A River Enchanted by Rebecca Ross
I loved fantasy as a kid, but rarely read it as an adult. It’s usually not something I hear about and think, “Gotta get my hands on that!” There are exceptions, though. I loved Rae Carson’s YA Girl of Fire and Thorns series. You might remember me gushing about this book. So! I thought I’d give A River Enchanted a try. I’m glad I did!
Jack Tamerlaine, of the isle of Cadence, has been summoned home after ten years away. Young girls have gone missing on the island’s eastern side, and the hope is Jack, who has trained as a bard, will be able to learn where they’ve gone if he plays for the spirits of the earth and the water and wind. For hundreds of years, Cadence has been divided: the Tamerlaines on the east, the Breccans on the west, and distrust (and secrets) run deep. There’s more I could say, but I’ll leave it there. It took me a bit to get involved (not for lack of good storytelling or lush language — it’s got both of those. Probably because my fantasy mind is a bit rusty.) True to form, the ending is magnificent. I’m looking forward to the second book!
Fighting Words by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
This middle grade novel opens with this dedication: For any child who needs this story: you are never alone. A heads up: it’s about sexual abuse and is handled in a way that is accessible and manageable for young readers. I finished this book days ago and haven’t stopped thinking about it. What Kimberly Brubaker Bradley has written is real, raw, compassionate, and needed. This isn’t an easy read, but it’s a book that’s hard to put down.
Ten-year-old Della and sixteen-year-old Suki have just entered foster care. For years, they’ve fallen through the cracks after their mother was sent to prison and they were left with her boyfriend who didn’t have custody of them. Foster care is a safe place for them, and it’s where they start to have some normalcy and begin to face the years they spent with their mother’s boyfriend. Suki is fiercely protective of her little sister. When she starts to pull away, Della is confused why her sister isn’t there for her. This is a story of sisterly love, of children having to be adults before they’re ready, of adults who do horrible things and others who are kind and supportive (and ones who have the potential to grow into the kind and supportive adults children need). This is a book I hope every school has available, as unfortunately, statistically speaking, sexual abuse touches lives in every classroom.
These Precious Days by Ann Patchett
A few weeks back my neighbor asked if I’d read Ann Patchett’s latest book. I thought she meant The Dutch House (which I loved), but it was this book of essays she was talking about. My neighbor (hi, Theresa, if you’re reading), let me borrow her copy, which was my nighttime reading companion for a few weeks. It really did feel like a companion. I loved this glimpse into Ann Patchett’s life, from her family and friendships to her college days to her decision not to have children to her writing life. The book was written during the pandemic, and the longest essay is about those early COVID days where she hosted a woman she barely knew who was going through a cancer trial only available in her town. They became very close friends as a result of those weeks together. This essay anchors the book, a glimpse of those precious days. I loved this book as a writer. I loved this book as a human being. I will definitely be seeking out more of Ann Patchett’s essays.
The Anthropocene Reviewed: Essays on a Human-Centered Planet by John Green
On the heels of These Precious Days, I started listening to this essay collection by YA author John Green, also written during COVID. Evidently he used to review books for Booklist (who knew!), a publication of the American Library Association primarily read by librarians, teachers, and booksellers when planning their purchases. (You know, those reviews authors hold their breath waiting for in the weeks before publication.)
Want to know my cool John Green claim to fame? His The Fault in Our Stars and my May B. came out on the same day.
The Anthropocene is “the current geological age, viewed as the period during which human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment,” and this collection of essays is a collection of reviews of the world through the lens of this moment in time — everything from sunsets to the Internet to Diet Dr Pepper to Staphylococcus Aureus (an essay where I found another cool John Green connection — he mentions the melon found in my papou’s produce store in Peoria, IL that all modern strains of penicillin come from.) Ann Patchett’s book is personal and intimate, and John Green’s takes on the whole world. Somehow, though, it’s just as intimate as we glimpse snippets of his personal experiences. I give The Anthropocene Reviewed 4 stars.
What have you been reading?
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Jessica Lawson says
I’m in Nashville right now, and went to the bookstore owned by Ann Patchett yesterday! I’ll have to read the collection of essays you mentioned.
That’s so great!
I’m reading These Precious Days right now and it’s so good!! I love reading about her life in such great prose!
Caroline Rose says
Agreed. It really feels like a personal conversation.
Anne Bogel says
I’ve had A RIVER ENCHANTED on my bookshelf for a while now and appreciate your review. Of course a “magnificent ending” certainly has my interest piqued!
I really enjoyed These Precious Days and Fighting Words, though “enjoyed” might be the wrong word for that last one. I really appreciated—and marveled at—her author’s note for that one.
Thanks for sharing your recent reads!
Caroline Rose says
Looking forward to hearing what you think!