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Pick-a-Shelf: Monthly -Archive > 2017 - 02 Magical Realism - Reviews

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Lyn (Readinghearts) (lsmeadows) | 2801 comments Mod
OK, all, let's spread the magic by posting the reviews of our Magical Realism Books here!

message 2: by Susan (new)

Susan | 3386 comments Mod
I read Weetzie Bat, and I didn't have a clue what it was going to be like. I don't think I would've described it as "magical realism," even though there's some magic in the form of a genie who grants 3 wishes and a witch who can make one sick with voodoo dolls. But it's definitely unusual. My review here .

message 3: by 7 (new)

7 | 11 comments I've always had a soft spot for magical-realism novels but The Ocean at the End of the Lane was such a refreshing read. Neil Gaiman compacts all his ideas into such a lovely flow. The concepts in this book are abstract, whimsical and creative and are thoroughly explained in a clean manner. The book is nostalgic, a reminder of familiar childhood innocence.

message 4: by Katie (new)

Katie Lost Lake - 2/3

It took me awhile to get into this one, but once I did I enjoyed it. I think that Garden Spells was better (the only other book I've read from this author). It seems to me that this author tends to be good for a light read. This book transported me back to childhood family vacations and gave me feel good vibes the whole way through.

message 5: by Sassafrass (new)

Sassafrass (sass-a-frass) | 603 comments Katie, I read Lost Lake too!

I finished this on on 2/3 and I have to say that what I like about this author's writing is that she is able to put the "magic" in the story in a kind of way that makes you see things in your own life that could have a bit of magic to them. That feeling you get when something is about to go wrong. Or that sense that you get when you know a moment is going to be important in your life for some reason.

I enjoyed the characters the most. The story was OK, but the characters made this one for me. Kate, Devon, Eby, Wes, Beulah Dean, Selma, Lisette. All of them. They were quite the motley crew but they also really seemed to fit. And I don't think the story would have been the same if even one of them had not been there or a different type of character.

I didn't LOVE this one the way I have other of this author's books, but I really did enjoy it. I'm looking forward to reading more of her stuff.

message 6: by Joyce (last edited Feb 09, 2017 12:36PM) (new)

Joyce (eternity21) | 556 comments I read The Bone Witch Finished 2/9/2017

I really enjoyed this one. Although it did take me a little white to get into it. It seems to take place that is very similar in tone to old Japan, China and India. There are Asha that have magical abilities and are taught to sing, dance, history and fight. They protect the people from dragon attacks and the Faceless which are evil or at least seem to be evil. They wear Hua which sound quite a lot like Geisha's Kimono's but more practical. The book ends on a bit of a cliffhanger and the next book is not out yet.

message 7: by Elvenn (new)

Elvenn | 685 comments I read Dance Dance Dance by Haruki Murakami. It's the fourth book I read by this author and though Kafka on the Shore is still my favorite, this one isn't far behind, so it would seem the author's particular brand of magical realism is growing on me. :)

I didn't know what to expect from the book as it was the 4th in a series whose first three books I didn't find myself interested in reading and I kept remembering the last Japanese short stories I had read, that had started as magical realism to suddenly veer towards a kind of slow oneiric surrealism that I don't particularly enjoy.

But I shouldn't have worried. In spite of the few allusions to the previous books, it could be read as a standalone. Also, although there were some oneiric touches here and there, I felt they made sense and complemented the story line instead of puzzling the reader and- far from making the pace slower- they helped to build the more mysterious aspects of the novel, keeping the intrigue and causing many questions to arise, such as why the protagonist dreamed about the old Dolphin Hotel or felt his ex girlfriend was somehow calling for him.

The reader follows him as he tries to find answers, taking in stride and with humor every weird thing that happens around him in hopes of discovering the truth and his true destiny before they're out of his reach.

Rating: 4 stars

Dance Dance Dance (The Rat, #4) by Haruki Murakami

message 8: by Marina (new)

Marina (sonnenbarke) | 1313 comments Today I've read a very short book, No One Writes to the Colonel. This is the sixth book I read by Gabriel García Márquez. I can't say I loved them all, but some of them were really good, such as his most famous novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude. This novella is among the books I really liked.

The story is very simple: the colonel has been awaiting a letter for 15 years - a letter that should bring him news about his pension. Every Friday he goes and sees whether the letter and the pension have finally arrived. But the letter never arrives. No one writes to the colonel.

This neverending waiting reminded me of The Tartar Steppe, first published in 1940, 21 years before this book. Has García Márquez derived a bit of his inspiration from Buzzati's novel? I don't know if the novel by the Italian author might have been popular in Colombia. In any case, the two books are very different, they only have this endless waiting in common. Which in fact is not a small part of it, since the waiting itself is the very protagonist of the two novels.

García Márquez's book is very beautifully written, and the characters seem to come to life, literally. I would heartily recommend reading this novella - so far it's one of my favorites by the author.

message 9: by Bea (last edited Feb 16, 2017 02:08AM) (new)

Bea | 4336 comments Mod
I read Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino.

This book is about a conversation between Marco Polo and Kublia Khan, where Marco is describing for Kublia the cities that he has visited. Kublia Khan wants to find out from Marco Polo the condition of his Empire. Neither speaks the other's language. Thus, the whole book is a conversation of the imagination. Interesting. I gave it 3*.

message 10: by Marina (new)

Marina (sonnenbarke) | 1313 comments Glad you liked Invisible Cities, Bea. It's one of my favorite books ever. I even read it in English once, as I had to lead a discussion on it for my IRL English book club.

Lyn (Readinghearts) (lsmeadows) | 2801 comments Mod
So - I ended up reading The Stolen Child by Lisa Carey for a couple of other challenges, and it was on the Magical Realism shelf. Unfortunately, I really had a hard time getting into this book. I don't think it was the Magical Realism that was the problem, though. Rather I found the writing to be flat, if that makes any sense.

The book takes place in 1950s Ireland on the island of Saint Brigid and centers around two women and a young boy. Both of the women have the ability to affect others with their hands, but they are on opposite sides of the spectrum. One, Brigit, immigrates to the island from the US trying to find a fabled well which will help her conceive. The other has been born and raised on the island, and is trying to keep the faeries from stealing her only child. The synopsis sounds good, but unfortunately, the characters are actually pretty uninteresting to me.

I am still going to try to fit in The Fifth Petal or another book from the shelf if I can before the month is out.

message 12: by Cora (new)

Cora (corareading) | 12 comments Swamplandia! - Karen Russell

3 stars

Swamplandia! is the story of a family that runs an alligator tourist attraction in the Thousand Islands of Florida. When Hilola Bigtree, the main attraction at Swamplandia, passes away her husband and children struggle to keep the park open and the family together. This book had a lot of potential. The setting is wonderful and the author does an excellent job of setting the scene and describing the swamp. I had no problems at all imagining myself there with Ava (one of the main characters). The characters are also great. The teens/children seemed to act and think like real teens/children would. They were interesting and quirky, just as you would expect of a family that lived and worked at their family-run swamp park. Unfortunately the author took these great characters and this great setting and just dumped one horrible thing after another on them. There was no whimsy or hope in the book. I don't need a lot of light in the books I read. I am known to appreciate a dark book, but this one was too much. As I read the book I could feel the dread from anticipating what the next bad thing that was going to happen would be. Then when it happened it would be even worse than I imagined. The author does a great job of making me feel that dread and anticipation, so she is a talented writer. I just felt like reading this book was watching children getting destroyed and it left me feeling depressed myself. I would have loved to read about about Hilola's life. She sounds like an interesting and many layered character.

message 13: by Karin (new)

Karin | 788 comments Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen

3.5 stars rounded up to 4

3.5 stars
Eby has lived at Lost Lake for 50 years, but it seems she's going to have to sell it as it is no longer profitable and has been heading that way since her husband, George, died. Her great-niece, Kate, who spent two weeks there are a child, is shown an old postcard her mother hid from her that her daughter finds in a chest in the attic as they are preparing to move into her mother-in-law's home a year after she lost he husband, and on a whim decided to take her daughter there to see if it's still there. After all, it's only a few hours away.

The very best part of this book is the people. I am not a fan of magical realism, but there wasn't a character in this book, other than an antagonist or two, that I didn't connect with or grow to like over the course of the book. This book isn't deep, but it's a lovely sort of novel escape on a quiet day or when you don't want heavy reading but want more than fluff.

Lyn (Readinghearts) (lsmeadows) | 2801 comments Mod
Karin wrote: "Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen

3.5 stars rounded up to 4

3.5 stars
Eby has lived at Lost Lake for 50 years, but it seems she's going to have to sell it as it is ..."

I tend to like Sarah Addison Allen myself. She does build good characters most of the time.

message 15: by Nancy (last edited Feb 21, 2017 01:34AM) (new)

Nancy (nancyhelen) | 37 comments American Gods by Neil Gaiman

5 stars - again

This was my second read of this book - the first time was about 3 years ago, and this time I listened to it on audio. I really enjoyed it the first time, but the audio just made this book. When I read it, I got a bit lost on some of the interludes, but the narrator was really good. I'm not sure it is truly magical realism - more fantasy perhaps? But the concept is great and Neil Gaiman is a superb author. My favourite character? Czernobog - the narrator captured his accent just perfectly. If you haven't read this book, it is the kind of book you can definitely re-read and get even more out of it than you did the first time, so I'd recommend it.

message 16: by Karin (last edited Feb 21, 2017 08:33AM) (new)

Karin | 788 comments Lyn (Readinghearts) wrote: "Karin wrote: "Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen

3.5 stars rounded up to 4

3.5 stars
Eby has lived at Lost Lake for 50 years, but it seems she's going to have to sel..."

I'm not a huge fan because I'm not into magical realism, but I have read several book by her (usually for magical realism tasks) and have given 2 of them 4 stars, which for me is very good! However, I just checked and not all of my Shelfari ratings made it for them (this is true for a number of books I imported).

message 17: by Erin (new)

Erin I ended up reading The Shadow of the wind by Carlos Ruiz zafón! Here's my review :)
So this book was really interesting to read. It's definitely different from what I normally read but I liked it!
At first, I was intrigued. The book starts out with a father taking his son to a library for books that people have forgotten about. His son picks out a book to bring home and is immediately attached to it.
Eventually, the story got boring to me and I struggled to get through it. But just over half way through the book, things started to pick up the pace and I actually wanted to keep reading!
So in the end I give this book three stars. It was a good book just not one of my favorites.

message 18: by Coralie (new)

Coralie | 1574 comments I read Grief Is the Thing with Feathers. This book is quite unusual. One reviewer described it as a prose poem and I think that is pretty accurate. It is not for readers who need to understand just what is going on all the time (what magical realism book is?) but it gives a really clear picture of the dysfunction of a family after the death of the mother. I found some sections really heartbreaking. I am not sure that I am comfortable with the idea of a crow as a grief counsellor though. I gave it 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4.

message 19: by Rosemary (new)

Rosemary | 789 comments I read Shame by Salman Rushdie. Urgh. I think this is the third of his books that I've read and I was hoping it would be easier because it's an early one and quite short, but I didn't get on with it at all. I just cannot connect to his books for some reason. Roll on March :)

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Ariel (yesalmsot) | 78 comments I read The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton for February!


Rating: 4/5

I'm a big lover of fantasy, but I haven't delved too far down the magical realism path in the past. If fantasy is the pinnacle of escapism, then setting it in the "real world" takes some skill to do right. This book is done pretty well, which is especially impressive considering this is the author's debut work.

The only words I can think to describe this book are stolen from the title--strange and beautiful.

The book is part family history and part autobiography of the titular Ava Lavender, a girl who was born with wings into a family tree full of peculiar abilities and a seemingly genetic disposition to "foolish love." Through Ava, we get a glimpse into the lives of four generations of women in her family, starting with her great-grandmother's immigration from France to New York and ending with Ava's childhood in Seattle in the '40s and '50s.

Note the word "Sorrows" in the title. This is not a happy book. Much of it focuses on the darker side of love, the all-too-real aspects of it that can be truly devastating. However, the other, more celebrated side of love is present, too, so there is a note of hopefulness in the all the bleakness. I appreciated that as an incurable optimist. I can't abide anything too depressing!

A number of things really stuck out to me about this book. For one, the writing is beautifully lyrical, lending the story a mystical tone. As I was reading, I felt lofty, like I was floating along. I doubt that makes any sense, but I can't really explain it any other way! Another thing I liked was how the characters' "powers" were never treated as anything more than quirks. Ava's mother, for example, has an acute sense of smell, and her grandmother can see ghosts. These abilities are accepted (if mainly among the family and those close to them) and never questioned or condemned. All of the many characters are very well-developed, with clear personalities and flaws that manifest in ways that make sense given their experiences.

In truth, there isn't anything I don't like about this book. I didn't love it, though, hence the 4/5 rating. I reserve 5 stars for books that really move me, and this one just... didn't... for some reason. I think anyone who is interested in reading a different take on a love story should give this one a shot.

Lyn (Readinghearts) (lsmeadows) | 2801 comments Mod
NancyHelen wrote: "American Gods by Neil Gaiman

5 stars - again

This was my second read of this book - the first time was about 3 years ago, and this time I listened to it on audio. I..."

Interestingly enough, my copy of this book is sitting right next to my computer. I really need to get to it.

Lyn (Readinghearts) (lsmeadows) | 2801 comments Mod
Erin wrote: "I ended up reading The Shadow of the wind by Carlos Ruiz zafón! Here's my review :)
So this book was really interesting to read. It's definitely different from what I normally read but I liked it!

One of my all time favorites! It is very different, though, huh?

Lyn (Readinghearts) (lsmeadows) | 2801 comments Mod
Ariel wrote: "I read The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton for February!

Rating: 4/5

I'm a big lover of fantasy, but I haven't delved too far dow..."

Great review!

message 24: by Sarah (new)

Sarah | 286 comments I actually managed a magical realism book by accident this month. It's a genre I struggle with a bit because it walks a fine line between being absurd and wonderful.
I read Auraria and I think it managed to balance on this line beautifully.
Four stars

message 25: by D.G. (new)

D.G. | 1370 comments Sweep in Peace (Innkeeper Chronicles, #2) by Ilona Andrews is not really magical realism but somebody shelved it as such. Love the creative shelvers. :)

This is the second book in a series and I rated it 4-stars. This book had such an elaborate world building and lots of good twists. If you like action in your books and don't mind some fantasy, you must read Ilona Andrews.

message 26: by Elvenn (new)

Elvenn | 685 comments D.G. wrote: "Sweep in Peace (Innkeeper Chronicles, #2) by Ilona Andrews is not really magical realism..."

Sounds like an interesting series :) I've added the first one to my tbr.

message 27: by Elvenn (new)

Elvenn | 685 comments I've finished another Magical Realism book: NP by Banana Yoshimoto.

This short novel tells us about the summer a girl- Kazami- spends in her city, working in the Anglo-American literature department of her university.

During that summer, she makes three new friends that happen to be siblings. Perhaps because she's a little lonely, she keeps going out of her way to meet them and to get to know them better in spite of the rarefied atmosphere that surrounds them, that they are a bit odd and obsessed with NP- a book written by their father- and that, at moments, they react in ways that disconcert her or make her fear for her own safety.

Also, she rarely gets to witness their interactions with each other, so she always seems to be missing a piece of information to really understand what’s happening.

Then, as the summer progresses, one starts thinking the situation won’t end well...

I gave this book 3.5 stars because I enjoyed it but I felt the mystery and the explanations, weren't so satisfying as they could have been. Also because I had trouble believing some of the reactions of the characters that felt a bit off (or sometimes a bit random), though perhaps it was done on purpose..?

Rating: 3.5 stars

NP by Banana Yoshimoto

message 28: by D.G. (new)

D.G. | 1370 comments Elvenn wrote: "D.G. wrote: "Sweep in Peace (Innkeeper Chronicles, #2) by Ilona Andrews is not really magical realism..."

Sounds like an interesting series :) I've added the first one to my tbr."

It is! I hope you enjoy it. :) If you end up liking Ilona and Gordon's style, they several other amazing series. I'm a HUGE fan. :)

message 29: by Kristell (new)

Kristell | 84 comments Ok, I finished Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire for this month's shelf. I rated it 4 stars.
It's the first time I read the Harry Potter books and I am liking them, though I think they are kind of different. I can't say for sure why exactly but I feel like there's something to the way the book is told that seems odd to me. I don't know if it's the perspective and narrator or I had expectations because of the movies and what everyone says about them.
I, of course like that they explain more than what I know, but I really didn't know much. Apparently I didn't pay too much attention to the movies aside from the three main characters. I think the story is interesting and can't wait to see what the other books tell us.

message 30: by Christina (new)

Christina Byrne (cmbyrne87) | 143 comments I completely failed this month and somehow forgot about this book all together. I did not finish (or start) my assigned reading. *hangs head in shame*

message 31: by Cora (new)

Cora (corareading) | 12 comments I finished a book, just a day late.

The Hum and the Shiver - Alex Bledsoe

4 stars

Bronwyn Hyatt has returned to her small town in the mountains of Tennessee a hero. She was the only survivor of an Ambush that killed most of her fellow soldiers. She killed many of the enemy soldiers before being rescued on live TV and becoming a celebrity. But Bronwyn's small town is different than others. She is a full blooded Tufa. The Tufa are a people that are their own ethnicity. Legend says that the Tufa were living in the mountains of Tennessee before any other people came there. Bronwyn must now adjust to life back in the small town with the obligations of being a first daughter of her people, an obligation that she went to war to escape.

I really enjoyed this book. It is a bit of urban fantasy (without the urban part) and a bit of magical realism. The Tufa may have their special magic, but they come across as real people with small town problems rather than magical beings. It is really about a young woman chafing from the responsibilities of her family and her small town life being forced to return and face the constraints that drove her to leave in the first place. It is a human story with a bit of magic and fantasy. I look forward to reading more books about the Tufa.

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