The Vine Witch: Book Review

The Vine Witch (Vine Witch #1) by Luanne G. Smith

The Vine Witch is best served with a large glass of wine (your choice of vintage). The perfect Guilty pleasure for those cozy October nights.

The Vine Witch

Written by Luanne G. Smith

Published 2019 by 47North

Downloaded on Kindle through Amazon’s FirstReads Program

Fantasy/Paranormal Fiction

Elena is a vine witch, more than a connoisseur of good wine, she has the ability to cultivate, in every magical sense of the word, the grapes of a vineyard to grow, harvest, and ferment the best wines the Chanceaux Valley has ever seen. Unfortunately, the wine business in 19th century (albeit an alternate universe) France has many rivals and Elena finds herself the victim of a curse, living as a frog for seven years before finally reversing the curse and returning home to find her beloved vineyard on the brink of ruin AND bought out by a lawyer of all people named Jean-Paul Martel, a man who values science over magic.

Smith does an excellent job inviting us into her new world of vine witches. I got serious Neil Gaiman vibes a la Stardust. The magical world is woven into the Industrial Revolution of Europe during the 19th century during the rise of modern science and technology’s popularity.

Besides creating a dynamic new world, Smith gives us a rollicking adventure, a delightful bit of mystery with a very satisfying twist, and a bit of romance to warm these chilly fall evenings.

I am very interested to see what subsequent books in this world will be like as it appears to be the first in a series. Fans of Stardust, Harry Potter, and alternate universe historical fiction like steampunk will enjoy this debut.

My Rating

4/5 Stars

City of Girls: Book Review

A Note from the Reviewer: I sincerely apologize for how I have been writing my book reviews thus far. I have been spoiling endings without remorse and not indicating when a spoiler was ahead. From this review forward I promise to do better about omitting spoilers (or warning about them if absolutely necessary to an honest review).

City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

“In my experience, this is the hardest lesson of them all.

After a certain age, we are all walking around this world in bodies made of secrets and shame and sorrow and old, unhealed injuries. Our hearts grow sore and misshapen around all this pain—yet somehow, still, we carry on.” -Vivian Morris City of Girls

City of Girls

Written by Elizabeth Gilbert

Published 2019 by Riverhead

Borrowed via OverDrive

Historical Fiction

Vivian Morris is a 1940s era 19-year-old WASP experiencing the glamour of New York City after a less than stellar attempt at college. She goes to live with her Aunt Peg, a WWI nurse turned theatrical producer with a curious history of her own. While living at The Lily, Vivian is dazzled by the gorgeous showgirls, cigarettes, booze, and sex without consequences. The glitzy vision is shattered one reckless night and Vivian must decide what kind of girl she wants to be.

City of Girls is a book about female relationships, the complexity of those dynamics, how they are shaped by jealousies and the idea of male territory. Set against a decidedly conservative backdrop, Gilbert digs deep, showing how women can prop each other up but also how we can absolutely decimate each other.

Gilbert’s grasp of language is so natural, I can’t help but feel viciously jealous. The words poured through my brain. This was such an easy novel to get lost in, which is really saying something with two kids under the age of three.

This book is a fantastic pick for fans of classic Hollywood, WWII-era historical fiction, or those who enjoy stories with unexpected endings.

My Rating

5/5 Stars

The Library Book: Book Review

The Library Book by Susan Orlean

It wasn’t that time stopped in the library. It was as if it were captured, collected here, and in all libraries — and not only my time, my life, but all human time as well. In the library, time is dammed up–not just stopped but saved.

The Library Book by Susan Orlean

A love letter to libraries, to books, to the audacity of our human need to preserve and pass on stories, The Library Book is filled to the brim with delightful observations on all of these things and more.

Susan Orlean weaves two stories together, a parallel account of the Los Angeles Central Public Library fire in the 1980s and the greater history of libraries throughout time, but more specifically focusing on US public libraries.

In 1986, a fire broke out in the LA Central Public Library, causing catastrophic damage to the building, the collection, and the psyche of a community on the brink of such historic events as the AIDS epidemic and the LA Riots. A man named Harry Peak is considered suspect due to a mercurial ebb of alibis and a questionable mental composition. As Orlean relates the details of the fire she takes us back through time exploring our nation’s history with libraries and their changing mission.

I should preface my review with the fact that I am a professional librarian and this book offers many flattering views towards my career and greatest passion, reading. As such it is impossible to remain impartial.

Of course I loved this book and the compliments paid to myself and my colleagues as a whole. Orlean’s often nostalgic observations on the nature of public libraries, the public’s expectation of them, resonates deeply with my own understanding and experience working in a library and using them recreationally. The story structure is interesting and allows the reader to seamlessly travel with the author as she moves from the LA Library fire to historic milestones in library history.

The Library Book is perfect for fans of books about books, stories that celebrate the bibliophile and the places they inhabit. Though non-fiction, it reads with the ease of a light-hearted novel.

My Rating

4/5 Stars

The Tiger’s Wife: Book Review

The Tiger's Wife. A novel by Téa Obreht.

The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht

Haunted Family Histories and a Tiger’s Wife

Téa Obreht blurs the line between reality and mythology in The Tiger’s Wife, spanning the majority of a man’s life. That man? The narrator’s grandfather whose influence on her life is profound. Set against the back drop of multiple wars which leave indelible marks on this novel’s diverse cast of characters (including several doctors, a tiger, a taxidermist, a mute girl, a deathless man who judges when others will die, among many others).

The main story line introduces us to Natalia, a young doctor trying to find her way in the dust of the latest war. She has been guided her entire life by her grandfather, a stolid aging doctor with somewhat eccentric routines, including taking his granddaughter to visit the zoo to see the tigers and carrying an old copy of The Jungle Book everywhere he goes.

Natalia learns of her grandfather’s death while traveling to deliver vaccines to children in a rural area of the country and grapples with her guilt of keeping his secret from her grandmother and mother as well as not being with him. Alongside the narrator’s struggle, the twining tales of the deathless man and the tiger’s wife reveal themselves weaving a melancholy story of regret, guilt, hope, and loyalty.

Modern Myth Telling

Tiger’s Wife

I have rarely read such an original attempt at crafting modern myth, fable, fairytale or whatever you want to call the three storylines that this novel contains. Obreht masterfully spins what feels like a timeless tale, as timeless as any story written by the Brothers Grimm or Charles Perrault. The titular tale, The Tiger’s Wife is a novel that could stand on its own. In fact, my one complaint about the book is really that the conclusion made me feel like the grandfather could have been more minor character than main character to the tiger’s wife’s impact on the story overall.

The Tiger’s Wife, so called by superstitious villagers driven to desperation by the threat of war at their border, is an enigma from beginning to end. She is the child bride of the village’s butcher, sold to him when his bride to be elopes under his nose and her desperate father tricks the butcher into marrying his youngest, mute child instead.

The butcher, feeling betrayed and trapped and grappling with his sexuality, becomes violent with the girl. Far away from family and surrounded by the suspicious villagers, she must endure alone. Until she meets the young man, Natalia’s grandfather as a child, who befriends the girl after catching her feeding a tiger who had struck terror into the village lately. The tiger, of course, being the tiger in the Tiger’s Wife, is an escaped zoo animal accustomed to a life of ease and scared from his home by its bombing and starved by his inability to fend for himself in the wild. His attachment to the wife of the butcher is not unusual, except her lack of fear towards the beast.

The grandfather and Tiger’s Wife bond over the tiger, the equivalent of Shere Khan from The Jungle Book (the tome he carries near to his dying days in his jacket) to the child. The fate of the Tiger’s Wife is integral to the grandfather’s story, his guilt for his betrayal, despite his ignorance, scars him for life. This is evident in his continued fascination with the tigers, the book he carries. He has periodic meetings with who he calls the deathless man, a mysterious man who appears to never age and who cannot be killed no matter how earnest the attempt.

The Deathless Man

The deathless man is the second myth/fable/fairytale woven throughout the story. He is the nephew of Death, cursed by a betrayal to his job of reading the cups of people to tell them whether they are dying. The grandfather’s adult life is tracked by these meetings with the deathless man, the meetings always set in a dreamy kind of disbelief.

The deathless man offers insight to the grandfather on death throughout these meetings, revealing he cannot die, and that this is the aforementioned curse. Being a doctor, the grandfather is not unfamiliar with death as a concept, even without his history with the Tiger’s Wife. The connection is truly made by the identity of the deathless man’s wife to the grandfather and deathless man’s choices on those around him. His disobedience touched on the lives of the taxidermist and butcher, the grandfather and Natalia. So many threads in the tapestry of the deathless man’s life.

Flawless Prose

The Tiger’s Wife is an impressive creation. The writing is simply stunning, the descriptions, word choice, originality…truly one of the better books I have read in a while. Being a collector of literary prizes this is not wholly surprising after the fact. I did not expect to enjoy the story as much as I did. I picked up this book after reading about its receipt of the Orange Prize for Fiction in an issue of Writer’s Digest. I have read a couple of other winning novels and really enjoyed them so thought I would give this one a try.

The author exhibits such control over her language and storytelling overall. A difficult thing to do with three tales that must come together by the end. Again the modern myth making was one of my favorite things about this novel. If you love language above all else, this is a book for you.

My Rating

4/5 Stars

More Book Reviews

Echo North by Joanna Ruth Meyer

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia by Elizabeth Catte

Reading Goals 2019: Microhistories & Writing Reference

2018

My 2018 Goodreads Reading Goal was set at 20 books. I have to this point read 23 books and I am *hoping* to read another 2 before the ball drops on January 1st.

What about 2019?

I have started to think about what I want to set my reading goal for 2019. As a working mother, reading can be a super difficult thing to carve out time for. I found myself sneaking in pages during bath time, after bedtimes, and during breaks at work. That equaled about 23-25 books for me in 2018.

Granted, I did not prioritize reading over certain other areas of my life, like Netflix binging and social media which can seriously eat up huge amounts of your free time without realizing.

My greatest obstacle ended up not being a mother of a toddler or a full-time academic librarian, but rather a general disregard and disrespect for reading over non-soul fulfilling activities.

With all that in mind, I am hoping to increase my reading goal for 2019 from 20 books to 30 books coupled with a New Year’s Resolution to watch less TV and spend less time on social media and my smartphone.

What’s in my TBR pile?

My specific reading goals include reading more microhistories which are non-fiction books which focus on a very specific historical topic like Salt: A World History.

This is in connection with my writing goals for 2019, which include completing all drafts of my WIP, Changeling, which I have written about and shared pieces of frequently here in the past, get through the second draft of another WIP, Foxface, which was my 2018 National Novel Writing Month project, and write the first draft of at least two more story ideas I have been incubating the past year, an adult literary fiction novel titled The Gospel of Eve and a YA Fantasy tentatively titled Daring based on the myth of Virginia Dare and the Lost Colony of Roanoke.

I also want to read more writing reference type books, obviously to compliment my writing goals. I have many in my TBR pile I have stocked up on over the last year so I really want to get through all of those.

My Owned TBR Writing References:

Revision & Self-Editing by James Scott Bell

Time to Write by Kelly L. Stone

The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published by Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry

Writing & Selling the YA Novel by K.L. Going

Paper Hearts by Beth Revis

That list will undoubtedly grow as I buy/check out other writing references through the year. My favorite writing reference author is James Scott Bell and I have read at least two of his other references in the past year, he has many more, which I will probably add to this list soon.

Setting goals and getting ish done!

I think, and this is certainly not an independent thought, that setting goals and intentions is the best way to ensure you achieve those goals. These are concrete titles, numbers, and deadlines. There is accountability in that and that is so important for adult-type learners (Hello, twenty-nine, I see you creeping up on me).

Question-time!

What are your reading/writing goals for 2019?

Do you prefer to set goals/resolutions each year or do you set non-traditional time frames (two years, six months)? Do you set time-frames at all?

Extras

"Why try to cheat the Gods out of a game I am prepared to win?" An excerpt from Foxface on abookishmama.com
The last line of my 2018 NaNoWriMo project!

TBR Additions: May 2018

I have been so unmotivated this month, Y’all. Not feeling blogging or writing in general, work has been hectic and my brain is constantly exhausted. But here are my TBR Additions: May 2018 titles.

TBR Additions: May 2018

Adult Fantasy Fiction

The Pisces Book Cover and Link to Amazon Page
Tags: adult, fantasy, contemporary, fiction 

The Poppy War Book Cover and Link to Amazon Page
Tags: adult, fiction, fantasy, science fiction fantasy

What Should Be Wild Book Cover and Link to Amazon Page
Tags: fantasy, fiction, magical realism, adult, literary fiction 

Adult Sci-Fi

Medusa Uploaded Book Cover and Link to Amazon Page
Tags: science fiction, adult, fantasy 

84K Book Cover and Link to Amazon Page
Tags: sci-fi, fiction

Historical Fiction

The Map of Salt and Stars Book Cover and Link to Amazon Page
Tags: historical, fiction

Non-Fiction

Girl Wash Your Face Book Cover and Link to Amazon Page
Tags: non-fiction, self-help, personal development 

YA Fantasy Fiction

Tags: fantasy, romance, young adult

King of Scars Book Cover and Link to Amazon Page
Tags: fantasy, young adult

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TBR Additions: April

New month, new books! Well, most of them are new books. A couple of these additions just came under my radar though they have been published for a while.

Tags: language > writing, nonfiction

Tags: fiction, contemporary, women’s fiction, suspense, adult fiction, family

Tags: writing > essays, nonfiction, North American history > American history, anthologies, sociology

Tags: historical > historical fiction, adult fiction. mystery, literature > 20th century

Tags: historical > historical fiction, cultural > Russia

Tags: historical > historical fiction, American > southern

Tags: fantasy, retellings, adult

Tags: fantasy, young adult

Tags: fantasy, young adult, historical > historical fiction, romance, war

Tags: fiction, literary fiction, feminism, adult, contemporary

Tags: young adult, historical > historical fiction, fantasy, horror > zombies

 

Tags: fantasy > mythology, historical > historical fiction, retellings

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TBR Additions: March

I feel like I have very little time in my day for recreational reading but as my previous post stated, self-care is essential. Reading is one of my favorite forms of accomplishing self-care. So, I want to not only read more day to day but also expand my TBR pile and give myself the incentive to read those TBR titles.
What better way than public pressure and shame?
J/K, I am not looking to take away the enjoyment I get from reading when I am able to do so or put pressure on myself with more deadlines, but I thought I might share the titles that pique my interest enough for me to pursue the time to read them.
Here are my March additions to my TBR. All tags are from Goodreads.

Tags: fantasy, young adult, fiction

Tags: nonfiction, biography, biography-memoir, mystery>crime, European literature>British literature, mystery, adult, biography>autobiography

Tags: young adult, science fiction, science fiction>dystopia, romance, space, fiction, young adult>teen, young adult>young adult science fiction, fantasy, science fiction fantasy

Tags: young adult, magical realism, contemporary, fiction

Tags: fantasy, young adult, mythology>mermaids, retellings, fantasy>mythology, romance, young adult>young adult fantasy, adventure>pirates, fantasy>fairy tales, fiction

Tags: fiction, cultural>india, literary fiction, contemporary, adult, feminism, cultural, adult fiction, novels, literature>Asian literature

Tags, fiction, contemporary, literary fiction

Tags: fiction, fantasy, contemporary

What are your March TBR additions? Give me your book recs in the comments!
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