Book Reviews

Fifty Words for Rain by Asha Lemmie

Fifty Words for Rain is at once achingly sad and poetically beautiful. I love a heart-wrenching plot and complex characters, and Asha Lemmie delivers in one sweep with her debut novel. Prepare to get lost in the range of emotions you’ll feel at every turn. Whether it’s friendship, siblinghood, parenthood, hope, or survival, there is a theme in Fifty Words for Rain that will speak to your heart.

Fifty Words for Rain tells the tale of a young girl named Nori who goes to live with her grandparents – only to be forced into the attic and punished for things beyond her control.

In a world where she is to be neither seen nor heard to save face for her highly esteemed family, Nori eventually finds an ally in her brother Akira.

Akira shows Nori new possibilities that Nori had previously been denied. As Nori learns more from her brother about the outside world, it becomes harder and harder to return to the isolation of the attic.

Throughout many ups and downs, Nori’s adoration for Akira blossoms into a love that transcends both of their circumstances and leads to daring and courageous acts.

After a lifetime of suffering, Nori feels like a shell of her former self. Although the siren call of death can be disguised as an endearing temptress, Nori must persevere to protect herself and her loved ones. When motherhood presents itself, Nori’s harsh reality becomes even more evident.

Throughout life we make many choices, some big and others small, but all can have lasting impacts on other people. Nori must eventually come to terms with her choices, especially when it comes to love. Will she have room in her heart for more than one person?

As a single mother, I think about this issue sometimes. One day if “true love” presents itself again, how will I balance it with the love of my child? Can’t the love of your sibling or your child or your parent also be true love, just in a different way? Love is multi-faceted.

Nori’s journey is deep and devoted. There were times when I was overcome with sadness or anger and literally had to put this book down to compose myself.

Asha Lemmie has proven herself an expert at eliciting emotion. The only thing you could regret is not reading this book!

Learn more about Asha Lemmie and Fifty Words for Rain at her website.

Book Reviews

The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner

Have you read The Lost Apothecary? If not, add it to your tbr!

In present-day London, Caroline goes mudlarking and finds an old apothecary bottle that leads her on an exciting journey of personal and historical discovery.

At the end of the 18th century, apothecary Nella finds an unexpected friend in young Eliza.

When a poisoning goes wrong, Nella must work quickly to spare her shop from the authorities.

When Caroline looks into the history of the bottle and ties it to an abandoned shop, she unravels a story that had been lost to time.

I liked the character development, the easy switches in the setting between modern day and the past, and the story’s ability to draw me in.

Readers who are fans of detail will love the descriptions that Penner utilizes – you become engrossed in the settings and imagine yourself alongside the characters.

The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner is a story that spoke to me in a deep way. In addition to the emphasis on empowerment and being true to yourself – even after years of thinking you want one thing – it’s okay to realize you want something more and to go after it.

Learn more about Sarah Penner at her website.

(Learn more about mudlarking from this NPR article).

Book Reviews

Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman

Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman tells the story of Maria Owens – a young witch, afraid to fall in love, afraid to let anyone have power over her being.

I remember watching Practical Magic with my mom and my sister, thinking – obviously – how cool it would be to be able to do magic.

And did anyone else think those pancakes looked amazing??

I haven’t read Practical Magic, but I did previously read The Rules of Magic (which I also highly recommend). Honestly, I don’t know how I haven’t read PM yet… This will be my one and only 2021 new years resolution.

I digress.

Love is fickle, they say. Love is patient and kind.

I don’t know what I believe about love at this point in my life. I’m grappling with some personal things, so if I may be fully transparent, it was difficult for me to get into Magic Lessons because I did not want to think about love when I started reading it. It’s not a traditional romance novel, but the emotion of love in this story feels very strong to me. Any talk of heartbreak makes me want to bury my head in the sand, yet I persevered.

(I recently did two romance novels reviews and while I only briefly mentioned the above in one of those reviews, my sentiment holds true. It is very difficult sometimes for me to read about love. In a Holidaze was funny and The Right Swipe let me get out some of my online dating angst.)

But my favorite parts of this story would not exist without love – when Maria falls in love, when she is so tormented that she casts the now-famous (dare I say infamous?) curse on the Owens women, when her love for her daughter consumes her.

This tale takes the reader from England to Curacao and eventually Massachusetts and New York, meeting a slew of interesting characters along the way – some good, some bad.

Ultimately, this story reminds us that we must all decide to use our gifts for good or evil, for love or vengeance. Even the gifts that some people can’t see.

Alice Hoffman has written TONS of books that all look simply magical! Learn more about Alice Hoffman and her other works at her website.

Happy reading, friends!

Book Reviews

Vicious by V. E. Schwab

Vicious tells the story of Victor and Eli: college buddies, roommates, handsome and intelligent, and striving for excellence.

And it presents an ultimate question – What will you do to be a hero?

Victor and Eli are ambitious. Their experiments in near-death experiences lead them down a path of no return. Will they go beyond the brink or will it be too late to stop each other?

I like to read on the back patio while my son plays outside.

This story was a fast read. The science-made-relative aspect reminded me a little of Michael Crichton and I liked that the chapters alternated storylines so we got to learn about each of the primary characters.

This book makes you think about what it means to be a hero or an anti-hero. Good vs evil and wrong vs right have a lot of grey area. Something that starts with the best intentions can still turn sour, and the worst situations can prevent interesting opportunities.

I am not a huge “superhero” fan. I like the old Superman movies and the Batman ones with Christian Bale, but I don’t own any comic books. Vicious was still a comfortable read to dip a toe into the proverbial waters of that world.

Learn more about V. E. Schwab and her other works – including Vengeful, the sequel to Vicious – on her website.

Happy reading, friends!

Book Reviews

Book Review: Where the Crawdads Sing

Kya lives alone in a shack by the marsh, cared for from a distance by a handful of people, all the while earning the title of Marsh Girl – although not earning the harsh treatment that comes with it. Her path crosses with Tate, her first love, and Chase, former high school athlete. They feel drawn to her the way some people feel drawn to the marsh – one as someone who loves it and one as someone who wants to conquer it. Among the gulls and the grasses of the marsh, Kya has learned humanity through the wild things. Can it save her when it matters most?

Written by zoologist Delia Owens, Where the Crawdads Sing is bittersweet and beautiful – my favorite combination in a book.

The story of Kya, left by her mother and siblings to live alone first with her alcoholic father and then by herself, is sad and earnest.

The pace in the beginning of the book is slow, and I think some readers take issue with that. It’s not fast-action thriller but there is enough suspense to draw you in and make your heart pound.

The slow pace in the beginning set the tone for the turbulence of the second half of the book – where the timelines draw closer and closer and everything comes together

Where the Crawdads Sing is Delia Owens’ first novel and I haven’t read any of her other published works, but I feel from this story and based on her career that she is a master at setting the scene and bringing us closer to nature through patience while sharing the beauty of even the smallest creatures.

One cannot be in a rush amongst the wild things.

I also love the poetry that is shared throughout the book, such as this excerpt:

Have you read Where the Crawdads Sing? Did you love it or do you think it doesn’t live up to the hype? Let me know!

Stay tuned for my next Nature in the Novel post, featuring Where the Crawdads Sing!

Happy reading, friends 🙂