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Search tags: ya-magical-realism
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review 2017-06-12 20:58
Review: The Disappearances
The Disappearances - Emily Bain Murphy

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

This book was brilliant. So delightfully different and unexpected. I’d completely forgotten what it was about when I started reading it. It’s an early 1940’s based YA novel, set sometime during the Second World War.  Beautifully written and really really unique, the way the fantasy is woven together could almost boarder on magical realism.

 

The novel tells the story of Aila and her brother Miles, their mother has died and their father is a pilot who has gone to fight in the war. With no other close relatives, the two are shipped off to the small town of Sterling, where their mother grew up and move in with a dear friend of their mom’s, Matilda Cliffton. Her household consists of her husband, Dr Clifton, their son William who is Aila’s age, and a housekeeper named Genevieve. The Clifftons are very nice if formal and clearly wealthy.

 

Though Aila notices something strange immediately, whilst going through the small town centre, they pass people well known to Mrs Cliffton, give them the cold shoulder. They’re polite, but very frosty and it all seems to do with the fact that Aila’s mom left the town.

 

In the house Aila notices more strange things and finds out a phenomenon occurs every year something “Disappears”, touch, dreams, reflections. No one really knows how they started, but there are magical remedies called Variants that can recreate these lost things. Aila struggles to make sense of this mystery, at the same time fitting in in a new school and trying to make friends.

 

All the while there is the underlying hint that her mother may have had something to do with starting The Disappearances. Aila’s mother seems to be the only person who has ever left Sterling and regained the things the Disappearances have taken. Which has caused a great mistrust and dislike amongst the townspeople.

 

As Aila makes friends and gets to know the people in her class, she learns more about the history of the town and the founding families and the other interconnecting towns in the area.  Early in the novel Aila discovers a book of Shakespeare’s works that has notes written by her mother. The Shakespeare connection is brilliant. It’s woven beautifully into the narrative without being too overwhelming.

 

There’s also a second point of view in alternate chapters from a mysterious man who appears to be looking for his father. It’s not all together clear (or at least not for this reader) of whether this is something happening at the time or something that happened in the past. It all becomes relevant later on in the novel.

 

The writing is gorgeous and almost lyrical in its tone, it’s completely absorbing and everything is so incredibly described and so so easy to picture. Incredible history and backstory believable as well. Aila was a very likeable, intelligent lead, head on her shoulders, with some recklessness, a good friend and good sister to her little brother Miles.  All the characters are brilliant, all fully fleshed out from the good ones to the nasty ones. There’s a great sense of family as well, the adults are not just side characters, they have their own importance in the novel and not just relegated to necessary background characters.

 

There was nothing about this book that didn’t absolutely love to pieces. I am definitely looking forward to more from this author.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and HMH Books for Young Readers for approving my request to view the title.

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review 2017-05-08 20:19
Review: A Million Junes
A Million Junes - Emily Henry

I received a copy from Penguin's First to Read. I used some of my points to secure my copy of this one.  I have a weakness for Romeo & Juliet inspired stories, and that plus the promise of magical realism was what caught my eye about this title.

 

A little apprehensive as I tried to read the author’s debut novel and didn’t get very far at all with it, but I fell head over heels in love with this book almost right away. (And now I will have to go back and read that debut novel again).  

 

It’s almost impossible to recap the plot because that would be extremely spoilery. The basic premise is Jack “June” O’Donnell has lived in a mysterious little town her whole life, she knows there is a feudal history between her family and their neighbours, the Angerts. Something that has been going on for years and years and years. There’s deep history all connected to the strange little magical wonders that surround June’s house and an infamous tree in her family’s yard.

 

It all start to unravel when hanging out with her best friend Hannah one night, June’s neighbour, Saul Angert appears back in town after being gone for years. June knows that the last thing she should be doing is hanging out with an Angert. However, inevitably, June finds Saul knows one of her friends, and she finds herself hanging out with Saul more and more.

 

The writing is delicious, it’s superb. The novel elicits an incredibly emotional response.  It’s so amazingly written. It paints such a vivid picture and really made me feel engaged with the characters, and hooked on the story.

 

The relationship between June and Saul is wonderful, beautifully built, it has ups and downs, trust, friendship and romance. Both face hidden truths about their past and the secrets which caused the falling out between their families all those many years ago.

 

Also – bonus points for female friendship. June’s relationship with her best friend Hannah is everything you want in a BFF friendship. Trust, sticking up for each other, silliness, being there for each other, listening. It was just wonderful to see the dynamics between the two girls not overshadowed by boys or bitchiness.

 

All with a delightful touch of magical realism floating through the novel.

 

A brilliant story going easily from funny to cute to dramatic to romantic to gut-wrenching and back again. (The end made me cry). I absolutely loved everything about this book.

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review 2016-07-14 11:41
Review: Devil and the Bluebird
Devil and the Bluebird - Jennifer Mason-Black

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

17 year old Blue has lost her mother to cancer, she never knew her father, her sister has disappeared and left her alone after a promise to always call on the anniversary of their mother's death. After the year it doesn't happen, Blue decides to head to the crossroads and make a deal with the devil in order to find her sister Cass.

 

Anyone who's ever seen an episode of 'Supernatural' will know deals with the devil are notoriously bad ideas. I think that's sort of what I was expecting with this book, especially from the whole deal at the crossroad thing, deal gone bad and figuring a way out of it. Which is more or less what happened just in such a unique and brilliant way.

 

The novel starts out with Blue making her deal, nicely done, creepy and atmospheric. Blue is given an ultimatum and they set terms, off she goes. Only to find nothing is as it seems and embarks on a truly epic road trip. Which is impossible to recap as would be very spoilery.

 

 She meets a boat load of colourful characters. Some are good, and some are downright nasty pieces of work, others are just struggling to get by. As Blue goes along the backroads of the country as well as big cities all sorts of different things happen. Half way through the devil she made her deal with changes the game and the rules, making the plot twister and an unfortunate downside for what happens when Blue breaks the new rules.

 

I loved Blue’s snarkiness. I loved her tone. I loved her sheer determination. I loved how she made connections with all sorts of different people and discovered things about herself she may never have known. A deep emotional investment was brought out in the sheer depth of the characters and Blue’s connection with dealing with her own memories and her own family. Also some great twists at the end about the devil she made her deal with.

 

All the way through a wonderful background theme of folk and country music and some very powerful images and thoughts on music, particularly on how certain songs can evoke very powerful and long forgotten memories.

 

I'm not exactly sure what I was expecting when I started this book, as it turned out, I was pleasantly surprised by how different it was and how much I loved it. It boarders the line somewhere between fantasy and magical realism. I loved it so much I purchased a finished copy.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and ABRHAMS Kids for approving my request to view the title.

 

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review 2016-02-22 11:37
Review: A Fierce and Subtle Poison
A Fierce and Subtle Poison - Samantha Mabry

I received a copy from Netgalley.

I honestly don't quite know what to make of this one. On the one hand, there were lots of things about it I loved - the writing was brilliant, vivid and evocative. The plot was compelling, the mystery was aspect gave an incredible edge to the novel, and the setting and mythology were fantastic. My biggest problem with it was that I just hated the main character, Lucas.

Lucas is the son of a very rich developer dad who's quite happy to tear down beautiful old buildings to make room for new modern hotels. The dad is your typical rich businessman - money focused and doesn't give a crap about the locals. Even when the girl's start going missing and its clear Lucas knows one of them - quite well - the dad is completely indifferent. Where Lucas does make an effort to make friends with some of the local kids, dates the local girls without little thought, immerses himself in the strange mythology he hears about a local legend involving a house on a corner full of strange plants and a witch who lives there who may or may not grant wishes and a mad scientist that once lived there.

But Lucas is also the butt of everyone's anger, when he and his friends get in trouble, he's the one who takes the fall, the police only seem to arrest him. It sounded like, at least to me, a lot of rich white boy problems. Which were more eye roll inducing than anything.

Girls start disappearing, and there's a connection to the strange house and legends surrounding the house. The old ladies of the neighbourhood have plenty of stories to tell to anyone who will listen, warnings about curses, gods and such. Lucas gets quite tangled in trying to solve the mystery and finds himself meeting a strange girl who lives in the house - Isabel. But nothing is what it seems.

There's quite a dark overall tone to the novel, more girls start disappearing and things get more and more twisted, Isabel's world inside the house is strange and she herself has some pretty dark secrets. It's quite twisty turny and the plot is totally unpredictable. The brilliance of the story telling make the novel hard to put down and it was like, I have to know what's going to happen, in spite of the fact I didn't really like any of the characters.

Definitely an author I would read again.

Thank you to Netgalley and Algonquin Young Readers for approving my request to view the title.

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review 2015-12-29 14:28
Review: Compulsion
Compulsion - Martina Boone

I love a good southern gothic mystery complete with magic and romance, and the premise of this book got my attention right away when I was browsing on Amazon. I bought it immediately, (though must admit it’s been on my shelf for over a year) and finally got around to reading it when I needed something set in Southern USA for a reading challenge.

 

As it turned out, I absolutely loved this book. Captured my attention right from the start, with its characters and unique plot. Though I did get a bit confused every now and then as to what the connections where between the three families and how everyone tied together. Steeped in history, magic and intrigue the plot was fantastic.

 

MC, Barrie has a unique ability of being able to find things and not being able to rest until things are found, which leads her to being dragged into a plot by her cousin to help find the cousin’s lost family fortune. There’s all kinds of reasons why this is a very very bad idea, according to handsome neighbour and new boyfriend Eight (who has his own unique ability and twisty turny history with the cousin’s family) but Barrie’s compulsion to find things always seems to win. There’s a ton of drama, swoony swoony romance. And some brilliant family history going back to Civil War days.

 

An absolutely beautifully written paranormal angle as well, involving some breath taking description, though some tough and uncomfortable history to swallow.

 

Completely captivating and brilliant book.

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