Category Archives: Fiction

Review: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Do you ever read a book and wish the world (or worlds, in this case) was real? That you could just pack a bag and travel to the place you’re reading about?

That’s how I felt listening to A Darker Shade of Magic. 

Sure, the story was interesting, and Kell and Lila certainly captured my attention. But it was the worlds of Red London and White London and Grey London that had me wishing the story was real. I mean – three parallel cities, each with their own characteristics and….personalities? Where only the outline is the same? Sounds like a wonderful set of adventures just waiting to happen.

I suppose that’s how Delilah Bard felt when Kell described it to her.

Speaking of Lila, she was really the star of the novel. Oh, Kell’s fine – if a little boring. Lila is the interesting one, and the reason for Kell’s eventual character growth. Their interactions are a lot of fun, though I’ll be honest and admit that I couldn’t decide if there’s a romance budding or if it’s more of a brother-sister kind of camaraderie. Either way, it works.

For most of the story, Kell and Lila are trying to return a dangerous magical artifact to Black London, which was long ago sealed off because it was deemed too dangerous. Items from Black London either destroy or corrupt the people who wield them – yet, strangely, Lila – who has no magic at all – seems unaffected. What follows is a fast-paced tale of carrying the artifact through the different Londons, all in an attempt to return it to Black London and therefore render it useless. Complicating matters is the fact that a handful of people (understandably) want the powerful item for themselves.

V.E. Schwab’s series gets a lot of love, and after finishing A Darker Shade of Magic it’s easy to see why. She’s created an incredible world, full of magic, but also realistic – it’s not too terribly far-fetched to imagine such things in our world, even if the thought of parallel Londons is a bit out there. Schwab has also written two vastly different, yet incredibly similar characters – characters that as a reader, you want to root for. Or want to be.

Stylistically, A Darker Shade of Magic reminds me of a cross between The Magicians and The Name of the Wind. While written for adults, I think it’s accessible enough that younger readers would easily enjoy it too. Definitely give this one a try if you’re a fantasy fan!

Series: Shades of Magic #1    Hardcover: 400 pages    Audio: 12 hours

Published: February 2015 by Tor Books    Source: Purchased via Scribd

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A Darker Shade of Magic on Goodreads

Kell is one of the last Antari—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black.

Kell was raised in Arnes—Red London—and officially serves the Maresh Empire as an ambassador, traveling between the frequent bloody regime changes in White London and the court of George III in the dullest of Londons, the one without any magic left to see.

Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.

After an exchange goes awry, Kell escapes to Grey London and runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive.

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Blog Tour: The Other Alcott by Elise Hooper

I vaguely remember reading a kid-friendly version of Little Women as a child – I’m not sure I ever read the full book, but I got enough of the gist to understand why everyone loved it. (That reminds me, I should probably read it as an adult – I’ll add that to the list.) I didn’t know much about Louisa May Alcott, but when I read the synopsis for The Other Alcott, I was immediately intrigued. Another Alcott sister, one who bucked convention as well? Sign me up.

Unfortunately, The Other Alcott failed to grab me, and this one is a DNF. Much as I tried, I couldn’t relate to May. The more I read, the more interested I was in Louisa – which is kinda the exact opposite of what The Other Alcott is trying to do. I don’t necessarily think this is anything to do with Hooper’s writing, but more about me as a reader. May reminded me a bit of other characters I’ve had trouble with –  Ellie in Summer at the Dog and Duck, Scarlett in Caraval, Cheryl Strayed in Wild…women who are billed as strong characters, but who have moments of such galling weakness that it makes me scratch my head and wonder if the author is trying to make them appear vulnerable (but leaning too far into it), or if the strength is a facade. If you’re the kind of reader who really likes watching a character constantly try to redeem themselves, The Other Alcott will likely be right up your alley. For me, it felt a little too whiny, and I wasn’t invested enough to give May a chance.

I’d love to read this with a book club though, because I suspect there’s a lot to talk about – especially if the book is paired with Little Women, and you compare and contrast May and Amy March. Someone do that, and fill me in!!

Paperback: 432 pages    Published: September 2017 by William Morrow    Source: Publisher via TLC

The Other Alcott on Goodreads

Elise Hooper’s debut novel conjures the fascinating, untold story of May Alcott—Louisa’s youngest sister and an artist in her own right.

We all know the story of the March sisters, heroines of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. But while everyone cheers on Jo March, based on Louisa herself, Amy March is often the least favorite sister. Now, it’s time to learn the truth about the real “Amy”, Louisa’s sister, May.

Stylish, outgoing, creative, May Alcott grows up longing to experience the wide world beyond Concord, Massachusetts. While her sister Louisa crafts stories, May herself is a talented and dedicated artist, taking lessons in Boston, turning down a marriage proposal from a well-off suitor, and facing scorn for entering what is very much a man’s profession.

Life for the Alcott family has never been easy, so when Louisa’s Little Women is published, its success eases the financial burdens they’d faced for so many years. Everyone agrees the novel is charming, but May is struck to the core by the portrayal of selfish, spoiled “Amy March.” Is this what her beloved sister really thinks of her?

So May embarks on a quest to discover her own true identity, as an artist and a woman. From Boston to Rome, London, and Paris, this brave, talented, and determined woman forges an amazing life of her own, making her so much more than merely The Other Alcott.

“Elise Hooper’s thoroughly modern debut gives a fresh take on one of literature’s most beloved families. To read this book is to understand why the women behind Little Women continue to cast a long shadow on our imaginations and dreams. Hooper is a writer to watch!”—Elisabeth Egan, author of A Window Opens

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Photo by Chris Landry Photography

About Elise Hooper

Though a New Englander by birth (and at heart), Elise Hooper lives with her husband and two young daughters in Seattle, where she teaches history and literature.

Find out more about Elise at her website, and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Check out the rest of the Blog Tour stops, and show your fellow readers some love!

 

Thanks to TLC Book Tours and William Morrow for the chance to participate in this tour! 

little beach street bakery

Review: The Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan

Ok, I’ll admit it.

littlebeachstreetbakery

It took me entirely too long to finish The Little Beach Street Bakery, not because the book wasn’t enjoyable, but because a million other things got in the way. I started it after finishing Dark Matter in Mexico, and read about half of it the last day of our trip. After that, I needed to finish Arthur Pepper, then my library hold on You Are A Badass came through, then I had to read If There’s No Tomorrow, and then my library hold on Jenny’s newest, The Cafe by the Sea came through (spoiler – I only made it like 25% of the way through before my hold expired, so now I’m waiting again). Excuses, excuses, I know. All that to say, the poor little bakery sat unattended for weeks.

ANYWAY.

I mentioned in my beach reads post how much I loved the first book I read by Jenny Colgan, The Bookshop on the CornerI had high hopes that it wasn’t a one-time love, either; that I’d be just as thrilled with any of Colgan’s other works. While The Little Beach Street Bakery wasn’t *quite* as fantastic as The Bookshop on the Corner, I’m happy to report that Jenny Colgan has won a spot on my must-read-authors list.

Storywise, this one has some similarities, in that it’s a woman looking for a fresh start. She finds it in an unexpected town, where she knows no one, and somehow manages to turn something she loves into a way to earn a living. There’s a love interest, but that’s not the central part of the story. There’s a best friend, and best of all, there’s a PUFFIN named Neil.

Seriously, how much more could a girl want?

puffin

What I imagine Neil the puffin looks like. And now I want my very own puffin.

Paperback: 416 pages    Published: March 2014 by Sphere    Source: Purchased

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The Little Beach Street Bakery on Goodreads

Amid the ruins of her latest relationship, Polly Waterford moves far away to the sleepy seaside resort of Polbearne, where she lives in a small, lonely flat above an abandoned shop.

To distract her from her troubles, Polly throws herself into her favorite hobby: making bread. But her relaxing weekend diversion quickly develops into a passion. As she pours her emotions into kneading and pounding the dough, each loaf becomes better than the last. Soon, Polly is working her magic with nuts and seeds, olives and chorizo, and the local honey-courtesy of a handsome local beekeeper. Drawing on reserves of determination and creativity Polly never knew she had, she bakes and bakes . . . and discovers a bright new life where she least expected it.

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sharonstruth

Blog Tour: The Sweet Life by Sharon Struth

I’d never read one of Sharon Struth’s novels when I agreed to join the tour for The Sweet Life. I’m not a huge romance reader – I enjoy them, but they’re not my go-to genre. However, the premise sounded right up my alley – a woman looking for adventure and change in Italy? Yes, please.

So I said I wasn’t a big romance reader. Keep that in mind, then, when I tell you The Sweet Life is your pretty standard “roll-your-eyes” romance. By that, I mean that the characters are instantly smitten with each other, and over the next 200 or so pages all you hear is why it won’t work or he’s just not into me or I’m still raw from love gone wrong or so on and so forth. I have absolutely no problem with this, but it’s why you’ll never see a romance rated higher than 3 stars for me. The drama that’s necessary to create a good romance story gets on my nerves!

Please don’t think I’m criticizing. I thoroughly enjoyed The Sweet Life, and for me, that makes a book a winner. I was engaged, I rooted for Mamie, I rooted for Julian, and I rooted for Italy. I loved the cast of characters and they way they bonded. I loved the setting – if anything, I’d have loved more of it – and I loved/hated the food descriptions. (Hated, because now I want nothing but Italian food.) Mamie is a lot of fun, if a little…rash? The contrast between her and Julian is interesting, and it was fun to watch them sort each other out.

Bottom line? Likable characters, a gorgeous setting, and a cheesy-good romance? I’ll take it.

Paperback: 225 pages    Published: September 2017 by Lyrical Press    Source: Publisher via TLC

 

The Sweet Life on Goodreads

In Italy, the best attractions are always off the beaten path . . .

Mamie Weber doesn’t know why she survived that terrible car accident five years ago. Physically, she has only a slight reminder—but emotionally, the pain is still fresh. Deep down she knows her husband would have wanted her to embrace life again. Now she has an opportunity to do just that, spending two weeks in Tuscany reviewing a tour company for her employer’s popular travel guide series. The warmth of the sun, the centuries-old art, a villa on the Umbrian border—it could be just the adventure she needs.

But with adventure comes the unexpected . . . like discovering that her entire tour group is made up of aging ex-hippies reminiscing about their Woodstock days. Or finding herself drawn to the guide, Julian, who is secretly haunted by a tragedy of his own, and seems to disapprove any time she tries something remotely risky—like an impromptu scooter ride with a local man.

As they explore the hilltop towns of Tuscany, Mamie knows that when this blissful excursion is over, she’ll have to return to reality. But when you let yourself wander, life can take some interesting detours …

 

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Purchase Links

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About Sharon Struth

Sharon Struth believes you’re never too old to pursue a dream. The Hourglass, her debut novel, is a finalist in the National Readers’ Choice Awards for Best first Book, and her Blue Moon Lake Novels include the bestseller, Share the Moon.

When she’s not working, she and her husband happily sip their way through the scenic towns of the Connecticut Wine Trail, travel the world, and enjoy spending time with their precious pets and two grown daughters. She writes from the friendliest place she’s ever lived, Bethel, Connecticut. For more information, including where to find her published essays, please visit www.sharonstruth.com or visit her blog, Musings from the Middle Ages & More.

Connect with Sharon

Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter

 

Check out the rest of the Blog Tour stops, and show your fellow readers some love!

 

Thanks to TLC Book Tours and Lyrical for the chance to participate in this tour! 

arthurpepper

Book Club: The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick

August Theme and Book Selection

Our July/August theme was Firecracker or dynamic characters. When we started looking at books for that theme, we realized it was a whole lot harder than we’d thought. Most characters, or at least most good characters, are dynamic! So we decided to go with a character who experienced a life change, and that led us to The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick. We all thought it sounded fun.

Paperback: 331 pages    Published: January 2016 by MIRA    Source: Purchased

Buy it on Amazon

My Thoughts

I really enjoyed The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper. It reminded me some of A Man Called Ove, one of my favorite books. Ove is a little darker though; Arthur Pepper has that same goofy stuck-in-a-rut lovableness, but he’s less grumpy. Safe to say if you liked Ove, you’ll probably enjoy Arthur.

Arthur’s journeys are somewhat less exciting than I’d hoped for, or perhaps less adventurous by my standards. I could have read more of them – I didn’t need more in terms of telling the story, but I wanted them to keep going. In particular, there’s a story about a man who owns a bunch of tigers. I could have read a whole book on that, I think. Truthfully there’s not a whole lot of depth to Arthur Pepper, but in this case, it works. You’re left with a light, uplifting read.

Book Club Discussion

Everyone who read book liked it (summers are hard!), and we all kind of agreed that it was a fluff read. One of the girls mentioned that she’d expected Arthur to go traipsing all over the world and was a little disappointed that he doesn’t.

We talked some about what would be on our own charm bracelets, and that quickly led us away from the book discussion as we talked about our travels and dogs and hobbies. One girl described her grandmother’s charm bracelet, and wondered if she’d had any fun secrets like Arthur’s wife.

September Book Club Theme: Bucket List, or a Book You’ve Always Wanted to Read

September Book Club Book: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper on Goodreads

In this poignant and sparkling debut, a lovable widower embarks on a life-changing adventure

Sixty-nine-year-old Arthur Pepper lives a simple life. He gets out of bed at precisely 7:30 a.m., just as he did when his wife, Miriam, was alive. He dresses in the same gray slacks and mustard sweater vest, waters his fern, Frederica, and heads out to his garden.

But on the one-year anniversary of Miriam’s death, something changes. Sorting through Miriam’s possessions, Arthur finds an exquisite gold charm bracelet he’s never seen before. What follows is a surprising and unforgettable odyssey that takes Arthur from London to Paris and as far as India in an epic quest to find out the truth about his wife’s secret life before they met–a journey that leads him to find hope, healing and self-discovery in the most unexpected places.

Featuring an unforgettable cast of characters with big hearts and irresistible flaws, The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper is a curiously charming debut and a joyous celebration of life’s infinite possibilities.

darkmatter

Review: Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

darkmatter

Drinking a mudslide while totally engrossed in Dark Matter

Holy Hell.

Blake Crouch’s Dark Matter is a total mind-f*ck, guys.

It’s also incredibly absorbing.

Dark Matter intrigued me from the moment I first read the description, and I picked it up in the bookstore at least three times before finally deciding to buy it. I knew it would make a great beach read, and as soon as my toes hit the sand I plopped myself down and got to it. Two days and 27 mudslides later, I was finished.

Jason’s story is so crazy, so compelling, so….OUT THERE… that I just couldn’t put it down. I had to know, even when I suspected I already knew, what was going to happen. I had to know how Crouch would resolve the situation, how he’d manage to explain what was going on in terms a non-science-geek like me could understand. And he managed that well enough – I won’t say I grasped everything, but I caught enough to keep up.

Similar to Andy Weir’s The Martian or Sylvain Neuvel’s Sleeping Giants, Dark Matter is a sci-fi lover’s dream, but it’s one that can also appeal to just about anyone. It’s a great adventure mystery with a bit of the impossible thrown in. The story is grounded in science, real science, and that goes a long way in helping you suspend disbelief. It also makes it somewhat easy to predict, but the best part is – I didn’t care in the slightest.

Paperback: 342 pages    Published: July 2016 by Crown    Source: Purchased

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Dark Matter on Goodreads

“Are you happy with your life?”

Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious.

Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits.

Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.”

In this world he’s woken up to, Jason’s life is not the one he knows. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor, but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable. Something impossible.

Is it this world or the other that’s the dream? And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves? The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could’ve imagined—one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.

From the author of the bestselling Wayward Pines trilogy, Dark Matter is a brilliantly plotted tale that is at once sweeping and intimate, mind-bendingly strange and profoundly human—a relentlessly surprising science-fiction thriller about choices, paths not taken, and how far we’ll go to claim the lives we dream of.

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Blog Tour: If There’s No Tomorrow by Jennifer Armentrout

About If There’s No Tomorrow

Hardcover: 384 pages
Published: September 2017 by Harlequin Teen
Source: Publisher via TLC Book Tours

Lena Wise is always looking forward to tomorrow, especially at the start of her senior year. She’s ready to pack in as much friend time as possible, to finish college applications, and to maybe let her childhood best friend Sebastian know how she really feels about him. For Lena, the upcoming year is going to be epic—one of opportunities and chances.

Until one choice, one moment, destroys everything.

Now Lena isn’t looking forward to tomorrow. Not when friend time may never be the same. Not when college applications feel all but impossible. Not when Sebastian might never forgive her for what happened.

For what she let happen.

With the guilt growing each day, Lena knows that her only hope is to move on. But how can she move on when she and her friends’ entire existences have been redefined? How can she move on when tomorrow isn’t even guaranteed?

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Purchase Links

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

About Jennifer Armentrout

# 1 NEW YORK TIMES and USA TODAY Bestselling author Jennifer L. Armentrout lives in West Virginia.

When she’s not hard at work writing, she spends her time, reading, working out, watching zombie movies, and pretending to write. She shares her home with her husband, his K-9 partner named Diesel and her hyper Jack Russell Loki. Her dreams of becoming an author started in algebra class, where she spent her time writing short stories, therefore explaining her dismal grades in math. Jennifer writes Young Adult Contemporary, Urban Fantasy/Paranormal and Romance. She writes New Adult and Adult romance under the pen name J.Lynn.

She is the author of the Covenant Series (Spencer Hill Press) the Lux Series (Entangled Teen) and the upcoming YA Don’t Look Back (2014) and untitled YA (Fall 2014) from Disney/Hyperion. She is also published with Harlequin Teen and HarperCollins.

Connect with Jennifer

Website | Facebook | Twitter

My Thoughts

I’ll just start off by saying that If There’s No Tomorrow is one of those books I love to hate and hate to love. It reminded me so much of how I felt reading Beautiful Disaster or Ten Birthdays – I couldn’t put them down, but I also wanted to throw them across the room. If that’s not a ringing endorsement, I don’t know what is.

Seriously, though, despite some of my better judgement, I really enjoyed If There’s No Tomorrow. It’s YA through and through, from the overly dramatic characters to the adorably-naive conflicts. There are friendships and boys and summer jobs, and there are bullies and bad things and fights with parents. Really, what more could a girl want?

What drove me nuts, though, was the way Lena’s parents – and half the other adults in the book – handled what happened. (Which I can’t really tell you because it’d be a spoiler…) Anyway, there seemed to be a lot of disappointment and blame going around that frankly seemed inappropriate and unrealistic. Having never been in the situation Lena finds herself in, I could be totally wrong – but I can’t imagine any of the parents I know reacting quite the way Lena’s did at first. Shrug.

Even that wasn’t enough to keep me from reading If There’s No Tomorrow in one night. Like I said, I couldn’t put it down! Sometimes I think we get so wrapped up in what makes a book good or bad or whathaveyou. The best stories transport you to a different time and place, and that’s what this one did for me. For one evening, I forgot everything and just lost myself in Lena’s story. If that’s not a book worth reading, I don’t know what is.

Check out the rest of the Blog Tour stops, and show your fellow readers some love!

 

Thanks to TLC Book Tours and Harlequin Teen for the chance to participate in this tour! 

Review: Potions and Pastries (Magical Bakery Mystery #7) by Bailey Cates

About Potions and Pastriespotionsandpastries

Series: Magical Bakery Mystery(#7)
Paperback: 320 pages
Published: November 2017 by Berkley
Source: Publisher via Netgalley

Preorder it on Amazon

Goodreads DescriptionIn this New York Times bestselling mystery series, witch Katie Lightfoot bakes enchanted treats–and faces more than her fair share of toil and trouble…. 

It’s been exactly two years since Katie and her aunt and uncle opened the Honeybee Bakery, where they serve delicious–and bespelled–treats to the good people of Savannah. After a dinner celebrating the bakery’s anniversary, they all take a stroll along the waterfront and meet Aunt Lucy’s friend Orla, a colorful character who has been telling the fortunes of locals and tourists alike for years.

The next day, Orla meets with what seems like a terrible accident, but Katie’s witchy intuition tells her it was something more sinister. Together with her trustworthy coven and her firefighter boyfriend, she’ll race to find out what happened to the unfortunate fortune-teller before the piping hot trail goes cold….

My Review

 

Guys, I was so excited for this book. There’s a small handful of cozy series that I keep up with, and this is one of them. I’ve had it on my watch list for months, and actually squealed when I saw it on Netgalley.

The Magical Bakery Mystery series is one of my favorites because it’s got a bakery, witchy-powers, and an adorable familiar named Mungo. I love the characters, and I love the setting. I’ve come to expect a good, solid mystery with a fair amount of character drama, and Potions and Pastries didn’t disappoint.

Katie is still one of my favorite sleuths, because she’s pretty even keel. She doesn’t wildly jump to conclusions, she doesn’t really accuse people, and she follows every lead. Her relationship with Declan continues to grow and mature, and I’m really excited to see what happens in the next book. As for the rest of the cast of characters, I love the spellbook club, and was a little saddened they weren’t bigger players in this one!

As always, the book came with several scrumptious recipes – maybe one of these days I’ll give one a try!

 

Big thanks to Berkley and Netgalley for the ARC!

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Review: American Gods by Neil Gaiman

About American Godsamericangods

Hardcover: 635 pages
Audio: 19 hours
Published: June 2011 by Harper Audio
Source: Purchased

Buy it on Amazon

Goodreads DescriptionFirst published in 2001, American Gods became an instant classic, an intellectual and artistic benchmark from the multiple-award-winning master of innovative fiction, Neil Gaiman. Now, discover the mystery and magic of American Gods in this 10th anniversary edition. Newly updated and expanded with the author’s preferred text, this commemorative volume is a true celebration of a modern masterpiece by the one, the only, Neil Gaiman.

A storm is coming….

Locked behind bars for three years, Shadow did his time, quietly waiting for the magic day when he could return to Eagle Point, Indiana. A man no longer scared of what tomorrow might bring, all he wanted was to be with Laura, the wife he deeply loved, and start a new life. But just days before his release, Laura and Shadow’s best friend are killed in an accident. With his life in pieces and nothing to keep him tethered, Shadow accepts a job from a beguiling stranger he meets on the way home, an enigmatic man who calls himself Mr. Wednesday. A trickster and rogue, Wednesday seems to know more about Shadow than Shadow does himself.

Life as Wednesday’s bodyguard, driver, and errand boy is far more interesting and dangerous than Shadow ever imagined. It is a job that takes him on a dark and strange road trip and introduces him to a host of eccentric characters whose fates are mysteriously intertwined with his own.

Along the way, Shadow will learn that the past never dies; that everyone, including his beloved Laura, harbors secrets; and that dreams, totems, legends, and myths are more real than we know. Ultimately, he will discover that beneath the placid surface of everyday life, a storm is brewing – an epic war for the very soul of America – and that he is standing squarely in its path.

Relevant and prescient, American Gods has been lauded for its brilliant synthesis of “mystery, satire, sex, horror, and poetic prose.”

My Review

I finally finished!!!! Whew, that was long.

I’m really, really torn about American Gods. I really liked some of it, and I really hated some of it. I’ve heard that you either love the book or hate it, but that’s not really true for me. I just sort of…read it.

No doubt, that statement just lost me serious street cred from some of you.

But seriously, I understand why so many people love American Gods. And why so many hate it. For me, all the fantasy God-related stuff was…boring. Hard to follow. Hard to care about. And yes, I realize that’s the whole point of the book.

But it isn’t, really. Sure, in some ways American Gods is a fantasy novel, a metaphor for American culture. But it’s also a travelogue, an ode to America. That’s the part that I loved – Shadow’s time spent traversing the country, the people he met, and the circumstances he found himself in. I didn’t care about Laura, I didn’t care about most of the Gods, but I did care about the people of Lakeside. I also cared about Wednesday, about Jackal and Ibis, and about Czernobog, oddly enough.

This review is all over the place, but that’s kinda how I felt reading it. A lot of the “talkable” stuff was lost on me, simply because I couldn’t focus on half the story.

Jimmie read American Gods right before I did, and he enjoyed it but also didn’t care much for the Gods. I told him that I was somewhat sad American Gods was his first taste of Gaiman, and perhaps that’s the best thing for me to say. The book isn’t terrible, by any means, but I don’t think it’s the kind of book that everyone will love. To me, The Graveyard Book is a lot more accessible, and Norse Mythology is a much better look at mythology.

If you’ve read American Gods, where did you come down on the love it/hate it spectrum?

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Review: Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

About Exit Westexitwest

Hardcover: 231 pages
Published: March 2017 by Riverhead
Source: Library via Overdrive

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Goodreads DescriptionIn a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet—sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair and are soon cloistered in a premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors—doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through.

Exit West follows these characters as they emerge into an alien and uncertain future, struggling to hold on to each other, to their past, to the very sense of who they are. Profoundly intimate and powerfully inventive, it tells an unforgettable story of love, loyalty, and courage that is both completely of our time and for all time.

My Review

We are all migrants through time.

Those six words perfectly sum up not just Exit West, but humanity today. What are we, but migrants through time?

I don’t even really know what to tell you about Exit West . It’s hard to describe. In some ways, it’s a love story. In others, a social commentary. In yet other ways still it’s a travelogue. But I think that’s the point – Exit West is one of those rare stories that doesn’t have to fit in a box, that shouldn’t fit in a box. It’s a powerful and heartbreaking novel about the power of love and loss and identity.

Exit West follows a young couple, Nadia and Saeed, as they flee their home country in search of a better life. They’re lovers, and friends, and family. The country they flee is never identified, but that isn’t important – what’s important is their home has become a place where it is no longer safe to live. And so they run, through a metaphorical door, to another country and another life. Their journey takes them first to Greece, then to London, and then to the United States. Along the way they grow and change, and their relationship does as well. In their migration, they become truer versions of themselves.

I’ll be flat out honest and admit Exit West is not the sort of book I typically enjoy. Immigrant fiction just hasn’t been something that speaks to me. I talked about this some in my review of Behold the Dreamers, but it generally comes down to the fact that I just can’t relate to the characters. And for me, not being able to relate to the characters is a huge problem. I’m a character reader.

But Exit West grabbed me, and wouldn’t let me go. There’s something incredibly powerful in Nadia and Saeed, and in Hamid’s writing. Suddenly, it didn’t matter that I’ve never left my home for a better life, that I’ve never felt oppressed or threatened or unsafe. I was right there with them, going through those doors, carving out a new way of life. I hurt for them, and I hurt for the millions of people around the world experiencing their story every day. I mourned their losses, and celebrated their victories. And so Mohsin Hamid has done what I thought was impossible – he has made me care about a population I have absolutely nothing in common with. And I thank him for it.

Exit West is short, but don’t mistake it for quick. It took me a week to read, and it’s only a little over 200 pages. The writing isn’t intense, but the story is, and Hamid is the kind of writer who gets the most out of the words he uses. Exit West has been Longlisted for the 2017 Man Booker Prize (alongside Lincoln in the Bardo and The Underground Railroad, among others). Will it win? We’ll see, but in my mind, it definitely deserves to be shortlisted.

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