FIRST CHAPTER, FIRST PARAGRAPH: Lolly Willowes, by Sylvia Townsend Warner


First Chapter, First Paragraph Tuesday is hosted by Bibliophile By the Sea! I’m also cheating a little bit this month by posting more than the single line that functions as the first paragraph.

Lately I’ve been really interested in what is published by New York Review Books, and I came across Sylvia Townsend Warner’s Lolly Willowes in a bookstore. It’s about a single woman living at the beginning of the 20th century who decides, in middle age, to live alone, out of her brother’s house and away from polite society. John Updike’s blurb on the back reads “This is the witty, eerie, tender but firm life history of a middle-class Englishwoman who politely declines to make the expected connection with the opposite sex and becomes a witch instead.” Perfect for Halloween! 🎃

When her father died, Laura Willowes went to live in London with her elder brother and his family.

“Of course, ” said Caroline, “you will come to us.”

“But it will upset all your plans. It will give you so much trouble. Are you sure you really want me?”

“Oh dear, yes.”

Caroline spoke affectionately, but her thoughts were elsewhere.

BOOK REVIEW: My Best Friend’s Exorcism, by Grady Hendrix


BOOK REVIEW: My Best Friend’s Exorcism, by Grady HendrixTitle: My Best Friend's Exorcism by Grady Hendrix
Published by Quirk Books
Published: May 17th 2016
Genres: Fiction
Pages: 336
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
 But she remembers when the word “friend” could draw blood. She and Gretchen spent hours ranking their friendships, trying to determine who was a best friend and who was an everyday friend, debating whether anyone could have two best friends at the same time, writing each other’s names over and over in purple ink, buzzed on the dopamine high of belonging to someone else, having a total stranger choose you, someone who wanted to know you, another person who cared that you were alive.

I found My Best Friend’s Exorcism on a book list for things to read after you’ve finished watching Netflix’s Stranger Things. Needing something to fill in that void, I picked this up and started reading it immediately. I couldn’t put it down.

My Best Friend’s Exorcism is set in the late eighties and follows Abby’s friendship with Gretchen during a series of strange events. When Gretchen begins to behave differently than usual, Abby eventually figures out that a demon has possessed Gretchen and Abby does everything she can to exorcize that demon.

While the plot was a little slow at first, I thought it worked for this book because rather than it being an action-packed adventure through devils and demons and exorcists, this book is an exploration of the friendship of teenage girls and the ups and downs that occur in high school friendships, whether or not one is possessed by demons. Having grown up with a lot of eighties references and eighties films, this book also evokes a similar kind of nostalgia for that decade that Stranger Things did. While Stranger Things seems to evoke those action-packed, Spielberg films of the eighties, My Best Friend’s Exorcism evokes those heart-filled John Hughes films of friendship and budding relationships.

If you’re left wanting more between seasons of Stranger Things, I definitely recommend My Best Friend’s Exorcism!

BOOK REVIEW: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, by Becky Chambers


BOOK REVIEW: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, by Becky ChambersTitle: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers, #1) by Becky Chambers
Series: Wayfarers #1
Published by Harper Voyager
Published: July 5th 2016
Genres: Science Fiction
Pages: 443
Format: Trade Paper
Source: Purchased

 Humans’ preoccupation with ‘being happy’ was something he had never been able to figure out. No sapient could sustain happiness all of the time, just as no one could live permanently within anger, or boredom, or grief.

When she joins the crew of the Wayfarer, Rosemary Harper doesn’t expect the motley crew of oddballs, but she comes to find that group of oddballs family and learns a lot about herself, about what makes a family, and about her place in life throughout the journey the Wayfarer takes throughout the course of the book.

I absolutely loved this book. It reminded me of Firefly and Star Trek (The Original Series), and it is such a happy science fiction book that made me giddy every time I opened it up to read more. It seems so rare that we have positive, happy, not-too-cynical science fiction that explores identity, gender, and existence. It’s fun, campy, and smart, and more likely than not, you’ll fly through this book and be left wanting more.

My only disappointments were that I felt that there were too many perspectives for so short a novel and that the characters didn’t develop that much throughout the course of the novel, and that might be because of the wide cast of characters explored throughout. However, it is the first in a loosely connected series (or duology), so I’m looking forward to seeing Chambers’ writing in her second book.

I’ve been recommending this to everyone, from die-hard sf fans to people who have rarely, if ever, dipped their toes in sf. It’s a great addition to the genre – especially because we need more happy, hopeful sf books – and it’s a great introduction to the genre.

BOOK REVIEW: Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs


BOOK REVIEW: Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children, by Ransom RiggsTitle: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Series: Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children #1
Published by Quirk
Published: June 7th 2011
Genres: Young Adult
Pages: 352
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased

We cling to our fairy tales until the price for believing in them becomes too high.

Ransom Riggs’ Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children is one of those odd books that I liked but also didn’t like. It’s difficult to explain, and the only thing I can come up with is that I like the premise and I like the atmosphere created, but I found the characters and a lot of the writing to fall flat. I couldn’t put it down while I was reading it, but after I finished the book, I just felt sort of ehh.

It’s pretty much a meh execution of a really excellent idea. I was expecting something scarier, but it wasn’t all that scary. The writing most of the time felt juvenile, and I feel like I might have liked this book had it been shelved in the children’s section rather than in Teen/YA. I have expectations of depth of writing when books are categorized in certain sections, and this being shelved in the YA section most of the time is misleading in terms of the depth of the story.

The best parts about this book are the weirdly manipulated photographs that add more to the story than just the words (which shouldn’t be the case, but it is) and Miss Peregrine herself. I like the idea of time loops and that the children are stuck in them forever, and I wish that idea was developed a little bit more in this book (and maybe it is in the following books!).

I wish the book had a different narrator. Jacob seemed bland and boring, and I’m over the whiny rich boy narrators because I felt he had no depth and no change in character, but I do understand the bland character as a narrator as it allows the reader to self-insert and connect with the story more (which is not the greatest tactic in grabbing your reader’s interest).

I may eventually pick up the rest of the series (or borrow them from the library) because while I enjoyed this story for what it was, the executed concept fell flat and didn’t totally wow me enough to rush out and read the next two.

BOOK REVIEW: The Sunlight Pilgrims, by Jenni Fagan


BOOK REVIEW: The Sunlight Pilgrims, by Jenni FaganTitle: The Sunlight Pilgrims by Jenni Fagan
Published by Hogarth
Published: July 19th 2016
Genres: Fiction
Pages: 288
Format: Hardcover
Source: Blogging for Books

 You can drink light right down into your chromosomes, then in the darkest minutes of winter, when there is a total absence of it, you will glow and glow and glow.

It’s 2020 in Scotland, and the world’s freezing over. Jenni Fagan’s The Sunlight Pilgrims is an end-of-the-world novel, but it’s not a loud one. There are no explosions, no aliens taking over the planet, no rampant diseases. Just ice and snow and a chill that never seems to go away. It’s a quiet exploration of family, death, life, and identity when the world as we all know it is ending.

The Sunlight Pilgrims will make you think about your family, and maybe other families too, and hopefully make you realize and every family has its problems. It will make you think about death a little bit and maybe the end of the world and what comes after. But mostly, this book will make you think of some event that led to your “coming of age.” The event that made you cross that line from child to tiny adult, from tiny adult to actual adult. At the heart of it all, The Sunlight Pilgrims is a coming-of-age novel, and sometimes, some of us have several of those coming-of-age moments..

What I liked most about it is Stella. In the midst of the chaotic climate change, she is figuring out her identity and figuring out how to share it with the world without being constantly humiliated. Each of the characters are fully formed with an interesting backstory that links them all together, but I was really curious to see Stella’s story developed, and Fagan raises key points about gender identity that I thought poignant and timely.

I read this in a day, mostly in a single sitting. I don’t often get the chance to do that, and I don’t often become so engrossed in a book that I want to do that. The Sunlight Pilgrims is a haunting, lyrical exploration of a family at the brink of change, for themselves and for the world.

Thank you to Blogging for Books for a review copy!