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Literary Friday: Three Favorites

Friday, May 10, 2024

 



Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!  It's been a minute since I last posted book reviews.  There is no way to get caught-up: I've read 25 books so far this year which is quite a lot for me as I'm a slow reader.  I read every night before going to bed (reading is part of my nightly ritual), and since we've been traveling a lot, I read on planes, buses, and boats.  I can't sleep on planes, unfortunately, so I read.

I'm posting the three best books I've read so far this year.  None were published this year...I'm just now getting around to reading them!  Any of these would make a lovely gift for the reader in your life, and all three really need to be in your beach or lake bag for summer reading.

In no particular order, here are my three favorite books I've read so far in 2024:


The first book I'm featuring is Divine Rivals by Rebecca Ross.  It is the Goodreads Choice Winner for Best Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction (2023).  My daughter Shanley bugged the snot out of me to read it, and I'm so glad she did.  It's Book One in the Letters of Enchantment duology.  I've read both of them, but I'm only reviewing Divine Rivals in this post.  Ruthless Vows, Book Two, is also shown above.


According to Goodreads:

When two young rival journalists find love through a magical connection, they must face the depths of hell, in a war among gods, to seal their fate forever.

After centuries of sleep, the gods are warring again. But eighteen-year-old Iris Winnow just wants to hold her family together. Her mother is suffering from addiction and her brother is missing from the front lines. Her best bet is to win the columnist promotion at the Oath Gazette.

To combat her worries, Iris writes letters to her brother and slips them beneath her wardrobe door, where they vanish―into the hands of Roman Kitt, her cold and handsome rival at the paper. When he anonymously writes Iris back, the two of them forge a connection that will follow Iris all the way to the front lines of battle: for her brother, the fate of mankind, and love.

Shadow and Bone meets Lore in this epic enemies-to-lovers fantasy novel filled with hope and heartbreak, and the unparalleled power of love.

My Review:

Don't let the fact that this book is classified as a young adult romantic fantasy dissuade you from reading it.  The story is excellent, the characters are well-drawn, and Rebecca Ross's world building is second to none.  Iris and Roman's rivalry and romance are equally entertaining, and I had a difficult time choosing which one of them should win the journalism contest and promotion at the Oath Gazette.  They certainly aren't enamored with each other in the beginning (probably due to the competition), but that only makes their falling in love more intriguing: I've always enjoyed the enemies to lovers trope anyway!

Set in a world similar to London during World War II, the City of Oath has remnants of magic left behind from the warring gods.  Some of them I could certainly live with, like a cafĂ© where the tea never gets cold and a pair of magical typewriters that enable direct correspondence.  And there is a touch of dystopia in the narrative as the two warring gods were once married, and the supposed "good" god is never present or seen with her troops.  The selfishness of the gods has resulted in suffering for the people.  The plot lends itself to deep thinking, like "why do people allow themselves to be pawns in fights that aren't their own," or "why do people stop thinking for themselves and believe propaganda?"  

If you are looking for a unique and thoughtful story, I think you'll love Divine Rivals.  I also think you'll enjoy it if you like historical literature because although it's set in an alternate reality, there are elements of the mid twentieth century in it, too.




If you are a gamer or know anyone who is one (or who is nerdy in general), then I recommend Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin.  You might recognize her name because she's the same author who wrote The Storied Life of A.J Fikry.   This book won the 2022 Goodreads Award for Best Fiction.

And yes, you probably already recognize the title from "The Scottish Play:"

There would have been a time for such a word.
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

~spoken by Macbeth, Act 5, scene 5


According to Goodreads:

In this exhilarating novel, two friends—often in love, but never lovers—come together as creative partners in the world of video game design, where success brings them fame, joy, tragedy, duplicity, and, ultimately, a kind of immortality.

On a bitter-cold day, in the December of his junior year at Harvard, Sam Masur exits a subway car and sees, amid the hordes of people waiting on the platform, Sadie Green. He calls her name. For a moment, she pretends she hasn't heard him, but then, she turns, and a game begins: a legendary collaboration that will launch them to stardom. These friends, intimates since childhood, borrow money, beg favors, and, before even graduating college, they have created their first blockbuster, Ichigo. Overnight, the world is theirs. Not even twenty-five years old, Sam and Sadie are brilliant, successful, and rich, but these qualities won't protect them from their own creative ambitions or the betrayals of their hearts.

Spanning thirty years, from Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Venice Beach, California, and lands in between and far beyond, Gabrielle Zevin's Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is a dazzling and intricately imagined novel that examines the multifarious nature of identity, disability, failure, the redemptive possibilities in play, and above all, our need to connect: to be loved and to love. Yes, it is a love story, but it is not one you have read before.

My Review:

Look, you don't have to be a gamer to love this story.  I am NOT a gamer.  I can't really tell you anything about gaming, LARPs (live action role play), or coding.  But I found all the nerdy parts about this novel fascinating.  And although my favorite trope is NOT a love triangle, it works in this book.  All three characters are brilliant and larger than life.  Sam has a physical disability, but that does not stop him from working hard and creating a successful gaming company.  I love his indomitable spirit: He has overcome horrific childhood tragedies.  Marx, the business side of the company, is one of my favorite characters ever.  He has the sweetest soul, and he truly loves his friends.  If only there were more Marxes in the world!  Sadie might be even smarter than the men, and she's the coding brains behind the company.  Yet she is my least favorite of the three.  Maybe I'm unfairly critical of her because we know that she has suffered from depression, and she might even have some other undiagnosed mental issues.

There are two reasons you should read this book.  The first one is that the story is so interesting:  I could hardly put it down.  I truly enjoyed reading about the characters' creative process as they created and designed computer games.  The second reason is that it is a treatise on friendship. The loyalty these characters have for each other is exceptional which also makes the story itself exceptional.  This book reminds readers to love and encourage their friends, and I can't think of many things more important than that.





My third recommendation is The Unmaking of June Farrow by Adrienne Young.  I read her Spells For Forgetting with my book club, and everyone in our club loved it.  I liked The Unmaking of June Farrow even more.  It was a Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Best Fantasy (2023).  Even though this book is a considered a fantasy, to me it is more a time travel/historical book with magical realism.

According to Goodreads:

A woman risks everything to end her family’s centuries-old curse, solve her mother’s disappearance, and find love in this mesmerizing novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Spells for Forgetting.

In the small mountain town of Jasper, North Carolina, June Farrow is waiting for fate to find her. The Farrow women are known for their thriving flower farm—and the mysterious curse that has plagued their family line. The whole town remembers the madness that led to Susanna Farrow’s disappearance, leaving June to be raised by her grandmother and haunted by rumors.

It’s been a year since June started seeing and hearing things that weren’t there. Faint wind chimes, a voice calling her name, and a mysterious door appearing out of nowhere—the signs of what June always knew was coming. But June is determined to end the curse once and for all, even if she must sacrifice finding love and having a family of her own.

After her grandmother’s death, June discovers a series of cryptic clues regarding her mother’s decades-old disappearance, except they only lead to more questions. But could the door she once assumed was a hallucination be the answer she’s been searching for? The next time it appears, June realizes she can touch it and walk past the threshold. And when she does, she embarks on a journey that will not only change both the past and the future, but also uncover the lingering mysteries of her small town and entangle her heart in an epic star-crossed love.

With The Unmaking of June Farrow, Adrienne Young delivers a brilliant novel of romance, mystery, and a touch of the impossible—a story you will never forget.

My Review:

This book stayed with me for a very long time after finishing it.  I couldn't get it out of my mind, and that's what great literature does, doesn't it!  The plot kept me turning pages late into the night because I wanted to figure out the mystery of June's strange illness she inherited from the women in her family.  Told from her point of view, we are not privy to anything before June discovers it for herself.  

The mental illness is basically this:  the women "hallucinate" a red door that they can enter, and once they do, they are taken to a different time.  An important caveat is that they can only enter the door three times, and on the third time, they must stay where they are (in time) because the red door will never return to take them back.  Due to the time travel, some of them seem to have a mental illness because they are supposedly in two times simultaneously.  

This book has it all: family dynamics, family mysteries, a heart-wrenching romance, time travel, small town intrigue, and a depression-era setting.  Perhaps my favorite thing about the book is June's character.  She is so determined to find answers about her mother's mysterious disappearance; solve a murder from the distant past; and take control of her own destiny.  I think if you like any of these elements, you will love The Unmaking of June Farrow.  





Probably the safest bet of all three is The Unmaking of June Farrow.  It just depends on how far you're willing to go outside of your comfort zone.  I hope you have a great weekend!





Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill




2 comments

  1. Hi Ricki. Hope your mom's day was special and sweet. I am looking for some good reads for summer. I like the suggestions. Have a wonderful week. Hugs. Kris @ Junk Chic Cottage

    ReplyDelete
  2. It was so nice to find a post from you in my inbox! I love reading book reviews, even if I'm not interested in the book, I love hearing my friends points of views. I hope you had a lovely birthday and Mother's Day! It's been too long since we've been together, I hope we can meet and catch up soon! You have been on so many wonderful trips!
    Jenna

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I'm Ricki Jill. Welcome! I'm honored that you're reading my blog. I enjoy sharing my creative lifestyle @ The Bookish Dilettante. For more information about my blog, please read the Start Here page. Thank-you for stopping by, and I hope you'll consider following me via email.

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