Tag Archives: magical realism

mary, everything banner

Book Review: Mary, Everything – by Cassandra Yorke

Cassandra Yorke‘s Mary, Everything was promoed on Sadie’s Spotlight and I was lucky enough to win a copy. Yes, since I have nothing to do with drawing winners, I absolutely enter the giveaways on the blog!

mary, everything cassandra yorke

Courtney is a lonely undergrad at secluded Braddock College in 2004, working a drowsy summer job in the Archives. Assigned to a new project, she becomes haunted by a college yearbook from the 1920s – filled with familiar faces and memories of times she never experienced. A chance encounter with a mysterious girl named Sadie – dressed in long-outdated clothes – alters her reality. But if you were never meant to be born, that reality can expel you like an infection – or kill you outright. While Courtney struggles against forces she cannot comprehend, a psychopathic stalker smells blood and closes in for the kill.

Sadie, now in 1921, races against the clock to save her friend, joined by some remarkable allies – an American combat sorceress and veteran of World War I, an enigmatic professor who specializes in piercing the veil between realities, and two young women who insist they’re Courtney’s oldest friends – one of them even claiming to be her truest love.

Time is running out for Courtney, and a terrifying wilderness – haunted by the dead from centuries past – may hold the key to her salvation. But none who enter have ever returned…

my review

This had some really interesting aspects that I very much enjoyed. The convoluted timeline, for example, makes your brain work for the reward. The book is set in 1921 and 2004, jumping between the two. But the 2004 scenes are essentially flashbacks (of a sort). Go ahead and get your head around that one. The writing is also quite lyrical at times and the editing clean.

But there were some things I could have done without. The book is pretty slow, especially in the beginning. So, as a reader, I really felt the 400+ pages. And I thought a lot of the climax too blunt for the light-fingered story up until that point.

For one, all the rape threats weren’t needed at all. (Notice, I said all. There were several from a variety of men). I do understand that this was intended in part to show how Courtney felt victimized by men, but that was established far earlier and needed no further evidence. The story would have been more interesting if the men had truly been enacting an evil for what they thought was a greater good. Already, as a reader, I knew to abhor them. Turning them ALL into pervy, would-be rapists was a cudgel the scenes didn’t need. True, I’d be happy never have to sit through another rape scene or rape threat in a book I read for entertainment ever again. But I would really, REALLY love it if authors would stop putting them in books that don’t need them as some sort of short-hand for “this is a bad guy.

Similarly, (in the cudgel sense), having both Courtney and Sadie suddenly and inexplicably become the strongest, most powerful, bad-assest chicks ever was too much too fast. There is so much subtly in the book until that point that it really stands out as a change in tone.

Having said all that, I don’t regret reading it. There is an interesting magic system and world here. It’s readable and thought provoking. Worth recommending.

mary, everything photo


Other Reviews:

Mary, Everything Review

BOOK VIDEO REVIEW: MARY, EVERYTHING BY CASSANDRA YORKE – EBOOK

 

a trail of pearls title

Book Review: A Trail of Pearls, by D.M. George

I won a copy of A Trail of Pearls in an Instagram giveaway run by the author, D. M. George.

a trail of pearls

It was actually kind of perfect. My mom had a total knee replacement and I’d spent the week at her house helping her post-surgery. Her house is on a bit of a bay in Florida. She doesn’t live ‘on the water’ as in ocean views and million dollar price tags. But she does live on water. So, I’d spent a week smelling salty air and feeling sea breezes. Then I got home to a mermaid themed book and prize pack.

about the book

Fifty-five, frumpy, and flung to the curb like an old floral sofa…

Losing her Silicon Valley job to a younger woman was bad enough. Catching her husband in the arms of one is the final straw. Something’s gotta give, like the last threads of Perla Palazzo’s sanity.

Then, a plan so wild and reckless it’s just an inch to the left of self-destruction.

With a bank foreclosure hanging over her head and staring at the last of her savings, Perla books a trip to the Amalfi Coast in the hope of fulfilling her dreams to become a travel writer. But Capri’s deep azure waters are home to more than old wrecks and lost sailors, like Parthenope, an embittered, hard-drinking mermaid who believes the only way to enjoy men is crudo, with a sprinkle of salt and a generous squeeze of lemon.

When Parthenope gives Perla an enchanted cameo just days before she meets a dashing Italian tour guide, it seems the divorcée’s fortunes have turned. Timeless beauty, self-confidence—perhaps even love—are suddenly within tantalizing reach. But the siren’s song is both seductive and deadly, and a moment of weakness will leave Perla facing unthinkable consequences.

I really wanted to liked this book and really expected to. A frumpy 55yo is someone I thought I could relate to. But it became evident very early on that this wasn’t going to be the case. Which disappointed me, because the author sent me a copy along with a really lovely prize package. Look, I’m even using the coaster that came with it as I sit her writing this. And I hate to repay that with a shitty review. But, the honest truth is that I had to finish this by gritting my teeth. Though a lot of the reasons might not irritate others as much as me.

When I started writing this review, I was composing in my head and thought, “I could have liked it, except for one big issue.” Then I thought, “Well, two issues…um, maybe three…” This reluctant realization is what finally made me admit that I didn’t find a lot to actually like.

That first big issue to come to mind was that I simply did not like Perla. She’s self-absorbed, whiny, and shallow. And while I know this is the area she was meant to have personal growth in, she is like this all the way until almost the end. And, if I’m honest, I don’t see that she would have made the self improvements if not forced to. For most of the book she just feels like someone with…pretensions of Karen, I think is how I want to phrase it.

I was also annoyed that she was constantly moaning about being broke, but flew to Italy, booked a hotel, eats out, travels and shops constantly. If that’s what it feels like to be broke, maybe sign me up.

The second big thing for me (which could honestly top the first, except that it did tapper off past the halfway mark) is how often men are presented as predators. When I was on page 80 I made this comment on Goodreads:

I’m not sure I’ll b able to finish this.

I try hard to avoid abuse of women in my books. I’m on page 80 and already there has been an attempted rape, encounter with two men who were inferred to be potentially sexually violent, a groping, a woman murdered, reference to multiple child rapes, and a 14yo forced into fellatio followed by probable murder.

I’m constantly having to read braced for the next indignity.

This easy use of rape and the pervasive idea that women are constantly in danger as mere plot devices is one of my biggest pet peeves. And once I’d encountered references to it several times before even the 100 page mark I literally read the whole rest of the book tensed for the next slap in the face. It gets hard to enjoy anything around that.

Third, there are some heavy themes addressed in this book. But in the end George solved everyone’s problem with a boyfriend. So, you have this book ostensibly about finding your own self-confidence and being strong older women, but the solution is to….*checks notes* find a man. Talk about taking the easy, cliched out. And that without addressing how fast these guarded,  jaded people fell in love.

The writing is on the pedestrian side , but there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s quite readable and the editing is clean. Plus, look at that cover; it’s gorgeous! I also appreciate the moral of the story and really liked the descriptions of Sorrento. I’ve been there, it felt very true to my memory. So, I think this is a serious case of ‘you’re mileage may vary.’ Give it a try instead of just taking my word for it.

a trial of pearls prize pack


Other Review:

Review: A Trail of Pearls (ARC)

A Trail of Pearls

magic for liars

Book Review: Magic For Liars, by Sarah Gailey

It was chore day, so I wanted to listen to an audiobook while I slogged away at them. But none of the ones I have on my Audible cloud looked appealing. Thus, I borrowed Sarah Gailey‘s Magic For Liars from the library.

magic for liars sarah gailey

Ivy Gamble has never wanted to be magical. She is perfectly happy with her life. She has an almost-sustainable career as a private investigator, and an empty apartment, and a slight drinking problem. It’s a great life and she doesn’t wish she was like her estranged sister, the magically gifted professor Tabitha.

But when Ivy is hired to investigate the gruesome murder of a faculty member at Tabitha’s private academy, the stalwart detective starts to lose herself in the case, the life she could have had, and the answer to the mystery that seems just out of her reach.

I’ll admit that this was a tad on the slow side, but I generally enjoyed it. And I’ll tell you what I liked about it. I too am a salt-n-pepper woman (like the main character). That makes me 43. I figure Ivy was a bit older, though it’s not explicitly stated. She’s stuck in a high school dealing with teenagers. I have an almost 14 and almost 12 year old. They roll they eyes at me constantly, and generally think they know everything and parents are idiots, as teens are wont to do. The teens in Magic For Liars are the same. And like adults everywhere, Ivy sees right through their act. But because she has a mystery to solve she uses her adult knowledge to get the information she needs. She doesn’t posture and ensure the children know they’re children. As is always so tempting when their mien of superiority gets to be too frustrating. She lets them go right on thinking they’re the smartest people in the room. What parent hasn’t had that feeling while dealing with their teen? Maybe because I too am stuck dealing with tweens/teens in my real like, I found her manipulation of them with their own artifices superbly satisfying.

I did feel sorry for Ivy. She wanted to desperately to be loved, not too unlike all those teens. But her sister just wasn’t capable of it. I really hope the open ending, with the possibility of happiness on that front comes to fruition for her.

Interestingly, this could be read as a parable on the importance of providing access to safe contraceptives and/or abortions. There are certainly some interesting reflections of life and death, beginning, middle, and end of life going on in the book.

All in all, a winner for me.

magic for liars