Twelves Ways Into My Heart

1. Hannah Tinti is a literary lyricist I can’t get enough of.

2. Not many authors can turn prose into poetry but Tinti pulls IMG_2760it off like there’s nothing to it.

3. Samuel Hawley is one of the truest characters I’ve read.

4. Hawley’s “hits” and jobs don’t feel like they’re coming from a trained professional, but from a guy relying on his common sense, and becomes a professional because of it.

5. Lily is the perfect love story for Hawley.

6. Lily’s touch is all over Hawley and Loo’s lives and Tinti pulled it off without feeling overbearing or cliché.

7. Loo goes on a transformative journey as she learns of her father’s past, how she fit in it, and what their future relationship will look like.

8. Loo’s own love story is still open to possibilities.

9. Marshall is the love story that Loo needed.

10. Marshall goes on his own transformative journey as his life intertwines with Loo’s.

11. Tinti is masterful at making every character we encounter essential to the story.

12. This story will live in my heart for a long time, and I know it will live in yours as well.




By: Emily Coleman


Holy Sexual Awakening

I have a habit of not reading the back of a book before reading it. I read the back to decide if I want it on my shelf, but I won’t reacquaint myself with the story before jumping in. The back of An Almond for a Parrot says Tully Truegood will have a sexual awakening but I wasn’t prepared for how steeped the whole story would be in promiscuity. I couldn’t decide how I liked the book and considered once on putting it down early on, but I’m glad I finished it. The characters were good, Tully went through development, and the magical element enhanced the story.

During the eighteenth-century, Tully grows up an only child with a drunk father and aimg_2577 cook, who isn’t very good at cooking. She never leaves the house and remains uneducated until her father remarried an opinioned woman who brings with her two daughters. This is where I almost put it down, but unlike Cinderella, the new Mrs. Truegood and her daughters are accepting of naïve Tully. Mrs. Truegood find Tully tutors for reading elocution and her new sisters, Mercy and Hope, are there to show her how to wear her new gowns. Mercy is also instrumental in Tully’s sexual awakening. Not only does Mercy explain physical pleasure to Tully, she demonstrates it. It wasn’t the idea of two new step-sisters pleasuring each other that I had a hard time with, but (for lack of a better word) how horny Tully got. Granted she was 16 and the world literally just opened before her but physical pleasure was all she thought about. I don’t say sex because what was under a male’s breeches was still a mystery to her and she was focused on her nights with Mercy for the time being. I was surprised how eloquent Wray Delaney treated the sex scenes. And there’s a lot of them. But they never sounded vulgar. Delaney stayed with the time period and used terms like ‘purse’ and ‘maypole.’ When the sex was passionate for Tully, Delaney made sure her language reflected that so we were never taken out of the scene.

The magical element was subtle but played a huge part for the story. It wouldn’t have been the same without it. Tully is a seer. Since she was little she has been able to see the dead but she never thought much of it. Not until she starts training with Mr. Crease. He shows her how to control it and use it to her benefit, but also the benefit of himself and Queenie. Tully’s father being a drunk and gambled away all his money, married Queenie to settle his debts. Tully finds out Queenie is a courtesan and owns a brothel called The Fairy House where Mercy and Hope work. Tully leaves her father’s house to live at The Fairy House where Mr. Crease trains her to they can perform together at the masquerade ball for the opening of The Fairy House. Mr. Crease can’t explain everything Tully is able to do but together they put on a show for the elite of London, and thus starts her reputation of being a witch. This doesn’t stop gentleman for paying a handsome sum to spend the night with her.

The only thing that bothered me about the start of her career as a courtesan is she seemed to luck out. Her first client pays to take her virginity and pays to make her his full time mistress. While he is in London, she can’t be visited by any other man. And of course he is handsome and passionate and she falls in love with him. Her second client moves her out of The Fairy House to live with him in his estate and even furthers her education by teaching her French. She again falls in love and returns to The Fairy House with jewels and money after his death. It was all too easy and convenient. It’s not until her third client that she learns what it means to be a whore, continually sleeping with a man who reminds you he’s paid for this and expects you to be arm candy when seen in public together.

The more I think about the story, I like it. We watch as Tully starts as a sheltered young girl to grow into an opinioned young woman. Delaney did a great job moving the story forward with drama and even a little action. It was an historical fiction that was easy to read, even with the graphic sex scenes. They never pulled me out of the story and were suited for the plot. It was maybe too much of a happy ending with everything working out a little too perfectly, but it was hard not to be happy for Tully that it all came together.

Physics in Poetry

It’s not often I read a book filled with math and physics and astronomy, it’s also not often a fiction novel makes reading math equations and physics and astronomy an easy and enjoyable experience. Antonia Hayes pulled it off with Relativity. There was an immense amount of research that went into creating this story and while I didn’t understand all of what I read, I appreciated the work Hayes put into her novel.IMG_1057

Ethan Forsythe is an extraordinarily intelligent 12 year old. He can see physics happening around him and doctors can’t explain why. His single mother, Claire, tries to keep life normal for Ethan as life around him grows unpredictable. Ethan’s father, Mark, has been out of the picture since Ethan was an infant but recently comes back to town to deal with some immediate family matters. Ethan is old enough to question his mother extensively about Mark’s absence but Claire doesn’t want to talk about the past when the past has crept of the shadows in a violent manifestation already.
Claire is a fiercely loyal mother even as the wall she built around her heart and Ethan’s well-being is tested with Mark’s arrival. Mark has a lot to answer for about his demons from the past, from both Claire and Ethan.

Antonia Hayes created a dysfunctional family with a dark secret not often touched upon. Ethan was a great characters, with a good balance of boy genius and naïve 12 year old. Claire’s emotional range was all over the place and was hard to keep up with at times. Mark and Ethan’s interactions felt stiff and uncomfortable but not in the “father, son just reunited” sort of way. Hayes does have a smooth and flowing writing style, though. There was enough tension that I wanted to know what was going to happen next. I became more invested in the story than I expected. When Hayes writers her next novel, I’ll be more than happy to give it a read.

Everyone Has a Dysfunctional Family

First of all, The Nest has a beautiful cover. It looks elegant and sophisticated and the writing didn’t disappoint. I was blown away. Not only by Sweeney’s writing style, but by her handling of characters and their understanding of the situations around them. There is a secret part of myself that loves small town gossip and Sweeney has an exquisite talent at baring the depths of the human condition.IMG_0431

The Nest closely follows 4 siblings as they
eagerly await the release of the funds stashed away by their deceased father. Each have their own agenda for the funds that exploded in the mutual investment stocks until the eldest sibling makes a grave mistake and their emotionally elusive mother sweeps in for damage control. The family implodes when they realize each sibling will receive a fraction of what they were expecting.

The Plump family are no more dysfunctional than most but it’s not often you are privy to the raw honesty Sweeney portrays. She delves deep, revealing each characters secrets, longings, and selfishness. Sweeney even explores the family’s friends and acquaintances. Not one character felt flat. I still think about them, wondering how Stephanie is doing, is Melody happy, where is Leo now? There are many characters that flit in and out of my head, but I feel like the Plump family will stay with me for a long time.

Theorem of Numbers

Everything about Ethan Canin’s writing is beautiful and meaningful. Each sentence is carefully structured to evoke the exact feelings and response Canin wants to inflict on his readers. A Doubters Almanac is split into two sections. The first section we follow Milo IMG_0254Andret, a genius mathematician, as he grows up and becomes a Professor at Princeton. He drinks and womanizes his way to us unceremonious termination from Princeton. Then Canin switches to the point of view from Hans, Milo’s son. Hans recounts his childhood, growing up with a washed up mathematician for a father. Both of Milo’s children are as mathematically inclines as Milo but Hans is expected to carry on the Andret name.

Canin uses two points of view masterfully for both sections. While we watch Milo’s comings and goings through life, Canin uses more of an objective 3rd point of view. The reader watches Milo but doesn’t get inside his head and hear his feelings. With Hans’ section, Canin moves to a more omniscient point of view and the reader gets to know Hans intimately. We know his fears and worries and joys. It’s a brilliant technique to help us understand these two dynamic characters. My only complaint was Hans’ section time jumped quite a bit. While Mio’s section stayed linear, Hans would move from present to past to further past, back to present. It wasn’t necessarily difficult to follow but sometimes it took me a page or two to figure out what time period we were in.

Even as I was reading A Doubters Almanac, I was recommending it to everyone I talked to. Ethan Canin has a talent and writing craft I haven’t read in a while. I enjoyed his storytelling voice and the deep and raw character analysis Canin presents. I’ll be seeking out his other works, and waiting for his future novels.



By Emily Coleman

Universal Nightmares

With so much happening in the world it’s easy to forget how alike we really are. Every family has their fair share of drama that they handle in their own way but when a child goes missing, every family’s reactions are universal. Ajie is the youngest of the Utu family and the narrator. The eldest sibling, Paul, leaves to visit a friend and never comes home. Ajie then delves into the family’s past and what school was like and what they did overIMG_0134 the summers. It’s not until Ajie and his sister, Bibi, have moved away from home the family finds their closure.

The major portion of the book is Ajie showing us the past. They were a comfortable family who stayed out of the school riots and visited the village their parents grew up in every summer. I understood the reason to show this close knit family’s past but so little time was spent on the disappearance itself, I felt disconnected from the endings climax. The end is so many years later we miss the full collapse of the family and only witness its after affects.

Jowhar Ile’s writing style is a force to be reckoned with. His prose is beautifully crafted and is descriptions are tangible. But nothing felt finished. His chapters were cut off during the scenes and the ending left me feeling unsatisfied. But maybe it was a statement. No matter what happens in life, we keep moving forward, doing mundane, daily activities. It never really ends.


By Emily Coleman

Black Rabbit Hall

Black Rabbit Hall tells two stories: one of a family torn apart by death and secrets, and the other of a newly-engaged couple planning their wedding. The two narrators for these stories are 15-year-old Amber and 32-year-old Lorna respectively. I love a good multi-narrator story, and this one did not disappoint.IMG_0107

Lorna and her fiancé, Jon, come to Black Rabbit Hall to check it out as a wedding venue. Lorna falls in love with the house. She feels drawn to it, although she doesn’t know why. When she’s invited by the owner, Mrs. Alton, to come stay at the house and visit, she accepts, but gets more than she came for.

Amber has a twin brother named Toby, and two younger siblings, Barney and Kitty. The four children and their parents share a relatively happy life together until their mother’s untimely death. Their mother’s death causes a strain on their relationships, made even worse by the arrival of a new stepmother and stepbrother for the children.

Mystery novels are always a challenge for me, a “can I figure this out before the characters do?” sort of thing, which I enjoy. I have to say this one through me off at one point. I had suspicions early on about how it would end, and though I was mostly right, I did question myself in the middle and got a few things wrong, which, I’ll admit, is sort of rare for me.

Though I really enjoyed the novel overall, I didn’t care for the antagonist. I usually love the villains. Their backstories are usually so well-developed, drawing you in and making you sympathize with them, even if you know it’s wrong. But the stepmother, Caroline, is shallow and cliché. She is somewhat humanized in the end, but not enough to change the reader’s mind about her. It seemed sort of a copout to me to write the tired “evil stepmother” archetype, when there are so many other options out there. The other thing I didn’t love was the ending wrapped everything up in a neat little bow, which I can’t stand. It’s not realistic. Even if the rest of the book is about magic or monsters or things that don’t exist, for some reason, a perfect ending seems more unrealistic to me than anything else.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves mysteries, novels about family relationships, or young love stories.


By Liz Dobson