ARC (Advanced Reader Copy), Fiction, Magical Realism, Romance, Short Stories

Five Goodreads Reviews

In an effort to not get too far behind, I’m going to do some copy/pasting from Goodreads.

The best of the bunch, in my opinion, is the Young Adult novel, You’ve Reached Sam. It is about a teenage boy who is killed in a car accident and, when his girlfriend calls his number just to hear his voicemail message…he answers. That’s right. He answers. It’s as tender and goosebump-inducing as it sounds. I loved it.

Available January 17, 2023
Available April 11, 2023
ARC (Advanced Reader Copy), Fiction, Magical Realism

Magical Realism Done Right…and Wrong

MAGICAL REALISM: Magical realism is a genre of literature the depicts the real world as having an undercurrent of magic or fantasy. Within a work of magical realism, the world is still grounded in the real world, but fantastical elements are considered normal in this world. Like fairy tales, magical realism novels and short stories blur the line between fantasy and reality. (from Masterclass.com)

When I think of magical realism, I think of a world in which I would like to live. One where unusual things “could happen” but have no real explanation…little coincidences, legends that seem very real, intuitive talents that some people appear to have…unless…IS that our current world? And, while I’m not really a reader of fantasy, magical realism feels just true enough (in the right hands) that maybe, just maybe… Well, it’s a nice thought.

SOUTH OF THE BUTTONWOOD TREE, by Heather Webber takes us to the small town of Buttonwood, Alabama. Legend says that the Buttonwood Tree has answers for those who believe, but only one question is allowed per year–and you’d better follow the advice the tree offers, or else. The main characters, Blue Bishop and Sarah Grace, friends from opposite “sides of the tracks,” are at crossroads in their lives, with their paths intersecting in the most unusual ways. There’s a bit of magic in the wind, in houses, in books, and in a newborn baby who becomes the center of attention. This book is beautifully written. I highly, highly recommend it. 9.5/10 Stars

OTHER BIRDS, by Sarah Addison Allen, available August 30 is mainly set at The Dellawisp building on Mallow Island, South Carolina. Eighteen year old Zoe has traveled there to visit her late mother’s condo. The other residents are an eccentric bunch–part Melrose Place, part Exotic Marigold Hotel–with their own quirky backgrounds and secrets. The problem is the amount of characters and the lack of individual stories for each. Then there are the three ghosts. And the birds. And the imaginary bird. And…it’s odd and kind of a mess. I would love to see this cast of misfits pared down and reworked, but, alas. 7.5/10 Stars

ARC (Advanced Reader Copy), Fiction, Magical Realism

The Matchmaker’s Gift, by Lynda Cohen Loigman

AVAILABLE September 20, 2022

Right now I’m experiencing a combined euphoria and frustration that only happens when I’ve finished a book that is so good, I wonder if I can do it justice. Even explaining what The Matchmaker’s Gift is about does not come easily, but I know it is about things that mean a great deal to me, personally: family, ancestors, tradition, connections, intuition, and a bit of the unknown.

In two brilliantly woven story lines we learn about Sara and Abby. Sara is an immigrant in the early 1900’s. Crammed into New York tenement housing with her traditional Jewish family, she learns early on that she has a gift for matchmaking. A gift that borders on the supernatural. This does not bode well with the community matchmakers, a bullying group of stodgy men who care more about profit than people. Add to that, the fact that Sara is a young, unmarried girl who demands no fee. Most importantly, she is never wrong.

Fast forward to the 1990s. Abby is Sara’s granddaughter. An attorney who works in family law (i.e. divorces and prenups,) Abby has grown up listening to her grandmother’s stories and imparted wisdom. Jaded by her parents’ divorce, her father’s broken promises, and continual office drama, Abby’s expectations for love are pretty low. Thankfully, her innate sensitivity and relationship with her grandmother sustain her.

When Sara dies and leaves Abby several notebooks for her to read, the parallels begin. Side by side we see a young Sara and Abby, the struggling lawyer, navigate a harsh world that is all about the bottom line. Both crusade to improve their own little corners, rallying against others who think they know better. They have their allies, their obstacles and–through a special gift–they have each other.

The more we learn about those they help, the more we see that thread that binds us all. I even found myself making guesses about which characters were destined for each other. “A lid for every pot,” as Grandma Sara would say. And, speaking as someone who met her future spouse in the most unlikely way in 2009, you just never know.

Mark your calendars for September 20 when this book becomes widely available. It’s a gem.

Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for the advanced copy.

9.5/10 Stars

Faith, Fiction, Magical Realism, Romance

How to Save a Life, by Kristin Harmel

“…maybe love is, at its core, about opening your heart to another person as opposed to taking their love for yourself.”

I could make this review nice and short and just emphatically say Read. This. Book. But I won’t. Instead, I’ll just say that after two frustrating days of starting (even finishing) a few books and being disappointed, finding How to Save a Life, by Kristin Harmel, was worth the wait.

It’s a novella–only 160 pages–but it is amazing how the right story in the right hands does not have to be long to make a significant impact.

Imagine being given the worst possible news. (I’ll let you decide what that will be.) Then imagine being given the gift of resetting one day again and again until you can make things right. For Jill, a 39-year-old pediatric oncology nurse, this is what happens.

I do not want to say too much, except, again, Read. This. Book. It will make you look at your life, your relationships, your time management, and your fears through new eyes. After all, what is “time” anyway, right? An abstract concept meant to measure our day? Or something over which we truly have control? Your opinion might change if you give this book a chance.

9.5/10 Stars

Fiction, Magical Realism, Young Adult

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, by Leslye Walton

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Clearly, magical realism needs to be a new category on my site. So let it be done.

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender…I’m still trying to decide my feelings about this book as I write this review. Kirkus Reviews expressed it so well: Lyrical magical realism paints four generations of women with tragic lives until a shocking violation fixes everything. (Although I’m not sure I would agree with the word “fixes.” Maybe “ended everything…” And where a female character is involved, the word “violation” can only mean one thing. A bit graphic for a YA novel, IMHO.)

Kirkus Reviews also mentions what so many others have too, which is that the main character, Ava Lavender–if you could call her the main character–isn’t born until nearly halfway through the story, although she narrates it from the beginning. The first half is all about her ancestry, starting with her great grandparents in France. This would be interesting if it were relevant, something only the reader can decide. I did not find it to be so. The tragic genealogy of Ava’s family did not explain the odd fact that she was born with wings, that her twin, Henry, was most likely autistic, or that their mother can predict certain events from their smell.

Like the unique plot, the writing quality is also up for debate. Poetic? Or tedious? I suppose if the writing were truly moving the plot forward, I would’ve appreciated it more, but when so many of the characters at the beginning have no real bearing on the supposed “main character,” I couldn’t help but question the point of the book’s first half. It was like the author was just warming up for the real story…such as it is.

Strange as it may seem, my favorites were Ava’s best friend, Cardigan, and her brother, Rowe. I loved the way they saw beyond her “deformity” and viewed her as just another girl. I also enjoyed the characters of Gabe and Wilhelmina, both steadfast presences in the lives of Ava’s mother and grandmother.

When I’m longing for the “sidekicks” to reappear, that, to me, indicates something is lacking in the story.

This is labeled as a Young Adult novel, but I wouldn’t recommend it. The plot is pretty “out there” and too much is unresolved at the end. (An ending I’m still trying to correctly interpret.)

7/10 Stars