Book Review – Wilder Girls by Rory Power

Genre: Horror; Science Fiction

Note: There are NO spoilers in this review. When discussing in the comments, please provide a spoiler warning if needed.

After a rough few months where I didn’t have the time or energy to read – this was my first “return to reading” experience. From the first page I was hooked and flew through the novel. As I’ve mentioned in other reviews, I prefer my Science Fiction “light” – quick to grasp and understand without having to flip back to refresh on too many things. Wilder Girls hit that mark. 

Note: For me, Science Fiction “light” means changing only a few elements of reality – it’s based in the real world but a key item is altered. Often, I find Science Fiction that builds a whole new reality to be a little difficult to keep up with and I have to flip back-and-forth to remind myself what certain things are. These novels can be wonderful, they just require a bit more effort to read.

While the genre is horror, at its heart, Wilder Girls by Rory Power is a badass story about love and friendship. Hetty, Byatt and Reese have been stuck at the Raxter School for Girls for 18 months as a deadly disease called “the Tox” changes everything around them and slowly claims the lives of the other students. 

Rory Powers paints a beautiful world on an island off the coast of the Northeast United States full of unknown monsters and even more terrifying disease. With the Tox manifesting in a variety of ways, each girl is her own unique horror story and from chapter one I was eating it up. 

My favorite element of the novel is the bond of kinship between the characters. They were willing to fight with each other but even more willing to fight for each other. A lot of post-apocalyptic stories show a lawless land where it’s every man (or woman) for themself. At the Raxter School there was plenty of anger and turmoil, but at the end of the day they were all in this together. 

It was all so perfect .. until it wasn’t. 

Like I mentioned, I devoured this novel. I loved it from the moment I started. The scenery – gorgeous, the plot – unforgettable, the ending – crap. 

Tangent time!

While studying for my undergraduate degree, I read a novel called A State of Wonder by Ann Patchett. The story was immaculate and I loved every moment of it – until the end. That’s when I realized there is a key element in novels I value more than I ever realized – pacing. 

An author sets a cadence, a timing, a method or rhythm in which the story unfolds. As you read, you and the author get in step and are counting the music together, moving as one. It’s almost like a dance. 

I wish I could tell you that A State of Wonder will remain ingrained in my memory because of Ann Patchett’s flawless execution, but unfortunately it’s the opposite. She paced the story, she made me fall in love with the characters – and at the end it’s almost like she panic-wrote the last one third of the book and attempted to slap a beautiful flowery bow on every open plot line. 

It. Was. Terrible.

I felt so let down. 

In a sense, that’s what Rory Powers did to me with Wilder Girls. We were in step, we were dancing together. Then, it just ended. Like she wrote until her editor was like “AND .. TIME!” so she put her pen down and called it a novel. 

It’s unfinished. It needs more. And at this point I can only hope for a sequel, so I can have some sense of closure. 

So, should you read this book? Yes. Absolutely. 

Will you likely want to hunt Rory Powers down and demand answers? Also yes. 

Buy Wilder Girls by Rory Powers here at Thank You Books (Birmingham, AL) or at your local bookstore!

Have you read Wilder Girls? Let’s talk about it here in the comments or on Instagram.

Book Review – The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

Note: There are NO spoilers in this review. When discussing in the comments, please provide a spoiler warning if needed.

#BookstagramMadeMeDoIt – And oh boy were they right. 

Before we get into a plot overview, let’s start with – I read this one in 24 hours. I picked it up and COULD NOT STOP. It was the most important week of the year at work, and instead of making sure I was well rested in preparation – I read. 

Holly Black’s The Cruel Prince starts off as all great hero stories, with the death of our main character, Jude’s, parents. Shortly after our characters – Jude along with her two sisters Taryn and Vivienne – arrive in Elfhame and their lives are changed forever. 

Jude battles to prove herself as worthy of the Faerie and their world, defying everyone who stands in her way including her step-father and a Faerie Prince named Cardan. 

In this novel, Holly Black built a memorable, exciting, and terrifying world. Throughout the story, I pictured these young kids – Jude, Taryn, and Vivi – being pulled into this strange world and having to adjust to their surroundings along with the death of their parents. It is the stuff of nightmares but is also somehow gorgeous. 

Layer that on top of being raised by the man who murdered your parents before your eyes and I’d say this book borders on a horror novel. 

But it wouldn’t be the fae without some juxtaposition. While under the surface it’s ugly and gruesome, on the surface and all around us is beauty and the intoxication of being among faeries. This contrast is best seen between twins, Jude and Taryn. 

There’s so much more I want to say and discuss, but I promised no spoilers. Once I’ve finished all three books, I’ll write a discussion post and talk more in depth.

For now, I’ll tell you this book has it all – complicated family relationships; love triangles; unlikely relationships; and OH MAN a plot twist. This book is everything I hope for when I pick up a Young Adult novel. 

If you haven’t read The Cruel Prince and you enjoy Young Adult and High Fantasy – add this one to your TBR. #BookstagramMadeMeDoIt, and now I’m paying it forward. You won’t regret it. 

Buy The Cruel Prince by Holly Black here at Old Town Books (Alexandria, VA) or at your local bookstore!

Have you read The Cruel Prince? Let’s talk about it here in the comments or on Instagram!

Book Review – Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

Note: There are NO spoilers in this review. When discussing in the comments, please provide a spoiler warning if needed.

Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness, Book Two in the All Souls Trilogy, picks up where we left Diana Bishop and Matthew Clairmont in A Discovery of Witches (book review here) as they travel into the past to uncover the secrets of Diana’s magic and find a book that could change everything.

Diana and Matthew land right in the middle of Elizabethan London and immediately realize their tasks – teaching Diana to control her magic and finding Ashmole 782 – are going to be more complicated than they originally thought. The reader has the pleasure of experiencing the city (along with the other places they visit) through the eyes of Diana, a historian, who has studied and dreamed about the places she is visiting and people she is meeting her entire life . 

It’s like a fairytale, especially if you consider how dark and terrible most fairy tales really are. 

I absolutely LOVED A Discovery of Witches, so I had high expectations going into this novel. It did not disappoint. While it wasn’t as magical (sorry for the pun) as the first novel, I really enjoyed Book Two. 

We already have a witch and a vampire, throw in the pomp and circumstance of the 16th century and it’s the perfect mix for a wonderful story. 

One element I really enjoyed was Diana’s constant reckoning of what history books had taught her and what the real experience was like. For example, she notes she always told her students London would smell vile, but in reality it’s a pleasant smell (at least where they are in the city). 

Throughout the book we do have little flashes to the present time, but they are short and not too distracting from the main plot. We see how Diana and Matthew are tweaking the events of the present and how their family, friends, and even enemies are taking notice. 

And of course, there’s romance. We didn’t get much more than tension building in Book One, so thankfully we find a little release in Book Two as the couple spends more time together and begin knocking down all of the secrets and walls creating a division between them. By the time they arrive back in the present, they are a newer and stronger couple. I can’t wait to see where they go in Book Three. 

If I had to try and pinpoint why this novel didn’t quite sing to me like Book One, I think it would be the feeling that the characters are spinning their wheels and making no progress for a portion of the novel. I enjoyed the stories and adventures, but I often found myself frustrated Diana and Matthew weren’t more focused on the tasks at hand. 

This novel is a perfect cocktail of historical fiction, fantasy, romance, and “save the world”-ness. In my opinion, it’s one of the best “adult” fantasy books for those of us who grew up with Jane Austin, Harry Potter, and Twilight. 

Now … onto The Book of Life, Book Three in the All Souls Trilogy. Stay tuned for the review in the coming weeks.

Have you read the All Souls Trilogy and want to discuss? Leave a note in the comments here or on Instragram. 

Buy the All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness here at Kramers Bookstore (Washington, DC) or at your local bookstore!

Book Review – Burn Our Bodies Down by Rory Power

Genre: Fiction with a side of Science Fiction; Horror

Rating: 4 / 5

Note: There are NO spoilers in this review. When discussing in the comments, please provide a spoiler warning if needed.

Before diving into the overview and review I want to note that I read this entire book in less than 24 hours. I know this isn’t a milestone for some people, but this is a feat for me. When you have a toddler running around – your free time just isn’t the same. 

The being said, I have some mixed feelings and thoughts on this one, so let’s dive in. 

In Burn Our Bodies Down by Rory Power, 17-year-old Margot is searching for answers about her family. For her entire life, it’s been her and her mother with no other family to speak of. While searching through her mother’s things, she finds a clue that leads her to her grandmother and a family she’s never known.

This novel is a sprinkle of my favorite things (just missing vampires) – mother-daughter drama, family secrets, a touch of SciFi, and one hell of a PLOT TWIST. I had a theory, I refined my theory and WOW was I off the mark. I was not prepared for the ending of this book. 

Important to note here any surprise ending that catches me off guard immediately moves a book up in my mental rating scale. It’s one of the top elements I look for when reading any kind of horror or thriller novel. 

I haven’t read Rory Power’s debut novel Wilder Girls but she definitely has talent. She drew me in, painted a picture, and created characters I wanted to know. But there were still some characters and elements I wanted more from and felt like I couldn’t quite connect with. 

Scrolling through Goodreads, I noticed Burn Our Bodies Down received quite a mix of reviews. From 5 star reviews praising everything about the novel to 1 star reviews, so I think my mixed feelings aren’t far from the majority opinion.

Let’s talk about small towns, especially how they are presented in this book. Both towns we explore are deserted with the exception of a few key characters interacting with Margot. This seems a bit off to me and I often found myself thinking about why there were only like two people out and about in each town. I KNOW there has to be a group of busy-bodies somewhere just waiting to gossip about the new girl in town. 

This story was short and sweet, and I understand why there may not have been a large amount of narrative around characters or description not directly involved in the plot, but it did seem off to me. I wanted a picture of the town and all I got was a deserted shopping center vibe with a small group of teenagers hanging out. 

Let’s take a quick break for a small PSA – in this novel Margot hitchhikes with a man she doesn’t know. Never, under any circumstances, should you ever do that. I was screaming at Margot the whole time. For my murderinos – stay sexy. 

But this isn’t to take away from the strong main character, Margot. The rebellious teenager trope is one we can all relate with on some level. Parents keep secrets and we go out of our way to uncover the mystery. Usually it’s some boring family drama, but Margot’s family was anything but. 

I enjoyed uncovering the mystery while Margot did. We didn’t learn anything she didn’t already know, and I liked that about the story. It built more suspense and ultimately made the ending stand out a bit more. 

If you haven’t read Burn Our Bodies Down I do recommend it if you are a fan of lite-SciFi. It’s a fun and quick read. It won’t change your life, but you will enjoy reading this one. 

Have you read Burn Our Bodies Down by Rory Power? Let me know in the comments here or on Instagram. 

Buy Burn Our Bodies Down by Rory Power here from Old Town Books (Alexandria, VA) or at your local bookstore!

Book Review – The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

Genre: Fantasy Fiction

Rating: 4.5 / 5

Note: There are NO spoilers in this review. When discussing in the comments, please provide a spoiler warning if needed.

In one word, The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman is enchanting. Full disclosure, I went into reading this after recently watching the movie Practical Magic so the curse of the Owens family was fresh on my mind. Sometimes, with prequels, knowing the fate of the characters can take away from the story, but not here. 

The story begins with Franny, Jet, and Vincent at a young age and their first summer with Aunt Isabelle. Although their mother has tried to hide the truth, the children begin to realize they have a secret – they are witches. With the promises of no spoilers, I won’t provide much more description, but it’s a fun and heartbreaking ride as they each grow up. 

My life ebbs and flows from kind of busy to overwhelmingly busy, so I wouldn’t directly correlate how much I like a book by how fast I read it. However, I did finish The Rules of Magic in 3-4 days. 

Alice Hoffman’s writing style is unique and spellbinding. At first I was unsure of the narrative style, which reminds me of an old story being told around a campfire, but it grew on me within the first few chapters and I was hooked. Spellbinding really is the perfect word because it’s sing-songy and will have you tangled up before you know it. 

Of course, if you have seen Practical Magic and know what the curse of the Owens family is, you know this tale is full of heartbreak and tears. The happy moments are bittersweet and beautiful but don’t carry the same lightheartedness of most stories. The drama throughout the pages is not flashy and overdone, it’s subtle and heart-wrenching. 

I’ll go as far to say this novel is emotionally taxing, but worth every moment of the pain you feel. Because ultimately, this is a story about love and how the only solution to your struggles and heartbreak is to love more.

It really was a fun book to read. It’s also nice to read a fantasy novel about witches that doesn’t involve the apocalypse or some large-scale, life threatening obstacle. They are normal(-ish) people who happen to be witches and are just trying to make it through the day and find a little happiness while they are at it. 

I haven’t read any of Alice Hoffman’s other novels, but I highly recommend this one. I enjoyed it from start to finish. 

Buy The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman here at Old Town Books (Alexandria, VA) or at your local bookstore!

Have you read The Rules of Magic? Let’s talk about it in the comments here or on Instagram.

Book Review – The Rook by Daniel O’Malley

Genre: Science Fiction

Ciera’s Rating: 4 / 5 

Josh’s Rating: 4.5 / 5 

My husband has been recommending this book from the moment I met him. I have avoided it for years, but recently decided it’s time to take the plunge. There was a lot of pressure riding on this one, so I was hesitant to write a review. Thankfully, I enjoyed Daniel O’Malley’s The Rook a good bit. 

Because this is a favorite of my husband’s, and because this is an older book,  I wanted to do something a little different for this review. First I want to say this isn’t the typical no-spoiler post. This review is going to be a back-and-forth conversation between my husband and I regarding various elements of The Rook. THERE WILL BE SPOILERS BELOW. We won’t give away any key plot points, though, so at least you should be safe there. 

Ciera: Let’s start on a positive note – what I liked about the novel. It’s rare to find a unique and new storyline. Yes, the names, places, and general order of events change from book-to-book, but it’s not often I find a novel with something unlike anything I’ve read before – The Rook did that for me. I wasn’t reminded of other novels as I read the pages of Daniel O’Malley’s book. I was surprised at each turn and impressed by the individuality of the plot. 

I also really enjoyed the mixing between the letter writing to general narration. 

Josh: I agree, this unique take on the secret society motif truly felt new and inspired. What kept me turning the pages wasn’t just an interest in why Myfanwy Thomas, the main character, woke up in the rain without her memory, it was also the rich history of the other characters and the Checquy, itself. It’s rare for a book to keep me engaged and curious on every page but The Rook accomplished exactly that. I’m usually bored with an info-dump of this scale but it was well weaved into the story and never felt like pointless lore. Everything felt important and necessary for the thickening plot. 

Ciera: Honestly, the whole time I was reading I was thinking about how Mulder and Scully spent all of those seasons trying to find the truth when all they needed to do was read this book. 

Now, to one thing I didn’t like. There is one section at the beginning of the novel where Myfanwy is heading to her meeting with the inner court. The author switches narration to the court members getting ready for their meeting which is a weird change that never happens again. Myfanwy is the narrator and there’s no way she could’ve been in the rooms watching them. It really threw me off, but it didn’t happen again. 

Other than that small thing, the other piece I struggled with was how unbelievable it was. Not the secret society or supernatural power or weird sewn together people – it was how quickly this new person just stepped into Myfanwy’s life. When people suffer from amnesia like that, they have to relearn a lot of things, much less a whole backstory of some super secret agent. There should have been some sort of explanation of how she recovered that fast. Otherwise, how did none of the people surrounding her, who are trained to pick up on these kinds of things, not notice? Just seems too good to be true. 

Josh: I agree with you about the transition into the other court members. Though, while it was a jarring transition, I see why it was necessary. There needed to be a way of introducing the members before the meeting. That way there wasn’t this weird scene of going around the table inside of Myfanwy’s mind. It seemed like the author was prepping the reader with character imagery just before the reveal. 

See, to your second point, I thought it was brilliant. The old Myfanwy was invisible. No one expected anything of her or knew anything about her life. So, one day it just seemed like she had a midlife crisis and started wearing colorful clothes and speaking up for herself. No supernatural ability would be able to detect that she is a different conscience because she wasn’t. Not to say that the people closest to her knew immediately that something was wrong. The Lady after entering her dreams and her office assistant Ingrid both found out before the first day was over. The device was clever because of the other character’s motives. You don’t see what you aren’t looking for and no one was searching for an amnesiac with enormous power. 

Ciera: I guess that’s a good point. That’s one of my favorite elements of American Psycho. Patrick Bateman keeps blatantly telling people what he’s going to do or has done and people either refuse to believe him or are paying so little attention they don’t hear him at all. Completely different story, same concept. 

Let’s talk about something a little more fun. Of all the superpowers in this book, which would you want to have? Four bodies, ability to control others, wiping memories? For me, it’s definitely Myfanwy all the way. I think if she spends some time learning to strengthen her ability to control others with her mind, she could accomplish some spectacular things without ever having to lift a finger, literally. 

Josh: Oh, that’s a tough one. There were a lot of interesting powers. The ability to enter dreams, be a vampire, and Myfanwy’s nervous system control are top contenders, however, I think I would choose Eckhart’s power. Not only does he not age, he is bulletproof and can sculpt metal to meet his any need by touching it. Immortal, invincible, metal bender named Joshua? Yes, please. 

Ciera: Overall, I really liked this one. You say I’m a tough grader, with my 4 out of 5, but I save my 5s for books that impact my life in a significant way. This book was an excellent story, but it didn’t have me sobbing in a corner or examining my soul. 

Josh: I’m just glad you finally read it! This has been four-and-a-half years in the works. I get that it may not be life-altering but, for those who use books as escapism, this novel is worthy of delving. I have so much more praise and nostalgia for Daniel O’Malley’s The Rook, but perhaps your readers will just have to search the rest of its secrets out themselves. 

Want to join in on the conversation? Read it and then tell us what you thought of The Rook below in the comments, on Instagram, or via email!

Purchase The Rook by Daniel O’Malley here at Old Town Books, or your local bookstore!

Book Review – A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

Genre: Fantasy; Fiction

Rating: 5 / 5

Note: There are NO spoilers in this review. When discussing in the comments, please provide a spoiler warning if needed.

In The Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness – the first book of the All Souls Trilogy – readers meet a witch named Diana Bishop. She’s a witch who never mastered her craft and altogether avoided it for a majority of her life, mostly because she blames her parents’ death on magic.

But, of course, what a woman wants is rarely tied to fate. Through a series of accidents (at least that’s how they appear) Diana meets the vampire Matthew Clairemont and her life changes forever. 

The historical detail mixed in with the unbelievable tension of their relationship was enough to hook me in the first chapter. Without so much as a kiss, Deborah Harkness is able to build up to a sexiness and tension that leaves you screaming for more. On top of that (I’m a sucker for a good vampire romance), Diana’s journey and the conflict surrounding the mysterious alchemical manuscript is fantastical and unlike anything I’ve read. 

In a word, this novel is EXCITING. It’s the perfect book for an adult who loves Young Adult Fantasy but wants to read something for an older audience. 

I first decided to pick up A Discovery of Witches because I’ve been wanting to watch the show on AMC. I always try to read before watching. But I was not expecting to get sucked into this novel this way. It was immediate and overwhelming. 

As a writer, this is the book I wish I wrote. I don’t know if I can say that about anything else. 

This re”vamped” take on witches, vampires, and daemons is spectacular and had me obsessed from page one. 

One key element for me – while the arc of the story is dependent on her relationship to Matthew – the plot and conflict is not driven by any kind of drama between the two of them.

So often when we have a female lead, the story is driven by the back-and-forth relationship-based drama. Yes, Diana and Matthew being together is a key driver of the plot, but this isn’t about their quarrels as a couple – it’s about so much more. And, not going to lie, just LOVE a strong female lead. Diana Bishop takes no shit. I’m here for it. 

I can’t say I read this in a day or one sitting. At nearly 600 pages, this was a huge undertaking. It took a few days, but every moment I was away from the book, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. 

If you haven’t already, please go pick up A Discovery of Witches. Next on my list are the remaining books in the trilogy, so stay tuned for future reviews.

Buy A Discovery of Witches here at Old Town Books (Alexandria, VA) or your local bookstore!
Have you read A Discovery of Witches or any book in the All Souls Trilogy? Let’s talk about it in the comments!

Book Review – The Devil’s Thief by Lisa Maxwell

Genre: Fantasy Fiction

Rating: 4 / 5

Note: There are NO spoilers in this review. When discussing in the comments, please provide a spoiler warning if needed.

The Devil’s Thief by Lisa Maxwell picks up right where we left off in The Last Magician (read my review here). Esta and Harte are running from the Order, and Jack Grew. They have to find the stolen artifacts before they get into the wrong hands. Early in the novel, they jump two years into the future and, due to some complications, the book maintains a steady leap between 1902 and 1904 throughout the novel. 

The novel is told from the perspective of Esta, Harte, Jianyu, Viola, Nibsy, and more as the story unfolds. In St. Louis, Esta and Harte work to obtain the Djinni’s Star while the remaining pieces of Dolph Sander’s team remain (by no choice of their own) in New York City to find Delphi’s Tear. There are twists, turns, and all out moments where you want to SCREAM at Lisa Maxwell. 

One of my favorite parts of this book is having a chance to learn more about our supporting characters – Viola, Jianyu, and Nibsy. The Last Magician gave us small backstories for these characters, but reading from their perspective really let’s us dive into Jianyu’s nostalgia for his home country, Viola’s loyalties and desires, and Nibsy’s affinity and overall plan to take control of the artifacts and, ultimately, magic. 

Esta and Harte also finally give us what we want, an acknowledgement of their feelings and connection to one another. This is one of the more bumpy and complicated pieces of the novel, but I love a slow build that is all tension and no satisfaction. I will be shipping Esta and Harte forever. There are a lot of potential power couples in this novel, but in the spirit of keeping to my promise above about no spoilers – I will keep quiet for now. Once you read the book, let me know and we can discuss.

This novel took me a while to read. It’s hefty (nearly 700 pages) and requires a serious level of concentration. We are jumping through time and from character to character, which brings me to my next point. 

I haven’t decided yet if I love or hate the constant change in time and perspective. The subheaders and writing style make it very easy to follow who is talking and what timeline we are in. But sometimes you only get one (or less) page with a character before you are jumping to the next. It builds tension and suspense in such an aggressive way. It kept me reading, pushing forward, and wanting to know more. But it always made me want MORE. Right when I was getting there – so close – CHANGE. 

I highly recommend this series, starting with The Last Magician followed by The Devil’s Thief. I’ll be picking up the third book in the series later this year when it’s released. 

Buy The Devil’s Thief by Lisa Maxwell here at Old Town Books (Alexandria, VA) or at your local bookstore!

Have you read either book in The Last Magician series? Let me know what you thought in the comments!

Book Review – You Let Me In by Camilla Bruce

Genre: Fiction; Thriller; Paranormal

Rating: 4 / 5

Note: There are NO spoilers in this review. When discussing in the comments, please provide a spoiler warning if needed.

Before we get into this review – go ahead and add You Let Me In by Camilla Bruce to your TBR list. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this one. I read the entire novel in about two days. A quick and easy read, but honestly I didn’t want to put it down. 

My husband is likely tired of hearing me say this, (he listens to me talk out my reviews before I write them) but for me this was the novel-version of The Yellow Wallpaper, a short story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, without the finality at the end. It’s been about four days since I turned the last page, and I still find myself going back to think about the ending. 

Cassandra Tipp, the main character of the novel, is assumed to be “crazy” and imagining things based on unknown trauma she faced as a young child. Camilla Bruce does an excellent job of dancing around fact and fiction. I’m still trying to decide what my final decision would be. It’s been an Inception kind of moment for me. I’ve been at war with myself over whether I believe the narrator. She tells such a compelling, but still unbelievable story. 

Yes, vague, I know – but I promised no spoilers. You’ll just have to read to find out. 

Alas, I don’t believe it matters. Even if someone is delusional, what they are experiencing is their reality and impacts them as such. As a child, you have a nightmare and wake up scared. It doesn’t matter if it never actually happened, it still changes you in that moment. 

I think regardless of where you land at the end of the novel, it’s a beautiful story about trauma and how people, especially children, react to that trauma. It doesn’t matter if you can visibly see someone else’s “shit,” it’s still very real to them. 

Another fun element of the novel was the narration style. When you make the poor (jk!) decision to major in English (just ask my mom) you enroll in a number of creative writing classes that specifically warn you against writing in the second person. I guess more of a caution than an all out rule. But in You Let Me In all of those professors were proven wrong. Not only does it work – I’m not sure this novel would have been the same without it. 

We all have at least one weird family member who is so interesting to talk to, even if you have no idea what they are talking about a majority of the time. The concept of a crazy, estranged aunt rambling and ranting at her niece and nephew is fun for me. 

The story will keep you guessing, thinking, and then second guessing yourself. You are taken back to your time as a young kid when you had imaginary friends, but the author brings it to an unexpected level of realism. 

I highly recommend this book. Like I said at the beginning, add it to your TBR now. You won’t regret it. 

Buy You Let Me In by Camilla Bruce here at Old Town Books, or at your local bookstore.  

Have you read You Let Me In? Let’s talk about it. Leave a comment or send me a message letting me know what you thought of the novel.

Book Review – Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

Genre: Fiction

Rating: 5 / 5

Note: There are NO spoilers in this review. When discussing in the comments, please provide a spoiler warning if needed.

Don’t let the rating fool you, I disliked every moment I spent reading Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi. This novel forced me to encounter grief and heartbreak I have shoved deep, deep, down and would have preferred to leave it there. 

In this novel, Gifty, a young girl who’s family immigrated from Ghana to Alabama, USA, talks about her family dynamics, her brother’s heroin addiction, and the impacts of depression on her mother. I felt raw and exposed. The only way I can effectively portray how this novel made me feel is to share a personal story. 

Like Gifty, I have experienced the frustration, anger, and grief that comes when someone you love suffers from addiction and how you can spend months to years watching them destroy everything around them. No matter how prepared you think you are, no matter how much you convince yourself everything is going to be okay – addiction finds a way to take everything from you. It’s a disease that seeps in and leaves no one untouched. The parallels were uncanny. Gifty’s brother was found in the parking lot of a restaurant; my cousin in the bathroom of Walgreens. 

I was out at a bar with my friends the night I found out my cousin had died. At first I had no idea what my mom was talking about. 

“Brandon is dead,” she said.

I named other boys I knew named Brandon, never once thinking she was talking about my cousin. Once I ran out of Brandons, I took a moment and realized she was talking about the only Brandon I cared about. My favorite cousin. The Brandon we all thought had his addiction under control. 

I refused to come home and hung up the phone. I just started walking, refusing to acknowledge it. Refused to say it out loud. My boyfriend at the time, Keith, grabbed by arm and pulled me back into a hug and I lost it. There I was, standing among a huge group of people hopping between bars, sobbing. I took about 30 seconds to let it out, straightened up, wiped my face, and demanded that we go meet my best friend at the bar down the street.

I knew the moment we locked eyes that my mom had already called her. She walked over to me.

“Are we sad or are we drinking?” she said when she got closer to me. 

I understand, this is not a healthy way of dealing with grief. I understand I should have gone home. I understand that my coping mechanisms, to this day, are not highly recommended. Regardless, I looked at her and said, “drinking.” 

She ordered jagerbombs and that’s the last thing I remember until we were back at my friend’s apartment, me once again sobbing. 

I woke up the next morning, handled my hangover, and headed over to my aunt’s house. I was ready to be with my family, but I didn’t shed another tear until the day of his funeral. I took care of my family.

This book took me right back to where I was the night I found out he had died – sobbing on the sidewalk, unable to name my grief. It was uncomfortable, but until this moment – I didn’t realize how much emotion I still held deep within my heart. 

Yaa Gyasi has created something so real and raw, you become consumed and can’t look away. It’s breaking your heart, but you can’t stop reading. Her words are so honest. It only took me two days to read this one cover-to-cover. 

You need to read this novel. You need to experience the power behind Gifty’s story. I could not recommend Transcendent Kingdom more. 

Buy Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi here at Old Town Books (Alexandria, VA) or at your local bookstore!