Tuesday, March 29, 2016

A Fierce and Subtle Poison by Samantha Mabry

A Fierce and Subtle Poison will be available for purchase on Tuesday, April 12th!

**I received a physical advance review copy of A Fierce and Subtle Poison courtesy of Algonquin Young Readers in exchange for an honest review**

A Fierce and Subtle Poison by Samantha Mabry. Algonquin Young Readers, 2016. 288 pages. Softcover/paperback.

First, I have to say that A Fierce and Subtle Poison has, hands down, one of the most gorgeous covers that I've seen so far this year. I distinctly remember opening the package from Algonquin, unsure of what book lay inside, and pulling out this incredibly enticing and gorgeous book.

A Fierce and Subtle Poison centers around the story of Lucas, a seventeen-year-old boy who spends his summers with his father in beautiful Puerto Rico. Growing up, he has been surrounded by stories about a cursed girl with green skin and grass hair. Lucas' girlfriend goes missing one day, and he is then inexplicably drawn to Isabel, a girl filled with poison who cannot so much as touch someone - the cursed girl.

This was an extremely enjoyable and rather quick read, as I was immediately hooked and thus able to power through it in only a couple days. The premise of the story itself is fresh and remarkable, and I loved the setting of Puerto Rico. Mabry brought the entire island to life with its rich characters, culture, descriptions, and overall atmosphere - I definitely now have the urge to visit.

A Fierce and Subtle Poison is beautifully written with a fluid, almost lyrical-like prose at times that made this book a breeze to read through. Regardless of the plot or characters, the writing style itself is well-developed and displays talent. The pacing is not very consistent, however, as it moves rather slowly at times, then suddenly fast and rushing, almost leaving me behind wondering what was happening.

The characters are all very distinct in their personalities, but there is a lack of fleshing out that caused them to suffer. A few characters appear too one-dimensional, while others, such as Lucas, are much more developed, which created a sort of double layer in which part of the book was well-developed and strong, while the other part appeared weaker. There was also a lack of chemistry between many important characters, and I failed to see how such strong relationships could have formed between various people in such short amounts of time. Lucas' actions are a bit random at times as well; I wasn't entirely sure what his motivation was, besides the obvious attempts to find his girlfriend, but even then it just didn't account for all of his actions.

This book fell short in its lack of explanation. The storyline has much promise and potential,  but I feel like Mabry didn't quite delve as deep into the elements of the story as she could have. While there is an abundance of folktale and myth-like stories that add a deep level of culture and atmosphere, I think she spent too much time on those and not enough on the present day issues. I understood that Isabel was born with poison inside her that makes others sick - but how exactly? There is a backstory, but it only left me with more questions. The ending is open-ended, which I do enjoy in books, but I felt sort of jilted when I finished, and I haven't yet decided if it was a good feeling or a bad one.

Overall, I found this to be an exceptional magical realism book that was very compelling and entertaining to read, so I will be giving A Fierce and Subtle Poison three-and-a-half stars.

You might also like:
Sun-Kissed by Coco Nichole
Uprooted by Naomi Novik
The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Consequence by Eric Fair

Consequence will be released Tuesday, April 5th!

**I received an ARC of Consequence courtesy of Henry Holt and Co./Macmillan in exchange for an honest review.**

Consequence by Eric Fair. Henry Hold and Co., 2016. 256 pages.

I was unequivocally captivated by this book; I could not put it down. This book is, in itself, an immense act of courage on the part of Eric Fair. Writing down these stories and experiences was undoubtedly a difficult task, let alone the impending backlash that may result. The truth is that war is ugly and dirty no matter how you feel about it. Whether you are in support or not, tragic events occur that cannot be explained or understood.

Consequence is Fair's memoir of his experiences as an interrogator in Iraq. He describes the many horrors he witnessed and participated in, which leads him to question himself, his country, and his religion. I won't say too much about the content because this isn't my story to tell; this is Eric Fair's story, and if you want to hear it, then you must read this book.

Some scenes within this book are difficult to read, but because of Fair's blunt, lucid explanations, I was able to appreciate the strength that it took to write about these events knowing the repercussions that may result and the difficult memories they will bring up. However, I don't get the impression that Fair is writing for us to praise him for his courageousness, but rather to give us an honest picture and explanation of his accounts.

An ongoing theme found within Fair's recollections is his battle with this need to be a part of the war to protect and honor his country and to do his part, regardless of what that means for his family life. I thought about his wife, Karin, quite a lot, and I wish that I could have heard more from her side and what she felt during those years in which she had very little contact with her husband and knew very little about what was occurring.

One particular aspect of this book that stood out to me, besides the main interrogation theme, was the relationships formed between Fair and his friends. People can form bonds through any experiences, no matter how small or horrible it may be, and it was interesting to see how these bonds manifested themselves. For instance, Fair relays how him and one particular friend enjoyed each other's company because both respected and understood the need for silence. They didn't want to talk about what they were doing or anything else, so they had a rather silent companionship that allowed them to grow close.

When I finished the book, I pondered the title, Consequence, with a new outlook. What is consequence, and how should it be delivered? Are the nightmares and guilt that Fair feels his consequence? Is it the consequence from the government? Is his consequence the pity and shame we feel as we read about the things Americans have done, and how we are now affected by them? Consequence is a book that needs to be read and raises a great deal of provocative topics for us to consider.

This book may not be for everyone, but I still recommend it to everyone. Overall, I am giving Consequence five stars for its impact, writing, and compelling quality.

You might also like:
The Girl With Seven Names by Hyeonseo Lee

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Spotlight on Local Indie Bookstores - Part Three

Part three of the Spotlight on Local Indie Bookstores is here! 

1. Tattered Cover Bookstore, Denver/Littleton, Colorado, USA, submitted by ex-pletives

From first impressions, Tattered Cover Bookstore appears to be a large bookstore with a huge variety of books that would easy to become lost in. Tattered Cover is an indie bookstore and cafe that sells both new, used, and "crisp pre-discounted bargain editions" books. It was founded in 1971, and there are now four different locations of Tattered Cover throughout Colorado, each embodying its own unique atmosphere and style. 
The newest location - Aspen Grove!
Three of the locations are located within Denver: one on Colfax Avenue, another in historic LoDo, and the last at Union Station. The fourth location recently opened at Aspen Grove in Littleton. Each site has an immense amount of books spread throughout large stores where you are sure to find something you will love.
Who doesn't want to sit in that gorgeous chair?

Photos of Tattered Cover Bookstore are courtesy of their Facebook page. 

2. Atlanta Vintage Bookstore, Atlanta, Georgia, USA, submitted by anonymous

Owned by Bob Roarty and Jan Bolgla, Atlanta Vintage Bookstore specializes in selling rare, used, and collectible books. Roarty and Bogla acquired the store from the original owners in 2006 and have been fulfilling their bookstore dream ever since.

You can watch a short video about the store (found on the Atlanta Vintage Bookstore website) below.

As what appears to be in most bookstores, they also have a variety of lovely cats roaming around the shelves to assist customers when necessary. 
Just keeping an eye on things..
This bookstore is lovingly packed full of books, which shelves upon shelves of wonder-filled books in every room.

Images courtesy of Atlanta Vintage Bookstore's Facebook page.

3. Skylight Books, Los Angeles, California, USA, submitted by anonymous

Located in Los Angeles, California, Skylight Books can be found right near the famed Griffith Observatoryin the heart of a popular downtown destination. Skylight books was opened on November 1, 1996, and continues to provide fresh, "eclectic," and exciting books to its customers on a variety of subjects.

They have a huge list of book clubs, memberships, gift cards, and you can even order books online through their website! However, with such a gorgeous physical location with so many stocked shelves and incredible layouts, I would highly suggest making your way to the store itself if at all possible.

Skylight books also owns a cat named Franny, but their website states that you are also more than welcome to bring your dogs!

Photos courtesy of Skylight Books' Facebook page.

4. The Wild Rumpus, Minneapolis, MN, USA, submitted by thebeanandi

I spent no more than two minutes on The Wild Rumpus' website when I realized I was in love. This bookstores looks incredibly delightful. There are animals. There are books. There is an awesome staff
There are bookstands surrounding sleeping cats. 
Wild Rumpus' history page states that the general idea and layout of their store was inspired by Anna Maze's The Salamander Room, which is a story in which a young boy happens upon a salamander while in the woods and subsequently imagines how he could turn his room into a salamander's dream habitat. Looking around of pictures of the Wild Rumpus, I can certainly see the influence. I implore you to read their entire history page, but this excerpt describes the store beautifully: 

"Architecture doesn't have the luxury of page-turning, but instead allows us a front-to-back spatial progression.   Our store's front doors open into a fairly conventional interior with carpet, a comfortable reading chair and floorlamp.   Midway, things begin to change, there's a tree-trimmer sheetrocked in the ceiling on a ladder, and the ceiling itself at this point starts to crack open to the sky.   At the back, with birds above and rats beneath a garden shed, the store wants you to feel like you're outside."

The Wild Rumpus specializes in children's and young adult books, but is truly a home for all. They have book clubs for a variety of ages, in-store book fairs, and plenty of author events. They also accept recycled books that are then added to their one dollar book section - for those kids that maybe only have one dollar to spend!

If you're ever in the area, you should definitely stop by the Wild Rumpus - I know I will be!

Photos courtesy of the Wild Rumpus' Facebook page.

5. Chapters on Main, Main Street in Van Buren, Arkansas, USA, submitted by chaptersonmain

Now, it's time for some young blood in here! Chapters on Main is a soon-to-be-opened bookstore located on Main Street in Van Buren, Arkansas. They are to be an independent coffee and book shop that will celebrate their grand opening in May.
Renovation time!
The owners of the store purchased the store as a old, falling apart bookstore, and have taken on the task of renovating the bookstore to bring it back to life.
If you live near Chapters on Main or will be in the area around May, go support them with their big opening celebration - hooray for bookstores!

Photos courtesy of Chapters on Main's Tumblr.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Carlo Rovelli

*Seven  Brief Lessons on Physics was just recently released by Riverhead Books on March 1st!*

Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Carlo Rovelli. Riverhead Books, 2016. 96 pages. Paperback/softcover.

I recently received an ARC of Seven Brief Lessons on Physics courtesy of Riverhead Books, and I must say I was exceedingly excited to see this book when I opened up the package. I am fascinated by the theories of physics, but I don't think I was designed to excel in those areas, as I have always struggled with them - which is somewhat disappointing. This book, however, is meant to explain seven of the most prominent theories in physics in an entertaining and more approachable language than most physicists tend to write in. I felt like this was sent straight from the book gods to give me a second chance at understanding the basics of some important theories, and I intended to take this chance and run with it. 

This book certainly lives up to its title in its "brief" lessons. While I wasn't expecting too much depth within these lessons, they were even more abbreviated than I expected. The lessons are more accurately described as summaries rather than actual explanations. Based on this book, I don't feel like I was given enough information to have a completely grasp on many of theories because I feel as if Rovelli danced around the ideas without ever fully describing, but I do have a basic understanding of the ideas involved within each theory. At times, I must add that Rovelli almost attained a tone that sounded somewhat patronizing, as if he assumed the reader would have extreme difficulties grasping these ideas. This could be a positive aspect, but it could also be negative - it really depends on how you interpret it. 

Rovelli's writing itself is, however, quite lovely, and you can certainly gain a sense of his own wonder and appreciation of this subject. His prose is almost poetic at times, which adds a certain sense of beauty and awe to the subject, as well as makes the book approachable for just about any reader.

This is a great book for someone who might be interested in pursuing a physics major or related career and wants to know the basic ideas that are involved. This was like a series of movie trailers meant to give you a taste of each theory, rather than going into much detail or explanations of the components of each theory.  

Overall, I'm giving Seven Brief Lessons on Physics four stars for delivering its promise of brief physics lesson in an enlightening and readable manner. If you're at all interested in physics and want to know only the basics, this is a great little pocket companion and introduction into the fundamentals of the subject.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Spotlight on Local Indie Bookstores - Part Two

As promised, here is part two of my spotlight on local bookstores - enjoy!

1. The Best Little Wordhouse in the West, Bragg Creek, Alberta; submitted by conflictingfandoms

So this little bookstore doesn't appear to have a dedicated website or Facebook page, so I'm going solely on review for this one! The submitter, conflictingfandoms, describes entering this bookstore as feeling similar to "stepping into the TARDIS; bigger in the inside," and I think that is a fabulous description of a bookstore. It really paints a lovely picture of this bookstore as being quiet and cozy, but full of books and new experiences. Conflictingfandoms also describes it as being extremely organized with marked genres, alphabetized authors, and series located altogether, which is always helpful. I am immensely intrigued by the sound of this lovely store, so if any of you are in that area ever, I implore you to check it out (and then share your experience!)

2. Charis Books and More, Atlanta, Georgia; submitted by silentglamour

Dubbed as "the South's oldest and largest independent feminist bookstore," Charis Books and More appears to be an powerful store dedicated to feminist, cultural, and LGBTQ studies. If this sounds at all like something you would be interested in, then I highly recommend you read their page containing a history of the store, which describes both how the store was formed and what its overall purpose and goals are.
Photo courtesy of Charis Books and More's Facebook page.
Just as an additional note, you can also order online from their website if you can't make it into the store!
Such lovely shelves! Photo from the store's Yelp page.

3. Curious Book Shop, East Lansing, Michigan; submitted by planteatingmonster

The lovely Curious Book Shop is located right across from Michigan State University's Campus, which makes me really jealous that my own university doesn't have an awesome little bookstore that close to it. Planteatingmonster, who submitted this bookstore, says that upon entering "you're immediately greeted with the scent of old books, and novels stack from floor to ceiling."

Curious Book Shop began its life in 1969 in owner Ray Walsh's garage, but now contains over 50,000 items  spanning over three storeys. From their website description, they appear to have a large variety of books, magazines, and others memorabilia-type items.

Look at all the books...
I'd also like to add that their website has a page an awesome layout that lists where everything in their store is located, which makes someone like me who loves organization feel overjoyed.

Who doesn't like hidden corners in bookstores? I'm pretty sure they're one of the best things that exists.
Photos courtesy of Curious Book Shop's Facebook page.

4. Politics and Prose, Washington, D.C.; submitted by bookdweller

If you're looking for an active bookstore, then Politics and Prose is your answer! They have classes, trips, a huge calendar of events, book clubs, and so much more.

From the Politics and Prose Facebook page
According to their website, Politics and Prose was founded in 1984 by Carla Cohen and Barbara Meade as a humble store that steadily increased in size. It now boasts 8,000 square feet of pure sales space and contains a staff of over 50 employees. The store has since changed ownership to Bradley Graham and Lissa Muscatine, and its initial integrity is still wonderfully intact. 

What's most frustrating is that I've actually visited Washington, D.C. before... if only I'd known this place existed.

Photos courtesy of Politics and Prose's Facebook and Yelp pages.

That's it for second part of my spotlight on local bookstores! Part 3 will be up soon! If you have any local bookstores you want to submit, feel free to message me on Tumblr or send me an email at foreverlostinliterature@gmail.com

Happy reading!

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Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll. Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2014. Hardcover. 208 pages.

This is, hands down, a book that I will come back to many times to reread over and over.  I received this book as a gift a few months ago and had yet to dive in, but I've been in a little bit a slump - what with university and other books I've been reading - and I knew I wanted something refreshing, short, and captivating. Through the Woods delivered all of those things and added more than I imagined.

Through the Woods contains a few relatively short, quick stories, but they have so many layers and so much depth that I truly feel like I would never get tired of them. These tales are all undeniably beautiful, haunting, and spine-tingling. Emily Carroll is a master at telling stories that say a great deal in very few words. The images contribute wonderfully and convey just as much as each word, causing both elements work hand-in-hand. This book is mystifying, beautiful, terrifying, and captivating. I'm not so sure I would recommend reading it at night (unless you're into feeling terrified alone in the dark). Though to be honest, I feel like this would be so much fun to read on a stormy night with some soft lighting (or candles) either by yourself or reading aloud with a few friends or family members. That would bring this book to a whole other level... but I digress.

The pages and illustrations are gorgeous. I love the glossy pages with colors so vibrant you feel like you're holding a much more expensive book in your hands. (I felt overwhelmed with how beautiful it is.) The colors are so vibrant and have a wonderfully haunting quality due to their vibrant hues - the reds and blacks dominate and draw attention to the most captivating parts of each image. It's truly a masterpiece.

Overall, Through the Woods will be receiving a very ecstatic five stars. Go read it!


You might also like:
Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye by Tania del Rio, illustrated by WIlliam Stadht
Black Chalk by Christopher J. Yates
Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Spotlight on Local Indie Bookstores - Part One

About two weeks ago I posted about a few of my favorite local indie bookstores and subsequently asked you all to send me some of your favorite local (or not so local) indie bookstores as well. I was originally planning to then pick just a few of these at random to spotlight, but every single store submitted was amazing and I realized that I had to post them all. So what I've decided to do is indeed post them all, but in various parts. I'm going to make this a mini ongoing series until I reach the end; I'll be posting about four bookstores each week. I think indie bookstores are so vital and important to our communities, and they provide an incredible way to foster a love of books and local experiences, so I really love this idea of sharing some great bookstores from all over that you have all personally recommended. So without further ado, here are the first four bookstores!

1. The Book Cafe - Gorey, Co. Wexford, Ireland, submitted by zero-redeeming-qualities.

The Book Cafe is just what it sounds like - a bookstore and a cafe! What two things on earth are better than books and food? Nothing, in my opinion, which makes this place seem like heaven. This particular bookstore is located in Ireland, so if you're in the US it is a bit of a distance, but quite frankly it seems like it'd be worth it. I've been reading some pretty great things about this store, but I think zero-redeeming-qualities described their experience best: "Many a dark and cold afternoon was spent there with a hot chocolate or mocha, a warm bread and butter pudding, and some little gem of a book I'd find tucked away in some nook of the shelves down the back."

I actually found a great Youtube video created by Aaron Broughall about the store/cafe, which I have embedded below!

The bookstore itself appears to be Zozimus Bookshop.
Photos courtesy of The Book Cafe's Facebook page.

2. Page 158 Books - Wake Forest, North Carolina, USA, submitted by possiblyimaginary and easttennmtngrl.

Two people submitted this bookstore within minutes of each other, which I thought was incredibly awesome and coincidental - it must be a good bookstore, right?


easttennmtngrl informed me that this store actually used to be known as Storytellers Bookstore, but that they changed the name since new owners took over a year ago. She also said that she loves it not only for the books, but also because the owners seem to actually care about their customer's lives, rather than just the business end of it, and I really think that's what sets bookstores apart.

Anyway, Page 158 appears to be a lovely store with tons of books and even some local art! (Always a bonus.) They also seem to have events nearly every week (or more), which I think is one of the best things about bookstores, since they do such a great job of bringing together book lovers and the community.
It also appears that they have a membership club for $10 a year and you can receive discounts on books and have access to various sales/flash sales.

3.  The Book Barn - Niantic, Connecticut, USA, submitted by imthatmusicnerd.

This one sounds amazing. If you want bookstores with personality, then this is your place. I don't even know where to begin describing it. If you want to see more of this bookstore, check out their Yelp page, which seems to have some of the best pictures and descriptions from people that have visited.

Just look at how amazing that is; this location is called 'Hades.'

Yes, that is indeed a Haunted Book Shop. 
One of the best parts of this bookstore - you know, besides the awesome books, layout, and owners - is the animals. There appears to be cats all over the bookstore, as well as some goats and dogs and such outside. We had a bookstore with books and food earlier, and now we have books and animals. These bookstores are all truly hitting the best combinations possible.

All images are courtesy of The Book Barn's Facebook page, which I highly, highly recommend you take a peak at to see how incredible this place is. Look out Connecticut, I'm coming for you. (Your bookstore, that is.)

4. White Pine Used Books - White Pine, Tennessee, USA, submitted by otherguy81

The first thing I noticed about White Pine Used Books when looking was that this bookstore is huge. Their Facebook page boasts 6,300 sq. ft. of books. That's a lot of books. They also have book clubs (and a needle work club!) and a huge array of events, so this store is a definite winner.

Just look at them all...

I'm extremely impressed with this bookstore, and from looking at their website and Facebook page, I really get a sense that these people (obviously) are passionate about books and sharing books with others.

If you have kids or loves children's books, they have a huge selection of those as well!
Photos courtesy of White Pine Used Book's Facebook page and website.

Well, that's a wrap for part one! I'm going to leave you all with these four to begin with, and I'll be posting another four more or so next week. Thank you so very much to everyone who submitted a bookstore, and I look forward to sharing more!

            Get more reviews and book news in your inbox and subscribe to Forever Lost in Literature!