Dark and Deepest Red

Dark and Deepest Red is Anna-Marie McLemore’s latest magical realism novel.

In the Summer of 1518, a sickness sweeps through Strasbourg, one that makes men and women dance until they drop dead. It is rumored that witchcraft may be the cause and everyone is a suspect, especially Lavinia and her family, who have a secretive past.

Five centuries later, a pair of red shoes are stuff to Rosella Oliva’s, making her dance uncontrollably. They draw her to the boy, Emil, whose family was blamed for the sickness in 1518.

But the truth can be shadowed over time and together Rosella and Emil must uncover what really happened to Lavinia and Strabourg.

Dark and Deepest Red have all of McLemore’s signature writing style: magical realism that seems to seamlessly blend with the story, a LGBT bend, and prose that flows beautifully. And yet, this is probably my least favorite of her novels. I just couldn’t get into the story. Well, I did eventually but it took way more than half the book.

I didn’t feel as strongly for the characters as I normally do. I couldn’t quite make a connection with them. It was almost like, there wasn’t enough of them. I needed more of their stories, instead of the history.

I did like the tie in of the red shoes paired with the mysterious dancing plague of history. I thought this was pretty neat, especially after listening to the author’s notes.

This wasn’t a bad read, I enjoyed it for what it was. It just wasn’t my favorite. So I am giving this one 3 mediocre stars.

That’s all for now!

-M-

The Ten Thousand Doors of January

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow is a magical realism novel about doorways to other worlds.

January Scallar is a bit of an odd girl. She’s neither black nor white, has an absent father and lives in a mansion of curiosities and as such, feels like a bit of a curiosity herself. Her father is an explorer and their wealthy benefactor wants January to be a good girl. But January was a headstrong, curious girl who ran wild until one day she found a door and her whole life changed.

When that door opened and closed as a girl, January lost most of the fire she once had. As a young woman, January is prim, quiet, lonely… everything a good girl should be. But her life is about to change. When a mysterious book falls into her lap, January begins to realize that the world isn’t as black and white as she’d been told.

Doors exist. And someone is closing them.

When I first started reading this book, I wasn’t entirely sure I was going to get into the narrative. And it did take me a few chapters but suddenly there was that ah-ha moment and I “got it.” As a whole, I quite liked this book. This ideas of doors into other/alternate worlds, wasn’t something new but it felt unique here. I especially liked January’s writing abilities.

I don’t know if I would exactly consider this a magical realism novel though. It’s got more magic than you’d normally see in that type of novel. Or at least in my opinion. But there is definitely this sense of more going on behind the scenes then we get upfront. I bet there’d be a lot early in the book you’d see sooner on a second read.

I did really enjoy this book. It was a good read with some really interesting characters and possibilities. This one gets 4 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

Blanca & Roja

Blanca & Roja by Anna-Maria McLemore is a magical-realism novel targeted toward young adults.

In the del Cisne family, every generation births two girls–one of which is destined to become a swan. Blanca, sweet and graceful, and Roja, feisty and wild, are as close as two sisters can be but they’ve also grown up as rivals. Together, they have kept the swans at bay longer than an of the del Cisne’s before them. But the swans will not wait forever and the game is about to begin.

When two boys, with troubles of their own, are drawn into the game, the rules change and the stakes are higher than ever. With four fates on the line, instead of two, will Blanca and Roja finally give in to their fate or will the fight a battle that no del Cisne has ever won before?

McLemore’s writing has always been magical and yet believable; this is why her body of work is such a great example of magical-realism. You see the magic, you feel it, and yet the world is still grounded in fiction, in reality. The genre makes the ordinary, extraordinary, which is why I love it so much.

This wasn’t my favorite book my McLemore but I liked it better than some of her others. A lot of what McLemore writes has the same themes and many of the characters have the same problems and personalities, with a few changes here. Sometimes it feels like only the “magical” element changes from book to book. So if you are looking for the familiar, then McLemore’s books are for you.

There’s a familiar fairy-tale aspect to this book. A combination of Snow White, Rose Red, Swan Lake and the Ugly Duckling. But there is also more to this book. We look at different stereotypes and the assumptions people make. Ultimately, this book is about finding the truth–the truth about oneself and understanding, accepting, other peoples the truths.

This one gets 3.5 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

Wild Beauty

Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore is McLemore’s third young adult, magical realism novel.

For more than a hundred year the Nomeolvides women have worked the grounds of La Pradera, creating a lush wonderland of flowers. These gardens are lovely and enchanting and many a rich man will pay dearly for seeds in the hopes that their own gardens will one day bloom as beautifully. But the Nomeolvide women are more than they seem.

This family of females has been gifted with the ability to literally pull flowers out of the ground and if they don’t use their gifts, then their gifts will use them and bloom in sometimes destructive ways, often leaving them with the label: la bruja. But La Pradera has laid claim to them, giving them a home, a safe haven, but also taking from them their ability to leave without deathly consequences. On top of that, the Nomeolvides women are doomed to lose any they love too dearly–their men are taken from them, disappearing like smoke on a wind.

After generations of these vanishings, a strange boy appears out of no where and is a mystery to both the Nomeolvides women and to himself. What does this strange boys sudden arrival mean for the women? And when La Pradera itself is threatened, what will the women do, what will they risk, to learn the truth?

I really love this genre of magical realism; where we are living in this real world setting with real world problems but there is just a sprinkle of something magical thrown in. In the case of Wild Beauty a beautiful ability to grow flowers and a curse on love. It makes you wonder about the world around us and what might or might not be.

Now, I’ve read McLemore’s other magical realism books–The Weight of Feathers and When the Moon Was Ours. I just loved When the Moon Was Ours, it was magical in all the right places, touched on subjects many authors shy away from and was extremely well written. The Weight of Feathers on the other hand, just didn’t hold up. It lacked that pull and the characters weren’t my favorite. So, I figured Wild Beauty would probably lean one way or another and fortunately for me, toward the better.

Wild Beauty was just beautifully written. Much of the prose felt almost poetic, as lovely as the flowers the women grow. The book was romantic without smothering it’s reader. There was also this sense of mystery throughout the book that kept a good pace, where otherwise the story might have lagged.

Ultimately, this was a quick read that met my expectations. This one gets 4 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

 

The Motion of Puppets

The Motion of Puppets by Keith Donohue is an adult fiction novel with just a little bit of magic coloring it’s pages. Newlyweds Kay and Theo are spending their summer in Québec; Theo working on his translations and Kay working as a background acrobat in the circus.

While walking the streets of Québec, Kay falls in love with an old puppet in an abandoned toy store. Almost every day she would stop and admire the puppet, wishing he was hers. While walking home from work one night Kay fears she is being followed and surprisingly, the lights are on in the toy store. Kay ducks in and her life is changed forever.

When Kay doesn’t come home, Theo looks for her everywhere and finally calls the police. With no clues and no suspects, Kay is truly missing without a trace. Theo begins to question their relationship and wonders if he ever truly knew his young wife. Regardless of his misgivings, Theo is unable to give Kay up and his search almost becomes obsession.

What happened to Kay? Will Theo be able to look past the ordinary and search for clues in unlikely places? Will there be an happily ever after for this separated couple?

I originally picked this one up because I’d read Donohue’s The Boy Who Drew Monsters and although it wasn’t one of my favorite reads, it was one that stayed with me for a long time.

The Motion of Puppets hit me in the same way as Donohue’s other novels. This book had a pretty slow start… and a pretty slow middle if I am being honest. This 250+ page book took me almost two weeks to read, which should tell you something. I was really intrigued by this world of puppets and was really looking forward to getting a peak behind the curtain. But until the end, I was sort of disappointed.

I felt the same way about Theo’s side of the story. His search for Kay, while heartfelt, was colored by his obsession with Muybridge. Yes, this probably has some deeper meaning/parallel to the life of a puppet, what with the focus on motion, but it just didn’t do much for me.

That being said the last 75 pages of this book was fantastic. Just like The Boy Who Drew Monsters the ending was a shock and extremely well done. The world of the puppets at the end was exactly what I wanted to see throughout the book. This dark, chaotic secret world was a feast for the mind.

Overall, this was a boring read with an interesting ending. This one gets a grudging three stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-