Chronicles of a Radical Hag (with Recipes) by Lorna Landvik

A lovely, funny, and delicious read.

DESCRIPTION:

A bittersweet, seriously funny novel of a life, a small town, and a key to our troubled times traced through a newspaper columnist’s half-century of taking in, and taking on, the world

The curmudgeon who wrote the column “Ramblin’s by Walt” in the Granite Creek Gazette dismissed his successor as “puking on paper.” But when Haze Evans first appeared in the small-town newspaper, she earned fans by writing a story about her bachelor uncle who brought a Queen of the Rodeo to Thanksgiving dinner. Now, fifty years later, when the beloved columnist suffers a massive stroke and falls into a coma, publisher Susan McGrath fills the void (temporarily, she hopes) with Haze’s past columns, along with the occasional reprinted responses from readers. Most letters were favorable, although Haze did have her trolls; one Joseph Snell in particular dubbed her “liberal” ideas the “chronicles of a radical hag.” Never censoring herself, Haze chose to mollify her critics with homey recipes—recognizing, in her constantly practical approach to the world and her community, that buttery Almond Crescents will certainly “melt away any misdirected anger.”

Framed by news stories of half a century and annotated with the town’s chorus of voices, Haze’s story unfolds, as do those of others touched by the Granite Creek Gazette, including Susan, struggling with her troubled marriage, and her teenage son Sam, who—much to his surprise—enjoys his summer job reading the paper archives and discovers secrets that have been locked in the files for decades, along with sad and surprising truths about Haze’s past. 

With her customary warmth and wit, Lorna Landvik summons a lifetime at once lost and recovered, a complicated past that speaks with knowing eloquence to a confused present. Her topical but timeless Chronicles of a Radical Hag reminds us—sometimes with a subtle touch, sometimes with gobsmacking humor—of the power of words and of silence, as well as the wonder of finding in each other what we never even knew we were missing.

     – Goodreads

Genre(s): Fiction

Publisher:
University of Minnesota Press

Expected Publication Date:
March.26.2019

*Thank you BookishFirst for providing an ARC in exchange for a review. All opinions expressed are my own and based solely on the book*

REVIEW:

Haze Evans is a seasoned newspaper columnist who has a stroke and falls into a coma. The paper she works for decides to re-run some of her older columns from her illustrious decades-long career, until Haze is able to return to her job. 

Haze’s columns are thought-provoking. She has a way of bringing a big picture topic into focus. Politics, health, friendship, love, and so many other things are discussed in her work. And as she lays in a coma, her words are able to gap the divide between a mother and her teenage son, and many more relationships. 

There was something so heartwarming about this book. I enjoyed getting to know Haze through her writing. The topics she wrote about were topical and extremely fascinating. 

A wonderful book. With lots of yummy recipes inside! Plus, look at that gorgeous cover! 

RATING: 4/5

RECOMMEND? Yes! It’s a delightful read!

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

An emotional rollercoaster. Funny, Depressing, Realistic. Queenie is a book not to be missed!



DESCRIPTION:

NAMED ONE OF THE MOST ANTICIPATED BOOKS OF 2019 BY WOMAN’S DAY, NEWSDAY, PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, BUSTLE, AND BOOK RIOT!

“[B]rilliant, timely, funny, heartbreaking.” —Jojo Moyes, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Me Before You

Bridget Jones’s Diary meets Americanah in this disarmingly honest, boldly political, and truly inclusive novel that will speak to anyone who has gone looking for love and found something very different in its place.

Queenie Jenkins is a 25-year-old Jamaican British woman living in London, straddling two cultures and slotting neatly into neither. She works at a national newspaper, where she’s constantly forced to compare herself to her white middle class peers. After a messy break up from her long-term white boyfriend, Queenie seeks comfort in all the wrong places…including several hazardous men who do a good job of occupying brain space and a bad job of affirming self-worth.

As Queenie careens from one questionable decision to another, she finds herself wondering, “What are you doing? Why are you doing it? Who do you want to be?”—all of the questions today’s woman must face in a world trying to answer them for her.

With “fresh and honest” (Jojo Moyes) prose, Queenie is a remarkably relatable exploration of what it means to be a modern woman searching for meaning in today’s world.

     – Goodreads

Genre(s): Fiction, Contemporary

Publisher:
Gallery Books

Expected Publication Date:
March.19.2019

*Thank you BookishFirst, Gallery Books and the Candice Carty-Williams for providing an ARC in exchange for a review. All opinions expressed are my own and based solely on the book*

REVIEW:

This was one of my most anticipated reads of the year. As soon as I saw the cover and read the synopsis, I was hooked. I used my BookishFirst points to claim a copy and I’m so glad I did!

Now, I’m not going to lie. At first, Queenie got on my nerves. Her actions were so irresponsible that I couldn’t bring myself to like her. But that all quickly changed once I realized what was happening. It clicked in my head: #IAmQueenie

Let’s rewind a little bit. Twenty-five year old Queenie and her boyfriend, Tom, have decided to take a break (or at least she believes) and reevaluate their relationship in a few months’ time. During that period, Queenie’s life begins to unravel. She engages in unsafe sexual encounters with awful men, puts her job and career at risk, and ultimately has a breakdown causing her to move in with her grandparents. 

Yeah, a lot is going on in Queenie’s life and she knows something is wrong with her mentally but doesn’t really do anything to help herself until it all gets to be a bit much. I found this aspect to be completely relatable. Because, hello! I had a mental breakdown around the same age and wound up in the hospital diagnosed with an anxiety order and depression. All of Queenie’s physical symptoms? Yeah, I experienced those too. Breathing exercises, color counting? Yup, done those too. 

Queenie has this incredible strength though. She has a great group of friends (the Corgis) and family willing to support her. Going on this journey with her was an experience. At times I wanted to slap her and yell “what are you doing”?! But at the end of the day, I understand her. She didn’t breakdown because of the breakup. That was her triggering point. It was the culmination of many things over the years that broke her. 

This book is about a great many things. Black Lives Matter. Body positivity. Mental Illness. The list goes on. Yet, the book is never preachy. Queenie would never do that. She is real about her world. Honest about her life and experiences. She is trying to figure out who she is in a society that doesn’t always accept her. On some level, we are all Queenie. 

 

RATING:
4.5/5 stars

RECOMMEND? YES! A must-read for all women. A phenomenal narrative on intersectional feminism.

The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson

A magical tale about love and friendship in Inquisition-era Spain. 

DESCRIPTION:

New from the award-winning author of Alif the Unseen and writer of the Ms. Marvel series, G. Willow Wilson

Set in 1491 during the reign of the last sultanate in the Iberian peninsula, The Bird King is the story of Fatima, the only remaining Circassian concubine to the sultan, and her dearest friend Hassan, the palace mapmaker. 

Hassan has a secret–he can draw maps of places he’s never seen and bend the shape of reality. When representatives of the newly formed Spanish monarchy arrive to negotiate the sultan’s surrender, Fatima befriends one of the women, not realizing that she will see Hassan’s gift as sorcery and a threat to Christian Spanish rule. With their freedoms at stake, what will Fatima risk to save Hassan and escape the palace walls?

As Fatima and Hassan traverse Spain with the help of a clever jinn to find safety, The Bird King asks us to consider what love is and the price of freedom at a time when the West and the Muslim world were not yet separate. 
     – Goodreads

Genre(s): Science Fiction, Fantasy, Historical Fiction

Publisher: Grove Press

Expected Publication Date: March.12.2019

*Thank you BookishFirst for providing an ARC in exchange for a review. All opinions expressed are my own and based solely on the book*

REVIEW:
Hassan is a mapmaker highly valued for his special gift. Fatima is a Circassian concubine. The two have been friends since childhood and when one’s life is endangered by the newly established Spanish monarchy, the two decide to flee. They embark on a journey that will have them fighting for their lives and test their devotion to one another. 

The idea of this book is great. Not many novels delve into friendship between two people before making it romantic. That’s not to say there isn’t any romance in the book. There is. Only a tiny little bit. The story is mainly focused on the platonic relationship though. And on their quest to find the fantastical Bird King. 

My historical knowledge of Spain during the Inquisition is slim to none. It was brutal and that’s all I pretty much knew. But reading this book made me aware of things I had been ignorant of before. It’s kind of an educational read wrapped in magical realism. A lovely approach.

Now, I struggled a bit with this book. At times the story was slow. But the writing is beautiful, so I kept reading. I think if the pace would have been faster and I’d been more knowledgeable of the time period, I would have enjoyed it more. 

RATING: 3/5 stars

An Improbable Pairing by Gary Dickson

An interesting premise that unfortunately fell flat. 

DESCRIPTION:


It began as a simple flirtation . . .

In September of 1963, Scott Stoddard, an American graduate student, is traveling to Switzerland, when he meets the Countess de Rovere, a French divorcee; he is smitten, and she is intrigued. What begins as a little coquetry soon becomes a serious love affair, much to the consternation of the Countess’s ex-husband and mother, not to mention the Countess’s friends of European high society. A meeting of equals poses problems enough, but what about one between two people who seem to have so many differences? And when a man of traditional attitudes couples with an independent and self-confident woman, something’s got to give. It won’t be the countess. As their liaison transcends an affair that cannot be dismissed, they all agree that something must be done.
 
An Improbable Pairing
is a historical romance that chronicles the enduring themes of a young man’s coming of age and the rebellious love of the mismatched. This pas de deux, set in the golden years of 1960s Paris, Geneva, Gstaad, and Cannes, provides an insider’s peek into the worlds of haute couture, three-star gourmet restaurants, and lavish hotel suites—the domains of rank and privilege. But society’s privileged resist when an interloper threatens to upset their cozy structure. 
     – Goodreads


Genre(s):
Historical Fiction, Fiction, Romance

Publisher:
Greenleaf Book Group Press

Expected Publication Date:
January.8.2019

*Thank you BookishFirst for providing an ARC in exchange for a review. All opinions expressed are my own and based solely on the book*

REVIEW:

Scott Stoddard goes abroad to get away from his parents. To gain a bit of freedom. While on his trip, he falls for a beautiful, extremely wealthy Countess. And then nothing happens. Nothing.
 
The writing is okay. The cover is gorgeous. But the story lacks a certain, je ne sais quoi. Everything just happens to go Scott’s way. Every perceived “issue” is resolved favorably towards him. I wanted to put this book down so many times because there was nothing happening. Seriously. There’s nothing in the story to hold your attention. I also didn’t care for Scott or the Countess. Their love story didn’t engage me. I actually found Scott to be frustrating sometimes. 

This was just not an enjoyable read. It didn’t captivate me in any way.  


RATING:
2.5/5 stars