Books That Came Out This Month

“As If I Were A River” by Amanda Saint

As If I Were A River left me with mixed feelings.

I feel like I should start by mentioning how the title seems to work so perfectly as a metaphor for what happens in As If I Were A River. I believe the story flows with ease, even though the path leads the reader through different torrents that seem to collide at some point. It’s disorientating at times, clear as crystal at others… and then there’s the ocean. The ending brings answers that open doors instead of closing.

I must confess that I didn’t find it to be an extraordinary read, but Amanda Saint seems to be quite skilled at captivating the reader. Kate’s frustration is contagious to the point that you start feeling frustrated towards her. The fact that the story is told by three different generations, Kate being the youngest, only makes it harder not to want to snap at her and tell her to get a grip. Everything seems so much easier, clearer, when you condensate different angles into one picture…

As If I Were A River is an emotional journey where the word missing seems to play an extremely relevant part. Someone gone missing, missing someone, missing the point, missing the chance… and then finding.

I will certainly be keeping an eye out for Amanda Saint. I think she’s finding her own literary flow.

ARC provided by Urbane Publications via NetGalley.

P.S. The book is visually beautiful.

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Books That Came Out This Month · LGBTQA+ · Reviews

“South of Sunshine” by Dana Elmendorf

South of Sunshine by Dana Elmendorf is not an easy book to read. One may look at the beautiful cover, at the Young Adult label, and expect nothing but a happy ending. To be fair, that is usually what you get from such a combination. However, South of Sunshine is much more than its ending. Its beginning, its middle… they are important.

I must confess that at the beginning it wasn’t easy for me to get along with Kaycee, the main character. There was something that bothered me about her and it was starting to get on my nerves. I was about ready to roll my eyes at her permanently when I realized what I was doing. I was judging. You see, Kaycee was educated in a certain way, brought up in a town with certain expectations. Even though she, as a human being of her own, has a say, it’s not easy to question your own roots when they seem to be the only thing keeping you from falling. That and the fear of disappointing others, specially when family is concerned, can drive one to say and do insane things. At some point self-preservation will kick in, but till then… You will call your girlfriend an experimentation, you will call your best friend a hypocrite, you will throw your phone out the window and explode, setting everything and everyone around you on fire. Then hope is born from the ashes. Without the weight on your shoulders, you decide you can do it, that you must do it for your own sake. That’s when magic happens.

The only real issue I had with this book was that it seemed to start out of nowhere. The general pace is slow, but the beginning feels like we are inside a ship to Mars during the lift off. It’s rocky, a bit too fast and confusing. I think we should have been given a little more background between the whole meeting Bren thing and the relationship status.

Written in a rather humorous and simple way, South of Sunshine is a charming read. Visits some commonplaces, yes, but they have become common for a reason. An “Annie on My Mind” for younger audiences, I would say.

ARC provided by Albert Whitman & Company via NetGalley.

Books That Came Out This Month · Reviews

“You Were Here” by Cori McCarthy

“Do you guys know what a Gordian knot is?” Bishop asked. “Some people think that it represents time. A tangle of sorts, but basically, it implies that anything that happened is still happening. That the past is never gone. The future already exists. Spirals upon spirals.” He cleared his throat. “So really, everyone who was ever here is still here. In a sense.”

Grief is such a complicated topic to write about. There are as many ways of grieving as there are people. It’s awfully easy to reduce it to one single shade of grey and hurt whoever we were trying to comfort in the first place. Also, grief can be a lonely path. We make it so. We don’t want anyone else to take the fall with us, for us. Sometimes, though, while we are falling, we open our eyes and realize we were never alone in the first place.

That said, I believe Cory McCarthy did quite a brilliant job with You Were Here.

Even though Jaycee is indeed the main character, this book is definitely not just about her. She was here, yes, but she was not alone.

You Were Here is a novel about a group of young people that are brought together by the pain of losing someone. A brother, a parent, a friend, a lover… and, at the end of the day, themselves. They are all trying to cope with the loss in their own way, some by choosing not to cope at all.

“I guess that makes sense. When I saw my brother die, my whole perspective on things changed. Life has borders all over the place. I like looking for them. Feeling them out. It gets you close to the others side.”

You Were Here tells the beautiful and heart wrenching story of the journey from the fall to the landing on both feet, from the darkness of the closed eyes to the opening and acknowledgment of others.

“It was an unspoken rule, iron law in my family; you never left without saying I love you, because what if you didn’t come back?”

Wonderfully written, visually stunning and with characters so real their pain is palpable, You Were Here is a roller coaster that will make you feel everything. Rage, love, disappointment, devotion, sadness, joy… it’s an emotional marathon that will leave you breathless.

I dare you to run it.

If you enjoyed All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven, Paper Towns by John Green and/or I Was Here by Gayle Forman, I most definitely recommend you reading this book. Make some space on your shelf of favourites, You Were Here is out and deserves some.

ARC provided by SOURCEBOOKS Fire via NetGalley.

Books That Came Out This Month · Reviews

“The Madwoman Upstairs” by Catherine Lowell

I must start this review with a confession: I have never read anything by any of the Brontës. I have at least one book by each sister, but they have remained untouched all these years because of something Charlotte Brontë said about Jane Austen. Having lived quite an intense Austen phase, I took it personally and have been avoiding them ever since. The copies I own? I inherited them. That said…

I found The Madwoman Upstairs’ premise to be exceptionally promising.

A literary scavenger hunt that takes the protagonist, the last Brontë descendant, to the mysterious world of Oxford?

I mean, where do I sign up?

Sadly, I believe The Madwoman Upstairs promised more than it delivered.

My first problem was Samantha Whipple, the descendant. At first she came across as arrogant, juvenile and way too full of herself. She was honestly starting to get on my nerves. Her voice took too much space, was too loud and frantic, too irritating… but I was intrigued. I don’t know about you, but I usually have a hard time letting go of literary conspiracies. I find them… bewitching. Also, I rarely give up on books. I usually give them infinite chances to surprise me. How can I not when even I bore and irritate myself to death at times?

Yes, it was hard for me to bond with Sam, to listen beyond the constant whining. However, I believe she comes across as full of herself because that’s exactly the portrait she wants the reader to paint of her at the beginning. I think it’s a self-defense mechanism. She feels empty, weak, at loss… Her father was her everything. Her father gave her meaning, he was her meaning (or so she thought). Losing him meant losing herself. Losing him like she did, it felt almost like an affront to her existence.

Reading The Madwoman Upstairs reminded me of the experience of watching The DaVinci Code after having read the book. It feels as if someone decided to skip a few scenes and press fast forward. There was so much space for development… but I do believe the ending does open all the doors and windows. Now it’s up to the reader, to us.

All in all I found it to be a rather entertaining and interesting reading. I absolutely adored the literature discussions. It made me want to return to university. Also, as weird as this might sound, I think I am finally ready to read the Brontës.

As for Catherine Lowell, I applaud her. I believe it’s not easy to write a character like Sam. I think it takes courage.

ARC provided by Quercus Books via NetGalley.

Books That Came Out This Month · Reviews

“The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend” by Katarina Bivald

It all starts with letters and books. Of course something magical was bound to happen! But first things first…

“(…) but how fun is it to read a fantastic book if you can’t tell others about it, talk about it, and quote from it constantly?”

Someone once said that books recommend people. If you find someone reading your favourite novel, it’s like the book is telling you that you must befriend the person reading it immediately. While I appreciate the thought, I find that to be quite a stretch. But when there are openhearted letters involved, dialogue and more book recommendations? I believe that’s life recommending a person. So I definitely understand why Sara would go all the way from Sweden to the US to meet Amy at her little town of Broken Wheel.

When you feel like you have lost everything, change can only bring you something. Even if just one second of insane courage, one moment that makes your heart skip a beat, one plane ticket… Even if Sara had simply landed and turned right back around, it would already have been something. That’s all she needed. So why not stay for a bit longer? Little did she know she was on her way to incarnate Tolkien’s “not all who wander are lost”.

What a picturesque little town! I was so excited for Sara, walking down streets that she had already envisioned, running into people that already had a beating heart in her imagination. It was as if she was suddenly living inside one of her books. The author? Her darling friend Amy. Speaking of authors, am I the only one who got the feeling that the narrator was the town itself? I am not sure if it was intended, but there’s space for the idea to come across and it’s wonderful. The town seems so proud of itself, so alive… it’s only fair that it has its own voice, right?

With once piece of the town’s puzzle missing, one extremely important, if not fundamental, piece, it was more than expected that Sara would somehow fill it. I don’t think she was ever meant to take over Amy’s place, but to instead bring the puzzle back to its glorious togetherness in her own way. The romance too was more than expected. Fiction has taught us a long time ago how to connect these dots. We have most definitely run into this basic puzzle before, but its colours? In The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend they shine brighter. The way the characters are written, for example. No one is secondary. There are so many layers to these people that they feel brilliantly real. Caroline, George, Grace, Andy, Josh, John, Tom, Carl, Jen, William… they all become close friends and family. Each one with their struggles, their dreams, hopes and desires. And Sara, by opening the bookstore and wanting to stay, opens new doors to these people. I love the symbology. How these books, these pages, these leaves, seem to breathe air back into this precious little town. It’s wonderful to witness.

“(…) those who think the world has automatically become better simply because they’re old enough to shape it now, but without any of them having made the slightest contribution to improving it.”

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend seems humbly greater than itself. It’s an extremely clever book, not taking itself too seriously. It discusses matters such as racism, homosexuality and feminism, and it does so openmindedly. It’s like the book is trying to tell us that it’s more than a lovely escape, it’s a place to wonder and wander without getting lost. It’s a place to learn at our own pace.

To read or not to read, that is the question.

Full of references that remind us that books are ageless, The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend remains true to its title. It will either take you back to the moment when you first read Fannie Flagg’s Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, or it will lead you to it for the first time. Through Harry Potter to Jane Austen, stopping by the world of Pratchett (felt like a tribute, how wonderfully deserved) and carrying on to Mark Twain and Dan Brown… This is mostly a book about freedom. Freedom to be who we are, freedom to reclaim our place as main characters in our own story, in our own life.

Touching, uplifting, hopeful, clever, heartbreaking and absolutely hilarious at times, The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend is a must read for book lovers. And we all know exactly where to shelf it, right? Most definitely under Happy Endings When You Need Them. Speaking of which, how delicious was that ending? For me, further proof that the narrator is definitely the town.

I don’t know about you, but I am off to Broken Wheel. See you on the other side!

ARC provided by SOURCEBOOKS Landmark via NetGalley.