Review: “A Thousand Beginnings and Endings” edited by Ellen Oh & Elsie Chapman

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Title: A Thousand Beginnings and Endings

Editors: Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman

Publisher: Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins

Publication Date: June 26, 2018

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Pre-order it:

IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Amazon | Books-a-million

(Digital ARC graciously provided by publisher via Edelweiss)

As a child, I learned about the myths and lore of both my own country and peoples alongside those from foreign lands. I’ve read about Hercules and Bernardo Carpio, Helen of Troy and Malakas at Maganda at school, but somehow, whenever I browse through the shelves of my favorite local bookstore, there are so few books about the latter – books with characters with similar names to mine, characters who physically resemble my black hair and brown eyes and brown skin.

It was a sad state.

Even now, at a time when authors and publishers seriously take into account diversity in their works and books, there’s still a big gap. So, you can just imagine how happy I was when I heard that Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman, both from #WeNeedDiverseBooks, were coming out with a collection of short stories based on South, East and Southeast Asian myths and folklore.

Star-crossed lovers, meddling immortals, feigned identities, battles of wits, and dire warnings. These are the stuff of fairy tale, myth, and folklore that have drawn us in for centuries.

Fifteen bestselling and acclaimed authors reimagine the folklore and mythology of East and South Asia in short stories that are by turns enchanting, heartbreaking, romantic, and passionate.

Compiled by We Need Diverse Books’s Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman, the authors included in this exquisite collection are: Renee Ahdieh, Sona Charaipotra, Preeti Chhibber, Roshani Chokshi, Aliette de Bodard, Melissa de la Cruz, Julie Kagawa, Rahul Kanakia, Lori M. Lee, E. C. Myers, Cindy Pon, Aisha Saeed, Shveta Thakrar, and Alyssa Wong.

A mountain loses her heart. Two sisters transform into birds to escape captivity. A young man learns the true meaning of sacrifice. A young woman takes up her mother’s mantle and leads the dead to their final resting place. From fantasy to science fiction to contemporary, from romance to tales of revenge, these stories will beguile readers from start to finish. For fans of Neil Gaiman’s Unnatural Creatures and Ameriie’s New York Times–bestselling Because You Love to Hate Me.

Goodreads

A Thousand Beginnings and Endings successfully introduces narratives from countries that don’t get much mention in mainstream literature. Each author brings forth their own interpretations of south, east and southeast asian myths, legends and folklore. From contemporary to sci-fi to fantasy and paranormal – the authors versions were creatively and widely varied. There’s something for everyone! Also, there are author notes at the end of each story that gives readers a bit of background about the myths and lore the short story was based on, so if you’d want to find out more about their origins you could easily search for it.

It was tough to pick which stories I loved the most, but narrowing it down, I’d have to say Roshani Chokshi’s “Forbidden Fruit”, E.C. Myers’ “The Land of the Morning Calm” and Aisha Saeed’s “The Smile” were my favorites among the 15 short stories. All of them were great though, so I’ll try to review each story as well as I could.

🍂 Forbidden Fruit – Roshani Chokshi | ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Origin: Filipino

It was an ill-fated thing to claim that a heart is safe. Hearts are rebellious. The moment they feel trapped, they will strain against their bindings.

Forbidden Fruit is based on one of the many myths a Maria Makiling, the goddess guarding Mount Makiling in the Philippines. Maria, or Dayang (meaning princess) as she is fondly called by her father, falls in love with the mortal Bulan. But as is the case with a goddess and a mortal falling in love, it doesn’t end well.

This was beautifully written and was an apt opener for this collection of short stories. Chokshi’s prose is lyrical and captivating, and it just set the right tone for this tragic story.

🍂 Olivia’s Table – Alyssa Wong | ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Origin: Chinese

“If you honor everything I’ve taught you, then I promise that I will never leave you.”

Olivia’s Table centers around Olivia who takes on her mother’s role of feeding the dead during The Hungry Ghost Festival or Yu Lan.

This one was incredibly touching. It’s a story about grief – of letting go and moving on. I found so many allusions in the story, putting in parallel Olivia’s grief to the freeing of the ghosts stuck in the old Arizona town where it the story is set.

🍂 Steel Skin – Lori M. Lee | ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Origin: Hmong

For eleven glorious months, she had been a daughter. A girl. A friend. And now that she knew the truth, who would she decide to be?

Yer is the star of this short story which is set, seemingly, in a future where androids have rebelled. Her mother is killed during the android recall, the government’s answer to the android rebellion. Together, Yer and her father managed to escape to a remote town far from the city where they used to live.

This one is very sci-fi. It was a fun read even though I kind of suspected how it will end. I breezed through it, enjoyed reading it but, unlike the first two stories, didn’t quite love it.

🍂 Still Star-Crossed – Sona Charaipotra | ⭐️⭐️

Origin: Punjabi

“You don’t know hot to choose until you’re right there, on the precipice, giving away your everything for something that may be real or may be a shadow, a ghost you’re chasing.”

Based on the Punjabi folktale of Mirza and Sahiba, Still Star-Crossed is one of the few stories in this collection that I didn’t quite like. It was beautifully and hauntingly written, but the elements used in the story – the young man following the female protagonist, oddly showing up wherever she goes – just didn’t work for me. It was, honestly, disturbing.

🍂 The Counting of Vermillion Beads – Aliette De Bodard | ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Origin: Vietnamese

“We can’t possibly leave…,” Cam starts slowly, desperately.

 “Can’t we?” She holds out a hand, her eyes dark and shadowed.

The Counting of Vermillion Beads was based on the Vietnamese folktale Tám Cám, whose storyline is similar to the more popular and familiar Cinderella. But the author turned this around, wanting to write about sisters who “stuck together in spite of the odds” and it totally worked.

I loved the way the author wrote the two sisters, the contrasts between them. Tám is free-spirited while Cám is duty-bound but not matter their differences, their unconditional love for one another prevails in the end.

🍂 The Land of the Morning Calm – E.C. Myers | ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Origin: Korean

..but whether I recall every detail or not, those moments are part of me. They made me who I am and will always influence who I become.

This was easily one of my favorites in this anthology. It made me laugh and cry, especially through the last parts of it.

With elements of a paranormal story, The Land of the Morning Calm is a deeply moving story about grief and acceptance. I loved every bit of this story – Myers’ use of an MMO game, one that has meant so much for the main character’s parents, to show a historical Korea, the extended family structure very common to Asians. Of course, the last part killed me, when Sunny, in a way, guided her mother to the gates of the Underworld.

🍂 The Smile – Aisha Saeed | ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Origin: South Asian

The prince always said I belonged to him. I had thought this word protected me and kept me safe, but now I understood. Belonging meant he could place me wherever he liked, whether in his bed or in this dank tower. Belonging is not love. It never was.

The Smile tells the story of a young, talented dancer plucked from family by a jealous, controlling prince. She serves the prince the best she can becoming his confidante and lover. But when an important merchant provokes his jealousy, the prince banishes her in a tower to be buried alive.

In her author’s note, Aisha Saeed expressed that she wanted to give the original story a different ending in her re-telling. She questioned how a girl made into a courtesan could have an equal and consensual relationship with a prince. The new ending she gave this story totally worked for me. The Smile was an incredibly powerful and feminist story, one that I would re-read over and over again.

🍂 Girls Who Twirl and Other Dangers – Peeti Chhibber | ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Origin: Gujarati

Let the gods have their battles of good and evil. We were here to dance.

This was really cute, but I think it lacked the substance I found in the previous short stories. Girls Who Twirl and Other Dangers is basically a story about good versus evil. I like the alternating narration as it gave me more insight into who the goddess Durga is, while the by Jaya, the story’s main character, kept it light and fun.

🍂 Nothing into All – Renée Ahdieh | ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Origin: Korean

“I know this not my fault. It is not my responsibility to make amends for my brother. It is Chun’s fault he has become a thief. But please let him have the chance to make it right. Give him the chance to become a great man.”

Based on the Korean fairy tale Goblin Treasure, Renée Ahdieh’s contribution to this collection tackles good and evil, and how it could exist in the same person. She used brother and sister Chun and Charan to illustrate her point.

This was a signature Ahdieh story. The lyricism so typical in her longer novels was very much present in this short story set in a fantastical Korea. She focused on Chun and Charan here – the siblings’ relationship to one another, Charan’s selflessness and love for her mischievious brother. I enjoyed reading this, but did not quite love it as much.

🍂 Spear Carrier – Rahul Kanakia | ⭐️

Origin: South Asian

When I agreed to his offer, it was because I had thought I’d be a hero. But a hero wouldn’t be so lonely and so afraid. A hero wouldn’t shout for help, and then, hearing only silence, go back to his trench and cry.

I’ll admit to quitting on this entry halfway through the story. It was long and it meandered, the narrator of the story going on a tangent for most parts of the half I read. There were lovely quotable lines though, like the one I picked, but, personally, it didn’t give me enough reason to finish reading the story.

🍂 Code of Honor – Melissa de la Cruz | ⭐️⭐️

Origin: Filipino

I had been lost to the bloodline for years, but now I was home.

I really wanted to love, or at the very least, like this story, but I just can’t. Aswangs (or vampire witches, but that’s too light a term for these monsters) starred in many of my nightmares (blame the horror flicks I watched just before bedtime). They’re easily one of the scariest entities in Filipino folklore, so I had high expectations for this short story. I felt like Melissa de la Cruz could have done so much better instead of this short story which could easily be inserted into any of her Blue Blood novels.

🍂 Bullet, Butterfly – Elsie Chapman | ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Origin: Chinese

“That’s why we chose it, I suppose. Because what do either of those things – freedom, love – matter when it comes to this war, for us here as its soldiers? They don’t, at all.”

Again, another one of the best stories in this anthology. Set in a war-torn China, Bullet Butterfly is a tragic story about two young lovers kept apart by their duty to their land. Forbidden love is a troupe that has been used over and over again, but Elsie Chapman managed to make her re-telling fresh and original. (Also, that ending is just gorgeous!)

🍂 Daughter of the Sun – Shveta Thakrar | ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Origin: South Asian

Hers, they promised, was a heart meant to be shared with one who could not only bear her light but would even reflect it back at her.

Daughter of the Sun was inspired by two South Asian stories from the Mahabharata – Savitri and Satyavan, and Ganga and Shantanu. I loved this story’s female MC. She knows her own mind and sticks to her guns. She cleverly tricks Rambha, the nymph tasked with delivering Satyavan to his father Chandra, the lunar lord, making her extend boy’s stay with Savitri and, ultimately, restoring his life at the end of the story.

🍂 The Crimson Cloak – Cindy Pon | ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Origin: Chinese

Despite how the legend goes, the truth of the matter is, Dear Reader, I saw him first.

I don’t know why this re-telling reminded me of Jane Eyre. Could be the “dear reader” part, but, whatever, I love that it addresses the reader directly. It made me feel more a part of the story.

This was one of the happier tales in this collection. A re-telling of the Chinese folktale The Cowherd and the Weaver Girl, The Crimson Cloak gave voice to the weaver girl Hongyun, letting her tell her own story in her own way.

🍂 Eyes Like Candlelight – Julie Kagawa | ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Origin: Japanese

Gazing into the eyes of a girl and wishing that, be it illusion or fantasy, he would never wake, and the night would go on forever.

Eyes Like Candlelight features one of Japan’s most prominent (and probably their favorite) mythical characters: the kitsune’s. This was bittersweet, and the gorgeous writing even made it more so. The ending was beautiful even though it was sad. This story was the perfect closer to the anthology.

Conclusion:

A Thousand Beginnings and Endings is an important book. It takes a big step, bringing Asian stories to the fore. More so, getting Asian authors to tell their own stories. This book meant a lot to me as an Asian reader who has longed for her own stories to be told and to be represented properly in literature, TV shows and movie. I cannot urge all of you enough to pick up this book.

Final rating: 5/5

(The actual computed rating is 3.7 but this is a gem of a collection, so I’m giving it a perfect 5)

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Review: Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows and Brodi Ashton’s “My Plain Jane”

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Title: My Plain Jane (The Lady Janies #2)

Author/s: Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows, Brodi Ashton

Publisher: HarperTeen/HarperCollins

Publication Date: June 26, 2018

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Pre-order it:
IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Amazon | Books-a-million

(Digital ARC provided by the publisher thru Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review)

I’ve read My Lady Jane a year ago and it was a riot! It was unexpectedly good – funny and witty and magical. I loved how Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows and Brodi Ashton “re-wrote” history and gave the tragic (and victimized) Lady Jane Grey a happy ending, one she rightfully deserves. I thought it was a one-off, so when I heard that the trio of authors will be releasing not one but two more books for the Lady Janies series, I was ecstatic.

My Plain Jane is the first of these two Janies books, and just like in MLJ, the trio of Hand, Meadows and Ashton re-wrote another famous Jane’s story – this time picking a beloved classic Jane Eyre. 

You may think you know the story. After a miserable childhood, penniless orphan Jane Eyre embarks on a new life as a governess at Thornfield Hall. There, she meets one dark, brooding Mr. Rochester. Despite their significant age gap (!) and his uneven temper (!!), they fall in love—and, Reader, she marries him. (!!!)

Or does she?

Prepare for an adventure of Gothic proportions, in which all is not as it seems, a certain gentleman is hiding more than skeletons in his closets, and one orphan Jane Eyre, aspiring author Charlotte Brontë, and supernatural investigator Alexander Blackwood are about to be drawn together on the most epic ghost hunt this side of Wuthering Heights.

Goodreads

Reader, it amused!

My Plain Jane mashes up parts of Charlotte Brönte’s life and the general plot of her classic novel to make an interesting new story that sort of looks more like the lovechild of the all-female Ghostbusters movie and the source material. MPJ, like the book it follows, is still funny, outrageous and ridiculous, full of witty asides and authorial comments on literay and cultural norms.

The focus on strong female friendships is this book’s best asset. Jane’s friendship with Helen (Pst…she’s still dead here just like in canon but she’s still best friends with Jane. Go figure how that one works. I won’t spoil it for you.) and Charlotte is the best asset of this story. I love how both Helen and Charlotte support Jane, how they call her out when she does something not so smart and how they are still there for her even after she made mistakes. It’s a picture of healthy female friendship, something I wish I see more in YA.

The additional characters also hold their ground in this book, making things a bit more complicated for our beloved Jane. There’s Alexander Blackwell, the star agent of the Society for the Relocation of Wayward Spirits, who pursues Jane to offer her employment with the Society. Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington and also the apparent leader of the Society, a man who has stood as Alexander’s father figure but hides a sinister side.  And, oh, have a I mentioned that Charlotte’s younger sisters and brother also join the show?!?

While being familiar with Jane Eyre will definitely make some of the jokes and puns make better sense, reading it is not a requirement. I actually haven’t read JE, yet I still enjoyed reading this book. I actually think it helped more that I don’t know the source novel that much as it was easier for me to suspend my disbelief. I think the only criticism I have against MPJ is its pacing. It moved a bit too slow for my liking in the first dozen or so chapters but it picks the pace up around halfway through the book.

Pacing issues aside, My Plain Jane is still a thoroughly enjoyable read. I definitely recommend this for readers who are looking for something light and fun (and funny.) Readers who love a little supernatural in their romance will also like this book.

 

First Line Fridays: “Sweet Black Waves” by Kristina Perez

First Line Fridays (feature photo)

First Line Fridays is a weekly feature hosted by Hording Books.


This weeks FLF line comes from one of my current reads. I also featured this book in a recent CWW post. Yes, boys and girls, I finally have it in my hands. 🤩🤩🤩

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Smoke and screams and love.

Fractured images swirled in the back of Branwen’s mind, transporting her a thousand leagues away from Castle Rigani. She dug her fingernails into the armrests of her chair as her heartbeat accelerated. The dreams always grew worse this time of year. Snatches of color like stained glass that collided togethet and burst apart.

 

 

 

 

I’m not yet very far into this one as I only started yesterday and I’m also reading one other book (which I started earlier). Rest assured though, I will reviewing this book. I love what I’ve read so far.

💗💗💗

Rachel

What are you currently reading? Come, share the first line of it with me.

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Can’t-Wait Wednesday: “Now You See Her” by Lisa Leighton and Laura Stropki

Can't Wait Wednesday

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted Tessa at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted Jill at Breaking the Spine.


I’m a sucker for twisty stories. You know? Those stories that make you think you know what’s gonna happen, then another thing happens and it’s all a mess? I don’t know what that makes me but I like them for some reason, and today’s CWW feature looks like another one of those twisty stories I’ll fall all over for.

36300978AMELIA has always felt like a happy life is just out of reach. Having moved every few years with her mom and sister, she’s always had a hard time making and keeping friends; there’s never enough time, and never enough money to stay in one place. And now, in her senior year, right before tennis season, Mom wants to move again.

SOPHIE has a perfectly curated, Instagram-ready life, from her first singles wins to her cute, long-term boyfriend to the beautiful, landscaped home where she lives with her parents. Though they’re tennis teammates, the two girls almost never speak.

But then one night changes everything. When Amelia’s car breaks down on the side of the road in a rainstorm, a man she thinks is a Good Samaritan pulls over to help her. When he tries to abduct her instead, she escapes into oncoming traffic.

In one inexplicable moment, Amelia and Sophie switch bodies. Amelia wakes up in Sophie’s body. Amelia’s body is in a coma. Now Amelia needs to find a way to switch back into her own life—but before that, she must retrace her steps to unravel the mystery of the accident, her attempted abduction, and how it’s all tied to her mother’s secret past.

Now You See Her sounds like a scarier version of Freaky Friday. I love it! I saw its e-ARC available for request on Edelweiss last week but I didn’t request for it because it’s just too close to its release date and I don’t want to have to rush myself reading it. 😕

This book comes out June 26, published by Katherine Tegen Books. In the meantime while you wait for it to come out, you can add it on your WTR shelf on Goodreads. (Or maybe, pre-order it. I have 😉)

💗💗💗

Rachel

Were you one of the lucky people who got to read this in advance? Link your reviews on the comments section. I’d love to read your take on it.

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Music Monday: “Girls Like You” by The Naked and Famous

Music Mondays

Music Monday is a book meme where you share a song you really like. It is hosted by The Tattoed Book Geek.


It’s Monday again! (At least here on my side of the planet. I know it must still be sunday night for most of you.)

I’m back at work today after being off yesterday. As it is, I woke up early eventhough I stayed up late last night reading A Thousand Beginnings and Endings, a YA anthology featuring stories from South, East and Southeast Asian myths. It was a great book and I’m going to be writing my review of it later after work so I can gush about it more.

Anyway, this monday’s MM feature song is Girls Like You by The Naked and Famous.

 

I don’t know but every time I hear this song I’m reminded of Sam Kingston and her friends from Lauren Oliver’s Before I FallSomething about the lyrics going “Don’t you know people write songs about girls like you?” Then the questions that follow that line, it just reminds of Sam and her friends in the book. They are what we would call the “it” girls in their school – unattainable, looked-up to and envied at the same time – until that fatal accident that changes everything.

Before I Fall is one of my most favorite books. I loved Sam, she’s a conflicted character, caught in between who she really is and who she is with her friends. The book dealt with the stages of grief beautifully, especially at the end when Sam finally accepts her fate.

The movie adaptation, which was released last year, starred Zoey Deustch as Sam Kingston. I don’t know how good it is since I haven’t seen it yet, (Not even on video because I’m bad at catching up with the latest movies.  I’d really rather sleep and read books) but I read somewhere (PopSugar, I think ) that there were a number of changes in the movie.

Anyway, that’s it for me today. I wish all of you a happy week ahead. Hopefully y’all are experiencing better weather than we are here in the Philippines. It’s been raining heavily the past 3-4 days because of a tropical storm that’s sucking in the Southerlies. So, tropical storm plus southerlies equals more rain for us. 😓 😓 😓

💗💗💗

Rachel

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What are you listening to today? Do you also make soundtracks for the books you read?

 

Review: Lindsay Cummings’ “The Murder Complex” (The Murder Complex #1)

13576132Title: The Murder Complex (The Murder Complex #)

Author: Lindsay Cummings

Publisher: Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins

Publication Date: June 10, 2014

Rating: ⭐

 

 

 

 

I remember the hype this book garnered pre-publishing. A bloody, survivalist futuristic thriller — I was all for it.  I quickly added it to my Want-to-Read shelf on Goodreads, but somehow I kept pushing in down my priority list.

Now, I see why my gut told me to hold off.

Meadow Woodson, a fifteen-year-old girl who has been trained by her father to fight, to kill, and to survive in any situation, lives with her family on a houseboat in Florida. The state is controlled by The Murder Complex, an organization that tracks the population with precision.

The plot starts to thicken when Meadow meets Zephyr James, who is—although he doesn’t know it—one of the MC’s programmed assassins. Is their meeting a coincidence? Destiny? Or part of a terrifying strategy? And will Zephyr keep Meadow from discovering the haunting truth about her family?

Goodreads

The Murder Complex is the problematic love child of every other YA dystopia.

“Kill or be killed.”

That is the running idea backing The Murder Complex. Set in a futuristic Florida where murder is used to control a burgeoning population, TMC tried to be unique and edgy, but only ended up being a confused, hyped-up mess.

This book has a lot of problems, starting with one of the most basic part of any story — worldbuilding.

TMC gives up bits and pieces of its world thru the narrative of both main characters, Meadow and Zephyr. In hindsight, this could have worked upping up the intrigue factor and pushing any reader to continue turning the page if only to find out the what, why and how of the protagonists’ world.

This method, however, fails to work for the author and this book. Instead of setting up a fascinating world, the scattering of information necessary for worldbuilding only created a disjointed and incohesive- sometimes outright confusing – telling of things.

Another major problem I had with this book were the characters. They were both unrelatable and unbelievable, especially the female MC, Meadow. She was written as this badass teen-aged ass kicker trained by her father to kill. Strong, mentally tough, always succeeds, and, if her male counterpart Zephyr is to be believed, beautiful. In short, she’s an impossible character, and I just couldn’t find it in myself to care for her even after I finished reading.

There are a lot more, but I won’t go over the rest. Overall, The Murder Complex disappointed. From the worldbuilding to its characters down to the romance, TMC is so fraught with problems that, sadly, I cannot recommend it.

 

 

First Line Fridays: “My Plain Jane” by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows

First Line Fridays

First Line Fridays is a weekly feature hosted by Hording Books.


This week’s FLF book is the second book from a series I adore. Yes, I’m talking about My Plain Jane which comes out soon (June 26! I’m so excited 🤩🤩🤩) It’s a re-telling of sorts of the classic Jane Eyre. I highly recommend it to those of you looking for a light and funny read.

Anyway, onto FLF…

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“You may think you know the story.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

You may think you know the story. After a miserable childhood, penniless orphan Jane Eyre embarks on a new life as a governess at Thornfield Hall. There, she meets one dark, brooding Mr. Rochester. Despite their significant age gap (!) and his uneven temper (!!), they fall in love—and, Reader, she marries him. (!!!)

Or does she?

Prepare for an adventure of Gothic proportions, in which all is not as it seems, a certain gentleman is hiding more than skeletons in his closets, and one orphan Jane Eyre, aspiring author Charlotte Brontë, and supernatural investigator Alexander Blackwood are about to be drawn together on the most epic ghost hunt this side of Wuthering Heights.

I had the chance to read this in advance courtesy of the good people at HarperTeen/HarperCollins and Edelweiss. Here’s the link to my review if you want to know more about what I think of MPJ.

So, what’s the first line of your current read today? I’d love to hear from you.

💗💗💗

Rachel

Review: Zoje Stage’s “Baby Teeth”

35410511Title: Baby Teeth

Author: Zoje Stage

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Publication Date: July 17, 2018

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐ 1/2

Pre-order it:

IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Amazon | Books-a-million

(Digital ARC provided by the publisher thru NetGalley in exchange for an honest review)

 

A seemingly perfect family is the center of this thriller of a debut from former filmmaker Zoje Stage.

Sweetness can be deceptive. 

Meet Hanna.

She’s the sweet-but-silent angel in the adoring eyes of her Daddy. He’s the only person who understands her, and all Hanna wants is to live happily ever after with him. But Mommy stands in her way, and she’ll try any trick she can think of to get rid of her. Ideally for good.

Meet Suzette.

She loves her daughter, really, but after years of expulsions and strained home schooling, her precarious health and sanity are weakening day by day. As Hanna’s tricks become increasingly sophisticated, and Suzette’s husband remains blind to the failing family dynamics, Suzette starts to fear that there’s something seriously wrong, and that maybe home isn’t the best place for their baby girl after all.

Goodreads

Baby Teeth takes the love-hate relationship between a mother and her daughter to a new level and will make you question just how far can a mother stretch her love for a child who keeps pushing her.

Told from the point of view of emotionally-exhausted Suzette and precocious but silent Hanna in interchanging chapters, mother and daughter play protagonist of their own stories, and each other’s antagonist.

Stay-at-home mom Suzette loves her daughter, but Hanna is making it hard for her. Gone is the dark-haired angel she brought to life replaced by an intelligent but devious, cunning and manipulative child with the full intent to harm her. With a husband who is too blind to see that there is something wrong with their child, Suzette is backed into a corner helpless as she fears for her life and watches as her idealized, perfect family falls apart.

Hanna loves her father and she wants him all to herself. With the help of a late 17th century witch as her imaginary friend, she finds her voice and plot ways to get rid of her mother, the only person who stands in the way between her and daddy.

I have to be upfront, Baby Teeth was a tough book to read. There were parts I loved and parts I didn’t. I will try to detail both polar ends as much as possible in this review without spoiling the story starting with the things I liked about this book.

Baby Teeth is a well-written book. Zoje Stage is sure to hook readers, reel them into her story with her snappy, straightforward writing. It’s jarring, but she does not sugarcoat things, neither does she go into unnecessary detail – what you see is what you get no matter if you like it or not.

Another thing that I really love about Baby Teeth are the characters. Stage’s characterization of both Suzette and Hanna is so strong you could just imagine them pop out of the pages. These two characters are the heart and soul of this book, driving the plot and moving the story with every step, every decision they make, which is a testament to just how perfect Stage played Suzette and Hanna against each other.

Now, for the parts that could have been done better.

From start to finish, I had one major problem while reading Baby Teeth – I couldn’t suspend my disbelief – and the reason for this, Hanna. Though she speaks like a 7-year old, the way she thinks is more apt for a 12-year old, which is why I just can’t picture her as she is described in the book. The whole time I was reading the book I found myself asking this question: “Can a 7-year old really make very detailed plans?” And the answer I keep on getting from both a personal and professional viewpoint: “No”. It just stopped me from fully enjoying the story, which takes a big chunk of how I rate books.

Still, Baby Teeth is a worthy read. It’s a strong, controversial debut, and I’m sure other people will love it. I guess, it just wasn’t for me.

 

 

Can’t-Wait Wednesday: “Sweet Black Waves” by Kristina Pérez

Can't Wait Wednesday

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted Tessa at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted Jill at Breaking the Spine.


I have a weakness for Fantasy. Magic, supernatural powers, faes and witches, tyrannical kingdoms – just say any of those words and you have my attention, which is probably the reason why books under the fantasy genre dominated my 2017 reads.

And I’m not about to stop.

Today’s feature book for CWW is another fantasy book I’m really excited for.

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Not you without me, not me without you.

Two proud kingdoms stand on opposite shores, with only a bloody history between them. 

As best friend and lady-in-waiting to the princess, Branwen is guided by two principles: devotion to her homeland and hatred for the raiders who killed her parents. When she unknowingly saves the life of her enemy, he awakens her ancient healing magic and opens her heart. Branwen begins to dream of peace, but the princess she serves is not so easily convinced. Fighting for what’s right, even as her powers grow beyond her control, will set Branwen against both her best friend and the only man she’s ever loved. 

Sweet Black Waves is the first book in a planned trilogy by Kristina Pérez. It’s a retelling of the legend of Tristan and Iseult so I’m expecting this one to have strong romance elements. But that’s just a bonus for me because with or without romance I’m getting my grabby hands on this.

Sweet Black Waves is out now. (It was released yesterday) I urge you to check it out on Goodreads.

What book (or should I say books) are you looking forward to this week?

💗💗💗

Rachel

Music Mondays: “Toe the Line” by The Narrative

Music Mondays

Music Monday is a book meme where you share a song you really like. It is hosted by The Tattoed Book Geek.


It’s Monday, again, which means going back to work for us adults and school to those of you who aren’t on vacation yet. Classes in public schools are starting today, actually, on my side of the globe. I think private schools and most universities and colleges have adjusted their school years to start late July to early August since the implementation of the K-12 program a couple of years ago.

Anyway…

For me, this is my last work day. I’m glad to have the next two days off to do chores, binge on Netflix (gotta catch up on Jessica Jones) and read (of course!😉) so I’m going to slow it down a bit. Today’s Music Monday feature song is from an indie pop band I love, The Narrative. This song, Toe the Line, is from their second full-length studio album released in 2016, Golden Silence.

What are you listening to today? I want to know because I need new music recommendations. Just comment away below. 😉

I wish all of you a good week ahead. Remember to take slow, deep breaths when things start to become overwhelming.

💗💗💗

Rachel

Out of the Pages: Beating the Backlist

If you’re like me, you have tons of books on your TBR pile at home and Want-to-Read shelf on Goodreads. Books gathering dust, their pages slowly turning yellow all waiting to be read.

Okay, that sounds a bit too dramatic, but you get my point.

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It’s a bad habit, buying books and forgetting to read (or holding off on them because you found another one to read) and clicking perhaps too happily on the Want to Read button on Goodreads, and I want to beat ’em SO, I decided to join Austine of Novel Knight‘s Beat the Backlist Challenge.

It’s a pretty simple challenge. You get to pick books from your backlist – be it books you’ve put off reading in favor of new releases or older books you’ve only discovered now – read at your own pace and set your own reading goal. What’s more, you get to join a team (there are 4 and I’m on Dewey Dragons 😉) and earn points, kind of like pitting Hogwarts Houses against each other.

I’ve already started with the challenge reading one of the books on my WTR shelf on Goodreads – The Murder Complex by Lindsay Cummings. I’m aiming for a modest 10 books from my backlist this year, since I already have a couple of forthcoming releases waiting for me to read and review them. If you want to join, the here is the link.

I’m excited to know what you decide to read from your backlist.

💗💗💗

Rachel