death of her parents, shy and sheltered Ginny Selvaggio, a young woman with Asperger’s syndrome, seeks comfort in the kitchen, away from her well-meaning but interfering relatives and her domineering sister, Amanda. The methodical chopping, slicing, and stirring soothe her anxiety, and the rich aroma of ribollita, painstakingly recreated from her Italian grandmother’s handwritten recipe, calms her senses. But it also draws an unexpected visitor: the ghost of Nonna herself, bearing a cryptic warning in rough English, “Do no let her,” before vanishing like steam from a cooling dish.

Faced with grief and uncertainty, Ginny turns to her recipe collection, and in doing so, discovers that she has the power to call forth the ghost of any dead person whose dish she prepares. It’s a gift she is certain she cannot share with her pragmatic sister but that ultimately leads her to an unexpected friendship and the possibility of a new life.

The mystery deepens when Ginny finds a letter hidden behind a loose fireplace brick and a series of strange black and white photographs–evidence of a family secret she can’t untangle alone. As Amanda pushes her to sell the only home she’s ever known, Ginny decides that the key to her future lies within this provocative riddle from her parents’ past. But can she cook up a dish that will bring them back long enough to help her solve it?

For readers of Sarah Addison Allen’s Garden Spells and Jodi Picoult’s House Rules, Jael McHenry’s thoughtful debut is a delicious, insightful story that considers the question: What does it really mean to be normal?

What I thought

I thought this book was a wonderful surprise–what an excellent, underrated debut novel!

The Kitchen Daughter was one of those books that I couldn’t stop thinking about every time I put it down. For one, I really enjoyed McHenry’s writing style. It was engaging & easy to read, so this turned out to be a quick read. Not only that, but her descriptions of food were so evocative that, as cliche as it sounds, I got hungry every time I was reading. I admit I wasn’t always familiar with all of the ingredients & dishes mentioned, but as someone who loves food, I really loved all of the recipes & foodie talk.

For me, I think my favorite part of this story was Ginny, hands down, and in particular, how uncomfortable her narrative made me feel. I should clarify. I mean that in the best way possible. As a reader, I think it’s very important to read perspectives that aren’t necessarily our own & I felt so uncomfortable because I realized how there are so many things I take for granted on a daily basis. It was so eye-opening for me to read a story from the perspective of someone with Asperger’s.

I’m also a huge fan of good character development, and I loved Ginny’s journey throughout this story. I loved the dichotomy of the opening & closing scenes and found that to be a very powerful representation of her growth.

Besides Ginny, I enjoyed reading about the family dynamics between her, Amanda, and their parents. Between revelations about their parents & learning to understand Amanda’s perspective, this book was a well-rounded look at families too.

Overall, this was a heartwarming yet poignant read perfect for a cozy night. With Just a dash of magical realism, a complex cast of characters, a protagonist you just can’t help but root for, and mouth-watering descriptions of food, this is one book you won’t want to miss! I’m bummed to see that Jael McHenry hasn’t written any books since this one, but she is an author I will definitely be following.