Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt

RATING: 4/5

SYNOPSIS: A story of life in Savannah in the 1980s that centers around the infamous murder trial of Jim Williams.

When my boyfriend and I went to Savannah, Georgia way back in February all any tour guide would talk about was this book. We walked by many different locations that were mentioned in the book as well as walked by the Mercer-Williams house where they murder occurred many, many times, so it was really cool to picture all of these places in my head as I was reading this book. This book is considered to be a work of fictional non-fiction and I can see why. While at it’s core all of these people, places, and events happened everyone felt like a caricature of a real person. Although I’m sure there are aspects of these people’s personalities that are true to life, they all just felt too overexaggerated to be real. Chablis felt like a stereotype of a transgender woman and although this book was written a very long time ago before we as a society moved toward better language and more inclusivity I felt like she wasn’t handled very well by today’s standards. There were quite a few moments elsewhere in the book that felt that way especially when looking through a modern lens. Whenever I read a book it’s for character and story, so writing a review for this book is hard because the events are real and the people are real. The book is very well written and all the stories are utterly ridiculous so you have to keep reading to see what happens next. Although I don’t know how accurate it depicts Savannah during this time it’s a really fun and interesting read. I like how Berendt focuses on all areas of society and that we get views other than that of the rich people in the historic district. Like I said before the thing that made me enjoy this book the most was the fact that I had just been there so I knew all the places that were mentioned in the book. I also enjoyed getting a different perspective on the murder that occurred at the Mercer House than the one that the various tour guides would give us during our stay there. Whether this book is completely accurate or not it’s still a wild read and I did enjoy it. A lot of the language is dated by today’s standards and it did make me cringe a little, but on the whole it was fun to read a little slice of history from a perspective that isn’t seeking to educate, but rather entertain.

Watcha Reading Wednesday (#73)

Hello again everyone! I hope the week is treating you well!

This week I’m reading The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern and so far I’m loving it!

The Night Circus is one of my all time favorite books so I’m really excited to dive into this one! So far the vibe and storytelling is similar to how The Night Circus is written and that’s one of the things that made me fall in love with it so I’m excited to see that still present. I can’t wait to get further into the story because I’m so intrigued by what I’ve already read!

I finished Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil the other day and my review should be up Friday, so keep an eye out for that!

What are all y’all reading? Let me know in the comments!

Watcha Reading Wednesday (#72)

Hello everyone! I hope the week is treating you well!

I’m still reading Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, but I’m a lot further along now!

I’m really enjoying knowing all the references to places in Savannah and all the people that he’s meeting are extremely fascinating. I know this is fictionalized nonfiction and it’s been fun looking up what’s the facts and what’s the fiction. I can’t wait to get to the meatier parts of the book!

What are you guys reading? Let me know in the comments!

The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

RATING: 4/5

SYNOPSIS: Li Lan’s life gets twisted upside down when she is asked to be the ghost bride for a family friend’s recently deceased son. When she refuses the proposal she begins to be haunted by his ghost and in the process of trying to rid herself of his presence she learns scandals, secrets, and that there’s more to the land of the dead than she truly knew.

Not going to lie when I first read the summary on the back of the book I thought it was going to be a mystery, but it wasn’t and I’m a little disappointed by that. I also found the ending to be disappointing, but I’ll get back to that in a minute. I really loved the writing and the setting of this book. You don’t really see a lot of historical fiction (especially late 1800s setting fiction) that takes place in other Asian countries that aren’t China or Japan (at least in my experience feel free to recommend others if you have any) and I enjoyed getting to visit another world with customs (especially funeral customs) that I don’t know a lot about. The detail was amazing and I loved the complexities of the relationships all the characters had with each other. I loved how the world felt so alive and there were just so many tiny details that made me feel like the author really knew what she was creating. It also had an amazing build that made me want to keep reading and I couldn’t wait to see what happened next. I also loved how the spirit world paralleled the living world and how each realm had it’s own rules. One of my favorite things about reading and learning about other cultures is finding what is the same throughout the entire world and what each specific area believed. I didn’t know that Malaysia used to be called Malaya and I also didn’t know it’s cultural history so getting to learn more about that (even if it was in a fictional setting) was really cool for me. Malaya is an area where multiple cultures come together and I loved how that was showcased throughout the book. However, the ending felt so rushed to me. The mystery surrounding the ghost’s death was flippantly solved, Li Lan fell in love with another man super fast to me (literally she hated him until she saw his real face and I found that to be annoying), and the tension between her and the man she really wanted to marry that was created so she could be with the other guy felt forced to me. The tension was understandable, but they never worked through it and she never really gave him a chance especially since they’d only known each other for maybe a couple of months. However, I did understand that her experience with the spirit world and the world of the dead is something that others can’t connect with and alienated her from her friends and family, so that aspect of the story felt very believable to me. Overall I’m glad that I picked up this book on a whim. I loved the culture, traditions showcased, and writing. Really the only thing that made me unsatisfied as a reader was the ending, so while that was a bummer it didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the book as a whole.

Watcha Reading Wednesday (#71)

Happy Wednesday everyone! I hope the week has been good to you so far. I’ve hesitated with bringing this back because rarely am I reading a new book every week the way that I used to, but that doesn’t mean that I still shouldn’t share.

This week I’m reading Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt.

Back in February, my boyfriend and I went to Savannah, Georgia for Valentine’s Day and on every ghost tour that we went on that week our tour guide would say something about this book so of course I had to pick it up. I’ve only just started, but I’m already excited about understanding some of the places and stories that I heard/saw while we were there. I can’t wait to dive in further!

What are you guys reading? Let me know in the comments!

Blanca and Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore

RATING: 4.5/5

SYNOPSIS: The del Cisne women are cursed. Every generation will have a pair of daughters and after both have reached the age of fifteen the swans will come and claim one of the girls as one of their own. Blanca and Roja are determined to break their family curse and stay sisters forever, but when two local boys get caught in their storm the task becomes harder than they once believed.

Anna-Marie McLemore has been one of my favorite authors ever since I read her debut book, The Weight of Feathers. However, of all her books this one was my least favorite. It was still just as beautifully written as all her other books, but for some reason I just didn’t connect to these characters the way that I did in previous books. I loved the world she built and how there was that mix of real and the fantastical that all her books have, but for some reason that magical realism didn’t feel as heightened or elevated to me the way it was in When the Moon was Ours or Wild Beauty. I think what really put me off was that the main conflict was brought about by miscommunication and for myself personally I hate that form of conflict especially when I as the audience know it’s miscommunication. It makes me want to yell at the characters and takes away from my personal enjoyment. I also felt like The Ugly Duckling element of the story was just shoehorned into the plot whereas the Swan Lake and Snow White and Rose Red aspects were constantly at the forefront and fully fleshed out throughout the whole book. I especially enjoyed that the parallels to the actual fairytale Snow White and Rose Red was heavily featured and referenced in the story and I felt like it fit with all the characters whereas The Ugly Duckling references fell flat. I think if Page had more POV chapters then that story would come through better and the actual references to The Ugly Duckling wouldn’t have felt so out of place. I loved Page’s arc, but there were times where to me it felt like he should have had his own story rather than to try and compete with Blanca and Roja’s story. As always though the bond of family was always at the heart of the story and that’s one of the things that I love about McLemore’s books. I loved the sisterly bond between Blanca and Roja and I also loved the unique bonds they had with each of their parents. I also really enjoyed how that was paralleled in Page and Barclay’s bond as well. I liked that the aspect of chosen family was highlighted alongside birth family and how it emphasized that sometimes your birth family isn’t what’s best for you. Every character had a positive adult role model as well which I enjoyed. Barclay and Page’s grandmothers were great and I loved that they weren’t your typical sweet grannies. Overall while I didn’t connect with these characters as deeply as I have with some of her other past characters, the story was still beautiful and I still enjoyed reading it.

Lore by Alexandra Bracken

RATING: 5/5

SYNOPSIS: Every seven years as punishment for defying Zeus, Poseidon, Athena, Apollo, Artemis, Aphrodite, Ares, Hermes, and Dionysus are made mortal for just one week and are hunted by the descendants of some of the mightiest Greek heroes for the chance of receiving the gods powers for themselves. The day after the last hunt, Lore’s family was brutally murdered leaving her to be the only survivor and she leaves that world and the life she knew behind, but when Athena shows up on her doorstep offering her a chance at revenge she takes the opportunity and jumps back into the fray.

This is without a doubt my favorite Alexandra Bracken book. I have read many books by her before, but this one captivated me like none of the others. I loved how fast paced the action was and I was thrilled with how many twists happened that I couldn’t even predict! I also really enjoyed the structure of the story. It mostly takes place in the present, but the few moments of flashback worked really well and I liked where they were placed in the story. Sometimes flashbacks slow things down in my opinion, but these flashbacks really propelled the story forward and I liked that they were placed just before something related in the present would happen. I love Greek Mythology and I’m always eager to read different authors interpretations of the myths. I loved how Bracken chose to interpret the gods, both the old and the new. I felt like she stayed true to how the Greeks talked about them in their myths, while also putting her own spin on things. I loved how the old gods felt ancient and all seeing while the new gods no matter how old they were when they took their power seemed to be consumed by the raw energy they now possessed. Obviously Athena is the goddess that is present the most and I loved how Bracken really leaned into her being the goddess of wisdom. I loved how she was able to make the big decisions without emotions and without seeming overly callous. Whenever someone objected I felt like her explanations always made sense. As for the newer gods I loved the clear distinction between Wrath and Castor. I loved that Wrath embraced everything that came with the power and used it for his own gain whereas Castor rejected everything everyone believed about the hunt and used his power to help people. All the relationships felt so natural and well developed as well. The only relationship that I truly wished we got more of was between Lore and Iro. There aren’t a lot of female characters that Lore interacts with other than Athena so it was cool to see another girl her age with a different viewpoint than her and I loved their backstory. I only wish that Iro was either introduced earlier in the story or was a bigger part of Lore’s team so that way we could get a better feel for their relationship the way we got to see her different relationships with her male friends. I also loved that we had Miles as an outsider character to be an audience surrogate for our introduction to this crazy world. I loved how supportive he was to Lore and how his mortal knowledge really came in handy on numerous occasions. Every character had special strengths that built upon the others weaknesses and I felt like the whole team dynamic worked so well. I also loved Lore’s personal journey. She starts off being so closed off even to the people that she’s the absolute closest to and by the end she embraces the fact that she can’t do everything alone even if she has been alone for so long. There’s no plans for a sequel and while I would love more stories with Lore and the gang, the ending was just perfect. This was such a great stand alone read and while I’m sad it’s over I look forward to rereading this book someday in the future.

Clanlands: Whisky, Warfare, and a Scottish Adventure Like No Other by Sam Heughan and Graham McTavish

RATING: 5/5

SYNOPSIS: The story of how Sam Heughan and Graham McTavish joined forces to create a show for television about their homeland plus anecdotes about their career, friendship, and lots of history and behind the scenes to boot.

I’m going to be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked up this book. I don’t typically read a lot of nonfiction and I definitely didn’t know a lot about the subject material this particular book covers. All I knew was that I loved Outlander and I’m always eager to learn more about history (also I’m a sucker for behind the scenes books). I’m so glad I bought this book!! I laughed out loud at many parts and I also learned a lot more than I expected. Both authors had such distinct voices and quite the flair for storytelling and I really liked that their contributions were compiled in a way that made it feel like I was reading a conversation between the two men and the reader. I learned a lot about Scottish history that I hadn’t known prior to reading and I also got some cool behind the scenes anecdotes for both Outlander and the show this book revolves around, Men in Kilts. Honestly after reading this I’m really sad that I don’t have Starz so I can’t watch the show! Getting to read about the process of how a television show gets made from concept to filming to selling was really intriguing to me as someone that has always had a soft spot and dreamed of working in the entertainment industry. I learned a lot of things about that as well that I didn’t already know prior to reading. I learned a lot more about whiskey that I never thought I would know, I learned a lot about weaving (especially the weaving of tartan), and I even learned that a lot of Scottish immigrants ended up in the Southern United States (which I don’t know why I didn’t know before). This book really is a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to information! I love when information is taught in a fun manner and if the book taught me things in such an entertaining way I can only imagine how much greater the show will be. I also loved that some of the chapters had fun little bonus information like recipes for things, battlefield maps, drink mixes, and just fun little jokes between the two authors. It really took things up a notch and I’m always a sucker for a good map. I really loved that their relentless teasing of each other was deeply layered with how close the two men have really become over their years of working together. It was just a great relationship to read and again they really played well off of each other as authors (and yet again I really want to see how that translates onto the screen). I really can’t stress enough how fun this book is. There was never a dull moment and often times when I’m reading nonfiction books I find my mind wandering, but that didn’t happen to me once while reading. Overall I absolutely loved this book and I’m so glad I decided to branch out and take a chance on a genre I don’t normally read.

Poetry Recommendations – Asking for a Friend

Hello out there!

In my last book review I reviewed one of Amanda Lovelace’s poetry collections and like I stated in my review her work has created a deeper appreciation for poetry. Now recently I have stumbled upon poetry accounts on Instagram and I have also discovered poetry reading videos on Tik Tok. I usually send the really sweet videos to my boyfriend (who isn’t a reader) and one of them made him want to get the collection that that particular poem was from which warmed my heart especially since he very rarely shows an interest in books. He still hasn’t even started reading the book he stole off of my bookshelf to read that silly boy!

That being said, now I want to know if any of you out there have any particular poetry books that speak to your heart and soul for us/me to try! Just leave a comment down below and I’d be more than happy to check it out!

Break Your Glass Slippers by Amanda Lovelace

RATING: 5/5

SYNOPSIS: A collection of poems mirroring a retelling of Cinderella interwoven with tales from the poetess’ life experiences.

Reviewing poetry is difficult for me because it is such a raw and emotional artform and just like any piece of art some resonates more deeply than others. Amanda Lovelace is one of those poets that resonates with me. I find her work to be full of emotion and while she has truly been through a lot I love that she always ends her collections on a note of hope and empowerment. It’s a beautiful journey to go on and I enjoy going through it again and again. I have never really been a huge poetry fan, but through her work I am definitely beginning to find a greater love, appreciation, and understanding for the artform. There is just something so honest and vulnerable in her writing that I don’t think I can quite capture in a quick review. It’s one of those experiences you just have to pick up the book and see for yourself. There are so many times that poems just feel inaccessible to me, but every collection by Lovelace that I have picked up feels fresh and entirely relatable. Although I don’t personally relate to a lot of the subject matter that these poems hold it is truly easy to empathize with the struggles that so many go through and continue to experience. I truly admire Lovelace for being able to put these emotions and experiences into writing. I can’t emphasize enough how honest and vulnerable her work is and how at the end you feel touched but also hopeful. It’s been a joy to see her poetry evolve over the years and I can’t wait to pick up her next collection.