G. Bianco, 2019
After receiving critical acclaim for her novel, All the Wind in the World, Samantha Mabry is back with a new young adult novel about sisterhood and remaining strong during tough times. Set to be released March 24th, 2020, Mabry's new novel, Tigers, Not Daughters, shows how it takes a lot to break the bonds of sisterhood.
The Torres sisters dream of escape. Escape from their needy and despotic widowed father, and from their San Antonio neighborhood, full of old San Antonio families and all the traditions and expectations that go along with them. In the summer after her senior year of high school, Ana, the oldest sister, falls to her death from her bedroom window. A year later, her three younger sisters, Jessica, Iridian, and Rosa, are still consumed by grief and haunted by their sister’s memory. Their dream of leaving Southtown now seems out of reach. But then strange things start happening around the house: mysterious laughter, mysterious shadows, mysterious writing on the walls. The sisters begin to wonder if Ana really is haunting them, trying to send them a message—and what exactly she’s trying to say.
This story about sisterhood is moving and haunting. Each of the Torres Sisters is broken and grief-stricken in their own way a year after their eldest sister’s death.
I found the message about strength in sisterhood to be very relatable, seeing as I have two sisters myself. The way they reignite their love and protectiveness over one enough is beautiful to see. Building off the fact that I have two sisters, I know how each of us has our own distinct personality and Mabry does a great job of showcasing these girls’ differences. Seen especially in the way they cope with Ana’s death, each sister assumes a certain role and it isn’t until the event of the novel that things start to change a bit. Despite the vast differences between Jessica, Iridian, and Rosa, each sister has a lot more in common with the other than it first appears.
The narration style is a bit choppy and makes it a bit confusing to follow everything and I found a few things to be inconclusive at the end; however, it was still an enjoyable read. I also wish we could’ve gotten a bit more background on Ana and gotten a definitive reason for her ghostly return, but I guess one can never truly know why a ghost has come to haunt its old house!
While this novel starts off a bit slow and mixed up, the pace picks up towards the end and the way the story is written gets a bit easier to understand. The way each sister tries to move on from Ana’s tragic death and learn to live in the world of grief is moving and bittersweet. Dealing with other issues like abandonment, religion, and abusive relationships, Mabry really delves deep into the tough issues of the world. Overall, this tragic novel is beautifully written and is sure to take the YA world by storm.
*I received an ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.
Vietnamese poet, Nguyen Phan Que Mai, tells “an enveloping, multigenerational tale of the Tran family, set against the backdrop of the VietNam War'' in her first English novel, The Mountains Sing. With its publication date set for March 17th, this novel is already taking the world by storm with its poetic writing and mesmerizing imagery.
Tran Dieu Lan, who was born in 1920, was forced to flee her family farm with her six children during the Land Reform as the Communist government rose in the North of VietNam. Years later in Hà Noi, her young granddaughter, Hương, comes of age as her parents and uncles head off down the Ho Chí Minh Trail to fight in a conflict that will tear not just her beloved country but her family apart. This novel brings to life the human costs of this conflict from the point of view of the Vietnamese people themselves, while showing us the true power of kindness and hope.
As someone who didn’t know a lot about Vietnam’s history, I was astounded by the amount of war and revolution that the country went through over the decades. This novel truly lives up to the main reason I read historical fiction: to learn more about people whose lives were shaped by certain moments in time. The Mountains Sing is a beautiful and realistic look at the hardships people endured during the VietNam War and Land Reforms of the 1950s. The alternating chapters between Huong and her grandmother’s POVs weave together an engaging and haunting story of the struggles and strife certain people had to go through in order to survive. I think that Nguyen Phan Que Mai’s novel portrays an underrepresented perspective in historical fiction and has opened my eyes to life for the Vietnamese people during this time period.
This novel truly shows what war and evil can do to the world. However, even during the bleakest of times, hope and goodness will win out. Throughout both Dieu Lan and Hương’s lives, the reader sees examples of people’s cruelty and kindness in different circumstances and how these moments are mirrored in both the past and present.
This novel shows the harsh realities of war and depicts violent actions enacted against the Tran family. However, beautiful imagery of lotus flowers and delicious descriptions of pho really bring this novel to life and create an engaging story that readers will be enveloped in. I fell in love with both Dieu Lan and Huong and didn't want the story of the Tran family to end.
Poetic and richly woven with Vietnamese proverbs and traditions, The Mountains Sing is a novel that will open your eyes to the different cultures and lifestyles in this world. This novel acts as a love letter of sorts to VietNam and I highly recommend checking this book out to get a glimpse at a monumental time in history from one (or two) people’s perspectives.
*I received an ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.
A.S. Fenichel’s upcoming release, The Earl Not Taken, takes enemies-to-lovers on a back in time to the Victorian Era. Coming out on March 17th, 2020, this novel shows how sometimes first impressions don't give away the whole picture.
Finishing school failed to make a proper lady of Penelope Arrington. But as a Wallflower of West Lane, Poppy has a far more vital role—she and her three best friends have made a pact to protect each other from the clutches of dangerous, disreputable men. So when one of them is about to be married off to a duke sight unseen, Poppy makes it her mission to divine the prospective husband’s true character. If only she didn’t require the aid of London’s most unsuitable rake. Rhys Draper, Earl of Marsden, has known the headstrong Poppy since she was a young girl naïve to the ways of men. To her eternal chagrin—and to his vague amusement—they have been at odds over the memory of their embarrassing first encounter all these years. Now, with his services in need, Rhys sees a chance to finally clear the air between them. Instead, he is surprised by the heat of their feelings. If the two do not tread carefully, they may end up in a most agreeably compromising position...
This novel reminded me of a steamier Jane Austen novel! So if that’s something you are interested in, then this book might be the one for you! While I thoroughly enjoyed the friendship of the Wallflowers of West Lane and wished I could’ve heard more about their past adventures at school together, I did find some of the plot to be a bit predictable.
The protagonist, Poppy, is a headstrong woman who is not easily convinced that a man can truly love a woman. However, Rhys’s attempts to woo her and convince her otherwise are sweet to see. Poppy’s opinions and past experiences make her more than just a swooning damsel in distress. While she knows what she wants and has some agency, she still feels oppressed by the societal standards of the time. Rhys, as well, is naive to Poppy’s feelings in the beginning because he has never been taught to think differently. It is only through their love for one another that they begin to see the other gender’s perspective and attempt to change their own preconceived notions about love and marriage.
The only thing about this novel that bothered me a bit was how Poppy didn’t seem to mature very fast. For a good portion of the novel, she is pretty stubborn in her views on men and even though Rhys continually shows her that he cares about her, she becomes annoyed at the suggestion that he might love her and want to marry her. While I appreciated Poppy having her own opinions, there’s a fine line between holding to your beliefs and just ignoring what’s right in front of you.
Overall, The Earl Not Taken is a pleasant and quick read and fans of historical romance will enjoy the vintage courting rituals and Victorian elements scattered throughout this novel. However, if you’re looking for a strong female protagonist who has a bit more common sense, then this may not be the book for you.
*I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.
If you were like me and had never heard of Kevin Wilson or his works before, then let me give you a piece of advice: go into reading his newest novel, Nothing to See Here, with an open mind. This magical realism novel, that was a Book of the Month pick for October 2019, is weirdly wonderful and will be nothing like you’ve ever read.
Lillian and Madison were unlikely roommates and yet inseparable friends at their elite boarding school. But then Lillian had to leave the school unexpectedly in the wake of a scandal and they’ve barely spoken since. Until now, when Lillian gets a letter from Madison pleading for her help. When Madison’s twin step-kids need to move in with her family, she wants Lillian to be their caretaker. However, the situation is a weird one: the twins spontaneously combust when they get agitated. Thinking of her dead-end life at home, Lillian figures she has nothing to lose by taking the job. Over the course of one humid, demanding summer, Lillian and the twins learn to trust each other—and stay cool—while also staying out of the way of Madison’s buttoned-up politician husband. Surprised by her own ingenuity, yet unused to the intense feelings of protectiveness, she feels for them, Lillian ultimately begins to accept that she needs these strange children as much as they need her—urgently and fiercely. Couldn’t this be the start of the amazing life she’d always hoped for?
I found this to be such a bizarre concept for a novel, yet it weirdly worked! Ultimately, it was a cute story about love and family. We see Lillian struggle to find her place in the world and it isn’t until she’s placed in charge of the twins, Bessie and Roland, that we see her embrace her weirdness and find her own little family.
While there isn’t anything especially profound in this story, it will make you laugh and turn any frown upside down. This feel-good tale really makes you wonder how certain circumstances define one’s life and how it affects that person’s outlook on life. It also shows how not everyone is perfect. There’s no perfect family; there’s no perfect parents; there’s no perfect children. We are all striving for something unattainable and instead we should all embrace our weirdness like Lillian.
This novel was a pleasant surprise and I quite enjoyed reading it! It is also a fairly short story, so if you’re looking for a binge-read that will brighten your mood, this might be a good pick. I would love to see what happens next for Lillian and the kids and will definitely be reading more of Wilson’s novels in the future!
In her decadent young adult debut, Jenny Lee offers up a retelling of Leo Tolstoy’s timeless novel, Anna Karenina, that is aptly titled Anna K.: A Love Story. This tragic and beautiful novel shares a group of teens’ experiences with first loves and heartbreaks.
At seventeen, Anna K. is at the top of Manhattan and Greenwich society (even if she prefers the company of her horses and Newfoundland dogs); she has the perfect (if perfectly boring) boyfriend, Alexander W.; and she has always made her Korean-American father proud (even if he can be a little controlling). Meanwhile, Anna's brother, Steven, and his girlfriend, Lolly, are trying to weather a sexting scandal; Lolly’s little sister, Kimmie, is struggling to recalibrate to normal life after an injury derails her ice dancing career; and Steven’s best friend, Dustin, is madly (and one-sidedly) in love with Kimmie. As her friends struggle with the pitfalls of ordinary teenage life, Anna always seems to be able to sail gracefully above it all. That is…until the night she meets Alexia “Count” Vronsky at Grand Central. A notorious playboy who has bounced around boarding schools and who lives for his own pleasure, Alexia is everything Anna is not. But he has never been in love until he meets Anna, and maybe she hasn’t, either. As Alexia and Anna are pulled irresistibly together, she has to decide how much of her life she is willing to let go for the chance to be with him. And when a shocking revelation threatens to shatter their relationship, she is forced to question if she has ever known herself at all.
Let me start off by saying I’ve never read Anna Karenina, nor have I ever seen a movie adaptation of it. So in terms of accuracy to Tolstoy’s original text, I can’t really speak on that matter. However, as it’s own story I found it detailed, engaging, and wonderfully written. This haunting beautiful novel shows that love and loss are sometimes two sides of the same coin.
I really enjoyed the setting of high New York and Greenwich society! The Gossip Girl-esque tone helped set the story apart from other YA novels and gave readers a glimpse into how another sect of people live. Even though this 1% is experiencing events and parties like no one else can, all of the characters are strangely relatable and fun to read about. Lee’s fluid POV style of writing helped keep this lengthy novel moving at a faster pace so it wouldn’t get bogged down by frivolous details and super minor characters.
I will also admit that I really found almost all of the characters to be likable in some way, shape, or form. Even though they all hit rough patches at some point in the novel, they lean on the other people in their lives together through the bad times and put into perspective what truly matters. That even when all hope seems gone, love can sometimes shine a light on the darkest of moments.
There are a lot of references to modern pop culture and uses of current teen lingo so if you find that annoying to read, then maybe skip this book. I found it to be funny and thought it reaffirmed the idea that this is a modern retelling and what it’s like living in this day and age of social media and weird, cultural phrases.
Overall, I really enjoyed this novel and I think it branches out from its YA description into a story that anyone would enjoy! While it does lean on the more mature side of YA literature, Anna K. is a story that will enthrall and fascinate any kind of reader and will definitely stay fresh in my mind for a long time.
Hi! My name is Elisa and my bookshelf is quite literally overflowing! Join me in my journey of reading as many books as humanly possible!