TTT: Love Notes

It’s the Valentine’s Top Ten Tuesday, as hosted by the Broke and the Bookish. I love quotes, and I decided to go with some of my recent favorite quotes related to love.

There’s nothing scarier than loving someone

The Love that Split the World, Emily Henry

Maybe what matters is not so much the path as who walks beside you

Under a Painted Sky, Stacey Lee

You don’t go through what we’ve been through together and not leave some of yourself behind

Shadow Scale, Rachel Hartman Continue reading

The Girl From Everywhere

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by Heidi Heilig

4/5 stars

…he’d let me go a long time ago. After all, you can only hold one person tight if you’re holding on with both hands.

Time Travel Take 2!

Nix travels the seas with her father and their ragtag crew. Their crew is a motley assortment of people from different places, and times. Because Nix’s father has the power to travel through time, as long as he has the right map provided by Nix. Except throughout the 16 years of Nix’s life, her father has only been trying to get to one place: back to her mother. The fact that he can’t reuse a map has made it hard. Nix is used to her father’s obsessions, and addictions, even as they display a blatant disregard for her feelings. Still, she’s left trying to help her father get to a past that she’s certain will alter her present.

While Passenger took some time for the pace to pick up, The Girl from Everywhere jumps right out of the gate. The action can slow a little bit in the middle, but Heilig largely keeps it moving throughout. I wouldn’t call either novel more successful than the other for their pacing, just that they set different tones.

Another Passenger difference because they’re the timetravel novels I’ve read recently (and enjoyed both!) is that Passenger centralized a romance basically right away. The coming romance is evident in the Girl From Everywhere but it’ a slow build and usually in the background. I actually found myself yearning for romantic developments in a way that I’m used them being granted already. But it’s going to be satisfying friends. Also, Heilig doesn’t sacrifice her character for romance. Nix has grown up watching an obsessive love steal her stability and her father’s affection. Of course she’s not going to just jump right in to a romance.

I really enjoyed Nix. I enjoyed that she was strong and vulnerable. It could be heartbreaking watching her not try get her hopes up in terms of her father picking her. Instead, she soldiers on, trying to figure out the best path forward. I wish we had gotten to know Kashmir even more. We have plenty of time with him, but he’s still keeping himself emotionally distant as a character. But he’s also brilliant because he lets Nix be Nix. There is no pressure. No angst. Just a friendship with the opportunity for more. The rest of the crew is intriguing, but they’re kind of doing their thing in the background. We don’t get too much time with them, and while I remember most of their circumstances, they aren’t particularly memorable on their own.

I haven’t read many novels that take place largely in Hawaii and I dug it. I would have liked to see even more of the world of Hawaii, though I was happy to get the small politic glimpses we did. I did miss some of the grit that exists in my favorite historical fiction. We get perks of it with the knowledge of the existence of opium dens, and the shady parlor politics that are happening. But it come down to wanting to see more of the world.

Also let’s talk time travel for a hot second. This book had some really satisfying logic to the rules of time travel ,while still remaining fantastical, where Passenger relied a little more on faith, trust, and pixie dust. Here you’re still born with the power. But you have to have a map. And you can only use the same map one time. There are limitations and rules.  Passenger still has limitations, don’t get me wrong, but they’re more timeline bound. Read both these novels so we can compare the minutia of the time travel together. And then read Into the Dim because I’ve got that in my queue as well. Although I’m getting more Diana Gabaldon, Karen Marie Moning, Lynn Kurland vibes from that one as of now.

Thank you to NetGalley and Greenwillow Books for a digital ARC of this title. You can snap your copy up on February 16th! And you should.

Ethan Frome

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by Edith Wharton

5/5 stars

They seemed to come suddenly upon happiness as if they had surprised a butterfly in the winter woods.

I love Edith Wharton. She’s like a mix between Jane Austen and Thomas Hardy. Do not expect happy endings here. It’s going to go wrong, and it’s going to go wrong in the most perverse fashion possible. Ethan Frome is more like her short novel Summer than Age of Innocence or the House of Mirth. While the latter novels focus on the upper crust, Ethan Frome sets its sight on a more every day character.

Ethan Frome follows the eponymous Ethan, a farmer in a small town in New England. He’s in an unhappy marriage with a hypochondriac. His wife’s cousin Matty has been living with them, helping out. But Ethan finds himself stirred by Matty in a way that his neighbors would not approve of.

I would have liked Frome’s wife Zeena to be a little more sympathetic. I’ve read a lot of Wharton, and she knows how to make morally complicated women, women it would be easy to turn into a villain, sympathetic. That isn’t necessarily the case with Zeena. But we are also largely seeing things from Frome’s point of view, even with the traditional 19th century outsider framing device. While I am super familiar with this framing device by now, I loved it here. Because this is set in a small town. And small towns are all about that gossip you kind of have to work for as an outsider, because that’s where the power and entertainment lay.

Wharton is great at creating place. In this novella you can feel the space, the loneliness. The tone is reminiscent of her more upper class works, but she transports us so completely. To me this novel is about place, feeling, and character. Wharton is painting a very specific picture of specific people at a specific point in time.

The ending can be a little weird. But here’s the thing. Wharton’s endings are usually poetic, biting, with just the right amount of social commentary. And it is a twist I didn’t see coming, even knowing the ending wasn’t going to be happy. At this point I have one major Wharton work left, The Custom of the Country. if we don’t count the Buccaneers which Wharton never finished. I am both looking forward to it as much as ever as much as dreading coming toward the end of Wharton’s major works.

Reign of Shadows

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by Sophie Jordan

2/5 stars

The dark isn’t so bad. It’s just the monsters that hide inside it.

Luna has spent her seventeen years in an isolated tower. Seventeen years ago her parents, the king and queen of Relhok were murdered by a chancellor who took the throne. The same night Relhok was thrust into darkness, putting the populace at the mercy of the dwellers, mystical creatures that prey on humans. And then Fowler happens near Luna’s tower. And when the tower is attacked, Luna’s guardians send her with Fowler in the hope he can keep her safe. But he doesn’t know she’s the princess. And though their lives soon become even more complicated, there is also a chemistry they soon can’t deny.

Luna and Fowler have the potential to be engaging and cute , but I don’t really get to know them. I’m not really given the chance to, though I’d love to spend more time with them. Also Luna, who was born on the eve of an eclipse, is named Luna. They often feel like archetypes. Luna is the secret princess that grew up in hiding, and knows nothing about the kingdom she may someday be ruling. Fowler is on the run from the capitol, and he has a secret. A secret we can guess right from the beginning. I would have liked his secret to be acknowledged from the start, and allow us to deal with the dramatic irony while getting deeper into Fowler as a character.

The 300 pages move quick, and I was with Jordan the entire way. But at the end I’m left wondering what exactly happened. I wish we dug in more. At one point Luna mentions they’ve been traveling for a week. But I’m not given a chance to get a sense of the world. And I don’t get the feeling of time passing, or the urgency of the stakes. Really this is still the outlines of a fantasy world. I get that Luna is not familiar with the outside world, but we could be getting that from Fowler. I get no real sense of this world: the people, the politics, the possibilities. Where did this eclipse come from? What does the oracle mentioned a couple of times have to do with anything? And then there were the dwellers. Because of course there were.

Certain parts of this novel made me think of Quest for Camelot. We had two people, one blind, alone in the woods. And maybe things could attack them, or maybe not. Instead of those weird flowers we have overgrown bats? Also the dwellers. I didn’t hate it. I love Quest for Camelot. This was an enjoyable, but predictable, read with a not always thought out world. Still, it feels familiar, and there is comfort in that familiarity.

Thank you to Edelweiss and HarperCollins for a free digital ARC of Reign of Shadows in exchange of an honest review. You can get your hands on Reign of Shadows on February 9th. 

 

After You

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by Jojo Moyes

3/5 stars

You don’t have to let that one thing be the thing that defines you.

*The Possibility of Me Before You spoilers follows so read at your own risk*

 
The release of the Me Before You trailer made me realize I never talked about the 2016-released sequel. After You is exactly what it sounds like, a book that picks up after Me Before You. Only, instead of living the fabulous life Will wished for Lou, she’s struggling hard. She’s in a dead end job as a bartender at an airport. She’s in a grief support group. She’s trying to move on with her life, but she’s stuck.

While I was super skeptical of this book at first, I’m glad we picked back up with Lou. I’m glad she’s not going to live as a character forever in the aftermath of Me Before You. Because as beautiful and tragic as that book was, having to continue with daily life after maybe even more powerful. Some of my favorite passages in this book were Lou trying to navigate being an employee at her bar. Or any of the absurd scenes of her ex-boyfriend trying to shove his new fiancé in her face. Like when he takes her running past Lou’s parents house on the regular. He’s awful. I hate him so much. And there is a lot of emotional honesty in just the day to day in this novel.

I loved watching Lou continue to grow. Will may have given her more fight, but she has to discover who she is, and where that fight will come from, without him. I love that she’s allowed to toy with the idea of falling in love again, but that she’s obviously still impacted by Will. Like for Lou, it can be hard as a reader to come to terms with what isn’t in the story.

There is one plot point in this that I will avoid for spoiler reasons that I am super on the fence about. I get it. I kind of think it’s too much, both as a plot twist and because it introduces a character I can’t stand. I get that this character allows Lou to feel like she has a purpose again, that she’s helping someone, but she also gets super taken advantage of. Yes, she does figure that out and does learn how to stand up for herself (in a specific powerful, slightly heartbreaking moment I wish I could talk about. Just know it involves Lou’s specific wardrobe quirks, and that she hasn’t been dressing as vibrantly), but still. I don’t know. If you’ve read the book and have thoughts about said character (if you’ve read you know who I am talking about), drop me a line in the comments.

Overall though, while this didn’t touch me as deeply as Me Before You, there is something to be said about the small important moments it portrays. And while Lou strives throughout the novel to not be shaped but not defined forever by this one relationship and experience in her life, I think it’s important to allow her to have that.

American Housewife

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by Helen Ellis

3/5 stars

Write what I know, who wants to read that? If only our apartment was haunted or I was the tiniest bit possessed by the devil.

Unsurprisingly, this book focuses on housewives. My favorite story in the collection followed a one hit wonder writer as she joined Dumpster Diving with the Stars to rejuvenate her career. The following story in the collection is also a hit. It follows the email exchange between two neighbors, one new to the building, sharing a vestibule. The newcomer wants to make some changes. Communication quickly deteriorates. Soon floorboards have been pried up and used as wainscoting and cats are wandering around.

This collection stays on a theme while providing creativity.I did get kind of tired about reading about upper-middle class (presumably) white women who wanted to be writers. There was a lot of creativity evident in this collection, and I would have liked to see it pushed even more. There is one story that bridges slightly into horror territory. The rest stay within he realm of heightened, over the top reality.

This is short, coming in at just over 200 pages. The stories move swiftly. It’s a book that will easily fit into those in-between moments of your day.