The Astonishing Color of After

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The Astonishing Color of After

By:  Emily X.R. Pan
Published:  2018
# of pages:  462
Quote:  “Nothing is right, she says. The only three words I catch. If someone had asked me, I would’ve said that everything seemed right except for my mother, who seemed totally wrong, and that in turn made everything else feel dark and stained. I would’ve carved out my heart and brain and given them to her just so she could feel right again.”

3stargreen

Goodreads description:

Leigh Chen Sanders is absolutely certain about one thing: When her mother died by suicide, she turned into a bird.

Leigh, who is half Asian and half white, travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. There, she is determined to find her mother, the bird. In her search, she winds up chasing after ghosts, uncovering family secrets, and forging a new relationship with her grandparents. And as she grieves, she must try to reconcile the fact that on the same day she kissed her best friend and longtime secret crush, Axel, her mother was taking her own life.

Alternating between real and magic, past and present, friendship and romance, hope and despair, The Astonishing Color of After is a novel about finding oneself through family history, art, grief, and love.

My review:  Part of this hit close to home since it’s in part about a mother struggling with depression.  So maybe that’s why I didn’t enjoy this book more, it was heartbreaking at times.  It was a beautifully written book, but it was hard for me to immerse myself in the story.

The story is about Leigh, who is an average teenager until her mother dies by suicide one afternoon while she’s hanging out with her best friend and crush, Axel.  One day, while she’s in the midst of grieving, a package is delivered by a bird that Leigh recognizes as her mother.  The package contains photographs and information about her mom’s family in Taiwan.  She travels to visit her grandparents and begins a journey of making new memories with her grandparents and uncovering the memories of her grandparents and parents in the process.

The story was long and felt disjointed at times.  I think it was supposed to feel that way, but it kind of lost me.  But like I said before, I think part of my reluctance to read was the way it made me feel personally as a mom dealing with depression.

Why I gave this book 3/5 stars:  Beautiful narrative, but a little too drawn out and disjointed.

To The Bright Edge of the World

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To The Bright Edge of the World

By:
Eowyn Ivey
Published:  2016
# of pages:  417

5Stars

Official description:


Set again in the Alaskan landscape that she bought to stunningly vivid life in The Snow Child, Eowyn Ivey’s second novel is a breathtaking story of discovery and adventure, set at the end of the nineteenth century, and of a marriage tested by a closely held secret.

Colonel Allen Forrester receives the commission of a lifetime when he is charged to navigate Alaska’s hitherto impassable Wolverine River, with only a small group of men. The Wolverine is the key to opening up Alaska and its huge reserves of gold to the outside world, but previous attempts have ended in tragedy.

For Forrester, the decision to accept this mission is even more difficult, as he is only recently married to Sophie, the wife he had perhaps never expected to find. Sophie is pregnant with their first child, and does not relish the prospect of a year in a military barracks while her husband embarks upon the journey of a lifetime. She has genuine cause to worry about her pregnancy, and it is with deep uncertainty about what their future holds that she and her husband part.

A story shot through with a darker but potent strand of the magic that illuminated The Snow Child, and with the sweep and insight that characterizes Rose Tremain’s The Colour, this novel from Pulitzer Prize finalist Eowyn Ivey singles her out as a major literary talent.

My opinion:  Just after I finished this I changed my reading status on Goodreads.  Giving the book 5 stars was a no brainer, but for the review, I simply wrote, “I loved it.”  I couldn’t put into words how I felt about the book so soon after finishing.  I still don’t think I can adequately describe how amazingly written the novel is and how I feel about the reading experience.

First of all, I kept feeling surprised that I was so interested in the book.  In that way, it reminded me of The Wonder by Emma Donoghue.  You would think that reading about a man tromping around Alaska with a handful of other men and a woman staying at home in a small cabin would be boring.  The book alternates between Allen and Sophie’s journal entries with a few other letters and entries by other characters in between.  I was hanging on to every word.  Even when nothing exciting was happening, the descriptions of events and the characters kept my attention.

I loved the characters.  They were ahead of their time (1885), but it didn’t feel fake.  Allen especially encounters racism and sexism, but isn’t judgmental of the racists while at the same time doesn’t hold the same views.  Sophie also mentions disagreeing with others’ views of women and other races and doesn’t take a stand, but later is saddened by her silence.  I think that’s very realistic and I sympathize.  It’s how many people today behave and I believe that’s how many women who had no support would have behaved in the 1880s.

There were heartbreaking moments in the book, yet I was encouraged by the characters and the story.  This felt so real.  It had some basis in history, but this wasn’t a true story.  The aspects of magical realism were often subtle.  It all fit so well together.

Why I gave this book 5/5 stars:  So many reasons.  It was written so well, great realistic characters, uplifting even with the sad events, beautiful woven magical realism and history…

Other reviews:

Have you reviewed this?  Let me know and I’d be happy to post a link!

 

Bone Gap

Bone Gap
By: Laura Ruby

Published: 2015

# of pages: 373

Challenge: Full House, Ultimate Reading Challenge

Quote: “She said, ‘Do you love me yet?’
He recoiled from her, from the look of her.  ‘You don’t love me because you can’t see me,’ she said.  ‘Look!  Look!  I am beautiful now.  I am beautiful.'”

Official description:  Everyone knows Bone Gap is full of gaps—gaps to trip you up, gaps to slide through so you can disappear forever. So when young, beautiful Roza went missing, the people of Bone Gap weren’t surprised. After all, it wasn’t the first time that someone had slipped away and left Finn and Sean O’Sullivan on their own. Just a few years before, their mother had high-tailed it to Oregon for a brand new guy, a brand new life. That’s just how things go, the people said. Who are you going to blame?
Finn knows that’s not what happened with Roza. He knows she was kidnapped, ripped from the cornfields by a dangerous man whose face he cannot remember. But the searches turned up nothing, and no one believes him anymore. Not even Sean, who has more reason to find Roza than anyone, and every reason to blame Finn for letting her go.
As we follow the stories of Finn, Roza, and the people of Bone Gap—their melancholy pasts, their terrifying presents, their uncertain futures—acclaimed author Laura Ruby weaves a heartbreaking tale of love and loss, magic and mystery, regret and forgiveness—a story about how the face the world sees is never the sum of who we are.

My opinion:  I usually don’t enjoy books in the magical realism genre so much, but I loved Bone Gap. It was a well written, original story with a beautiful message.

Why I gave this book 5/5 stars:  Well written, beautiful message, identifiable characters

Other reviews:
things mean a lot

Have you reviewed this? Let me know and I’d be happy to post yours as well.

The Snow Child

The Snow Child


By: Eowyn Ivey

Challenge: Once Upon a Time

Published:  2012

# of pages:  386

Quote:  “Cradling a swaddled infant in their arms, mothers would distractedly touch their lips to their babies’ foreheads.  Passing their toddlers in a hall, mothers would tousle their hair or even sweep them up in their arms and kiss them hard along their chins and necks until the children squealed with glee.  Where else in life, Mabel wondered, could a woman love so openly and with such abandon?”  -pg. 328

Official description: Alaska, 1920: a brutal place to homestead, and especially tough for recent arrivals Jack and Mabel. Childless, they are drifting apart–he breaking under the weight of the work of the farm; she crumbling from loneliness and despair. In a moment of levity during the season’s first snowfall, they build a child out of snow. The next morning the snow child is gone–but they glimpse a young, blonde-haired girl running through the trees. This little girl, who calls herself Faina, seems to be a child of the woods. She hunts with a red fox at her side, skims lightly across the snow, and somehow survives alone in the Alaskan wilderness. As Jack and Mabel struggle to understand this child who could have stepped from the pages of a fairy tale, they come to love her as their own daughter. But in this beautiful, violent place things are rarely as they appear, and what they eventually learn about Faina will transform all of them.

My opinion:  I loved this book!  I can’t explain all the reasons why without spoilers, but I can say that the writing is beautiful.  The characters are well developed and relatable.  I loved the transitions in the book…how we are right there with Jack and Mabel as their lives change.  I also felt like the novel was full of mystery.  I kept imagining what would happen next and coming up with theories, but was always surprised.

I think this book encompasses several genres.  It’s a retelling of a fairy tale, but also magical realism and historical fiction.

I’d love to see this book made into a movie someday.  I wanted to be there.  The descriptions drew me in, they are just beautiful.

It was hard to read at times.  The subject of infertility and stillbirth is hard for any mother to read about, I’m sure.  I know it will be even harder for those who have been through those situations.  But it’s such a beautiful love story at the same time.


Why I gave this book 5/5 stars: Well written, unique story, beautiful descriptions.

Other reviews:
Book Nut
Literary Musings

Have you reviewed this? Let me know and I’d be happy to post yours as well.

Practical Magic

Practical Magic
by: Alice Hoffman

Published: 2003

# of pages: 304

Whew! It’s been forever since I’ve posted! I haven’t read a whole lot of interesting books since February, but now I’m starting to pick up the pace again so I’m back to blogging. I read this one a long time ago, but I’m going to go ahead and do a short review.

I honestly didn’t care for this book. I like the whole magical realism genre, I think it’s very interesting. However, I thought that Practical Magic had too much unnecessary crudeness and language in it. The overall story is fun though. I remember enjoying the movie, I think that if you are interested in this book you might as well just watch the movie. It’s different, but I think it’s different in a good way.

That being said, the story is very girl power. It’s about two sisters who grew up with their two aunts, who are known to be witches. The two sisters go their separate ways as they grow up and one has two daughters. When the daughters are teenagers an event happens that brings the other sister into town. The 4 women become close as they live together over a summer. The daughters start becoming women, all of them start to find their place in the world as they confront their pasts, and they all start falling in love with four different men. Of course, the two old aunts have to come and be a part of all of this bonding so they come along at the end of the summer and everyone is happy.

Chocolat

Chocolat
by: Joanne Harris

Published: 1999

# of pages: 306

Quote: “‘It sounds stupid, but I used to think that there must have been a mistake somewhere, that one day someone was going to come and tell me that it wasn’t happening, that this was all some other woman’s dream and that none of it could ever have happened to me –‘” -Josephine pp. 175-176

What an enjoyable book! It was short but had a lot of depth. I love reading books that really make you think every once in awhile. This book may be considered by some to be “anti-Christian,” but I think that if anything it would be anti-Catholic. Even so, I don’t think it has to be about religion versus paganism. My mom read this before I did and said she felt it was more pleasure versus legalism and I agree. The Catholic church and paganism (magic) are used as examples, but the underlying battle is between legalism and pleasure. Also, it is a typical battle of good versus evil.

The story is told by Vianne Rocher, a wandering single mother who decides to open a chocolate shop in a small French town. She works hard to open the shop and make new friends. She quickly has an impact on the town, especially the “outcasts” such as an old witch, gypsies, an abused woman, and a man whose best friend is his dog. She helps all of these people and accepts them as they are. The other parts of the book are told by Reynauld, the curate of the village church. He immediately hates Vianna and her daughter and does everything he can to keep people from visiting her shop. He preaches against indulging in chocolates during Lent, and creates friction and sees every move she makes as a battle he has to retaliate against.

These two characters are completely opposites, one is good, loving, and accepting while the other is evil, filled with hate, and manipulative. However, it was interesting to see what the two have in common as well. Both have strong pasts that they continue to remember as the story progresses. They both had parental figures that influenced the people they turned out to be. They are both passionate and have strong desires.

Overall this was a very well written as well as fascinating book. The descriptions were intricate and delicious (they really are!). You should definitely keep some chocolate nearby while you read! I also enjoyed the fact that Harris bases parts of the book after her own life and family members. The book does have some bad language, but I definitely recommend it to adults who are looking for a good read or who enjoy the magic realism genre.