Review: The Buried and the Bound by Rochelle Hassan

A library copy of The Buried and the Bound rests on a white marble table with a notebook, a gold pen shaped like a feather, and a candle in a tin.

Alexis:

Hello! 👋 I’m back! 

I feel like I haven’t posted a review in ages! (In reality it hasn’t been that long, right?)

I read a lot of books while recovering from lung surgery, but I didn’t have the energy or urge to review a lot of them. It doesn’t help that spring has sprung early, bringing my allergies in full force along with it.

However, I recently read The Buried and the Bound by Rochelle Hassan and enjoyed it.

Synopsis:

The story has three different main characters and POVs: Aziza, Leo, and Tristan. 

Aziza is a hedgewitch. She helps protect her town of Blackthorn, Massachusetts from all sorts of magical creatures and mischief. 

Leo is cursed. On his sixteenth birthday, he was cursed to forget his true love, and now he feels the absence in his life and spends his free time searching for answers. 

Tristan is lost. After being kicked out of his family home, he made a bargain with an evil hag, and now he finds himself not only doing her dirty work and bidding, but being a necromancer, as well. 

Review: 

This is definitely a very me story. It has a host of magical, whimsical creatures, but it also has a dark tone and deals with a lot of dark themes. It touches on topics such as homophobia, death, and memory loss. 

The main characters are all well-rounded and flawed. I love how this book has the found family trope but without feeling tropey at all. It has several plot twists that are well-done. And I like the LGBTQ representation.

My main critique is that the middle of the story dragged, and the slow pace meant that it didn’t do a great job of holding my attention. However, I really enjoyed both the beginning and the ending, and I think the ending set up for a fantastic sequel. I guess we’ll see!

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐⭐/5

Review: House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J Maas

Alexis:

“Through love, all is possible.”

Maas has a way of writing worlds that suck you in and make you want to keep reading. While this world is pretty similar to the one in ACOTAR, I loved how the world in Crescent City blends modern technology with magic; we don’t get enough fantasy with modern technology, and it was really interesting and fun to see the characters use both cell phones and magic. It was also loosely based off of Ancient Rome, which was cool.

I really enjoyed all of the characters. I liked reading from both Bryce and Hunt’s perspective. They both have a great mix of admirable traits and flaws. And, as usual, Maas is great at writing characters who have suffered from trauma with care.

The first half of this book did a great job setting up the world, the characters’ backstories, and establishing the main plot, while the second half was more fast paced and action packed. While a lot of readers find Maas’ build up slow, I enjoy how she spends time establishing the world and letting us know the characters before diving deeper into the plot. And I thought the plot of this book was intricate. Honestly, even though this book is so heavy on the details and it took me a while the get all the worldbuilding details straight, it was just so much fun to read!

My cons are pretty small. First, let me just say that if you don’t like Maas’ writing style, just don’t pick up the book? A lot of people seem to be giving this book bad reviews without even reading it because they aren’t fans of Maas’ writing.

I will say, thankfully, this book has considerably less drawn out sex scenes; it still has a decent amount of people flipping each other people off, and a lot of f-bombs, which didn’t bother me. I’m still not a fan of her character name choices (Bryce and Hunt? And I never got over Tamlin’s name from ACOTAR) but honestly, that’s such a small bone to pick, and it boils down to personal preference.

Even though I loved reading the ACOTAR series, I thought this book was far better written. I still don’t think her writing is the absolute best, but what she IS good at is writing characters you will want to root for, and writing worlds that you will become obsessed with. And despite the fact that this book is over 800 pages long, I barely wanted to take any breaks from reading it.

Bottom line: this was so much to fun to read! And considering the fact that the plot centers around a murder mystery, apparently murder mysteries are my new definition of “fun.”

VERDICT: 📚📚📚📚📚

 

Review: Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky

Book Review: Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky

Gracefully Grayson is a great example of the magic of middle grade fiction. Grayson’s parents died in a traumatic car crash, and he now lives with his aunt and uncle and cousins. Grayson has always wanted to be a girl. He knows that acting this way means getting in trouble and getting bullied, so he just daydreams. That is, until he tries out for the part of Persephone, the lead part in the school play.

This book is heartbreaking because Grayson feels lost both in his gender identity and an outsider in his adopted family. Grayson is caught between many adults who believe they are acting with his best interests in heart. When Grayson’s teacher, Mr. Finn, casts Grayson as the lead female role in the play, his Aunt Sally thinks Mr. Finn overstepped his boundaries. In their own household, Uncle Evan disagrees with his wife’s actions, and hints that Grayson’s aunt and uncle might know more about Grayson than they let on. There are lots of opinions from the adults in Grayson’s life about who he should be, which made me think critically about a parent’s role in their children’s identity.

At the end of the book Grayson is still using female gender pronouns, but wears clothes meant for girls. I can’t speak from experience of course, but I think this is a believable account of a young transgender child’s journey. I say this because I also recently read George by Alex Grino and it had hardly any conflict. Everyone was instantly accepting of George and her transition, which is great, but didn’t feel realistic.

This book is everything beautiful about middle grade fiction and more. Grayson faces bullying, he’s outcast by a friend, and he’s ridiculed for his identity. The end of the book also doesn’t wrap everything up perfectly but points Grayson in a hopeful direction, which I think is important in middle grade fiction for a slightly older audience, like this one.

VERDICT: 4 books

 

Alexis’ May Book Haul

While I was in Kansas City this week, I visited a used bookstore and got these two books: The Blood Flower by Anita Amirrezvani and The Star-Touched Queen by Roshanki Chokshi.

I can’t wait to read them!

What are your weekend plans? I went to my cousin’s bridal shower today and I’m going to a Lebanese food festival tomorrow. I hope you all have a great rest of your weekend!

Review: The Book of Dreams by Nina George

Alexis:

The Book of Dreams is a thought-provoking and profound read. It follows four different characters from three different perspectives; Henri, a man who feels he is undeserving of love, who saves a girl from drowning but gets hit by a car and slips into a coma; Sam, his teenage son, who he’s unwillingly never met; Eddie, Henri’s ex-girlfriend and the love of his life; and Madelyn, a twelve-year-old coma patient who we see through the eyes of the other characters.

Though this isn’t classified as magical realism, aspects of it feel very magical realism. The book blurs the line between dream and reality. I won’t explain it any further than that, because I feel it’s best to read this book with fresh eyes.

George explores the cyclicality of life and death, and what it means to straddle the not-so-straight line between the two. She explores love, grief, and regret. Sometimes translations don’t do a book justice, but I found that Simon Pare did a beautiful job. The writing flows really well and George’s descriptions are beautiful and unique. 

This is a very character-driven story. It focuses on the experiences, relationships, and emotions of its three main characters as they navigate life around Henri’s coma. I loved all of the characters and was interested in all of their lives.

Another aspect I love about this book is Sam’s synesthesia: he sees color for numbers, emotions, etc. I loved his character and found his synesthesia added a lot of color (ha) to the story, though I felt like it could’ve been cranked up a notch because I found it so fascinating!

I think the ending of this book is polarizing, but I thought the ending worked well for the book as a whole; George even mentions in her afterword that this book was not intended to be “market friendly.” But I found this book deep, moving, and true to itself.

If you’re looking for a beautifully written book that intensely focuses on its characters and explores the boundaries between life and death, then I highly recommend it.

VERDICT: 5 stars

Anna’s April Wrap Up!

Anna: I’m excited to share my April wrap up! This month included not one, but TWO five star books for me! Im currently finishing up three books that didn’t make it into this wrap up (classic). I’m also still loving memoir and middle grade!

 

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren: 4 books

George by Alex Gino: 3.5 books

The Goldfinch by Donna Tart: 5 books

Normal People by Sally Rooney: 5 books

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker: 3 books

 

What books did you love this month?

 

A Small Thrift Haul

Anna: I love a good thrift haul! Here’s a small one from yesterday. I think it’s safe to say I found a new favorite spot. Not only did I get to dresses for spring, but I picked up a new romance and an old favorite both for under a dollar!

 

What’s your favorite weekend activity?

 

 

 

 

Alexis’ April tbr Stack

🌺Alexis’ April #tbr stack🌺

Did March fly by for anyone else? I kind of wanted winter to be longer; I’m not ready for all this pollen.

FYI: All of these books are secondhand!

  1. Airborn by Kenneth Oppel
  2. Better Than Fiction, Edited by Don George
  3. Idlewild by Nick Sagan
  4. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

Review: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Alexis: Read 3/17/19

Well, this book is certainly a saga. It feels like three different books, because really, it is. Pachinko covers four generations of the same family, from the early 1900’s to the 80’s. The story opens with Sunja, a Korean peasant, who meets a wealthy businessman and forms a relationship with him. When Sunja becomes pregnant, she finds out that the businessman is already married. So instead, she accepts a generous offer of marriage from Isak, a sickly Protestant preacher.

The amount of detail Lee manages to pack into this book is astounding. She covers the historical and political aspects of each time period. The book especially focuses on what it means to be Korean during a time when the country is taken over by the Japanese and then later split into two. Her characters deal with the dysphoria that they feel as Koreans living in Japan, as well as discrimination. I really enjoyed learning about the history and culture of Korea, and I could really go for some Korean or Japanese food right about now!

While extremely detailed, Pachinko is written matter-of-factly, with no flowery descriptions. Lee writes from a distant, omniscient point of view. At the end of the book, Lee discusses her reasoning behind this. She says, “‘Fair’ seems like a simple word, but I think because my subject matter is so troubling and controversial, I wanted my narrator to be as objective as possible” (494). Lee certainly achieves this, as the book, especially the first half, almost reads like a historical account. At first, I found the tone off-putting. But once the book became more political, I understood the need for distance. Still, that doesn’t neglect the fact that I prefer to get more into characters’ heads and emotions. I love character-driven stories, and while this was that, I never felt too involved in the characters’ lives.

For example, Lee has a bad habit of simply stating “and then he died.” When she did this in the beginning of the book with Yoonie, Sunja’s father, I did a double-take. She nonchalantly stated his death and they hardly went into it in the next chapter, and she repeats this throughout the book. While I understand her distance, as a reader, this was very off-putting. I wanted to feel each death and life-changing event the way the characters did.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book, even if I had to enjoy it in chunks. I learned a lot about Korea’s history and the history of misplaced Koreans. I really don’t know how to rate it as a whole, as it covered so much ground.

History and detail: 5 stars

POV and writing style: 2 stars

Characters: 4 stars

Review: Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

“‘It’s not fair. People claim to know you through the things you’ve done, and not by sitting down and listening to you speak for yourself. No matter how much you try to live a godly life, if you make a mistake in this valley, it’s never forgotten. No matter if you tried to do what was best.’”

Burial Rites is historical fiction and follows Iceland’s last execution of Agnes Magnúsdóttir in 1829. Agnes has been convincted of murdering two men and is sentenced to death. While she awaits her execution, she is sent to work on an isolated family farm. Agnes has an unexpected effect on the family while she stays.

Burial Rites is very dark, but beautifully and hauntingly written. I’ve never read anything set in Iceland before, and enjoyed learning about the area and time period. This is different from a lot that I’ve read recently because from the beginning, you know what’s going to happen—Agnes is going to die. The real tension in the book is between the family, servants, and priest on the farm where Agnes resides as she awaits her impending death. There’s also the mystery of what happened that night of the two murders, and what Agnes’s role in the deaths really was.

The characters make the story. Agnes’s backstory is heartbreaking and makes her feel real. Kent made me feel sympathy for Agnes despite her murder charge.  

There are a lot of questions in this book of justice and right versus wrong. Who gets to decide when someone deserves to die? Are some people’s words more valuable than others? This can be read as an examination of the death penalty in its most ancient and barbaric forms.

Religion’s role in justice is also a prevailing theme of the book, and something I found interesting. Agnes is assigned a priest to help her find achieve absolution with God before she is executed. Agnes resists by not repenting and, slowly, begins talking as an equal with the priest. Something Agnes repeatedly questions is why she has to ask for forgiveness to a God who is allowing her to be executed.

I love historical fiction that shows the discrepancies in class, and there is a very clear class divide in this era of Iceland. Agnes is not only a murderer, but a servant accused of killing her master, which adds a level of certain guilt in the rest of society’s eyes. When she first arrives at the farm, the entire family is disgusted by her. Agnes is gradually accepted by the family despite her class and status as a convicted criminal.  

Definitely check out this fantastic debut!

VERDICT: 4 out of 5 books