ARC Review: The Life and Death Parade by Eliza Wass

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Release Date: June 26, 2018

synvia Goodreads

One year ago, Kitty’s boyfriend Nikki Bramley visited a psychic who told him he had no future. Now, he’s dead.

With the Bramley family grieving in separate corners of their home, Kitty sets out to find the psychic who read Nikki his fate. Instead she finds Roan, an enigmatic boy posing as a medium who belongs to the Life and Death Parade–a group of supposed charlatans that explore, and exploit, the thin veil between this world and the next. A group whose members include the psychic… and Kitty’s late mother.

Desperate to learn more about the group and their connection to Nikki, Kitty convinces Roan to return to the Bramley house with her and secures a position for him within the household. Roan quickly ingratiates himself with the Bramleys, and soon enough it seems like everyone is ready to move on. Kitty, however, increasingly suspects Roan knows more about Nikki than he’s letting on. And when they finally locate the Life and Death Parade, and the psychic who made that fateful prophecy to Nikki, Kitty uncovers a secret about Roan that changes everything.

From rising star Eliza Wass comes a sophisticated, mesmerizing meditation on the depths of grief and the magic of faith. After all, it only works if you believe it.

review3.5/5 Stars

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & Disney-Hyperion 

When I first started reading this book, I was struck by the style-it’s like The Great Gatsby meets Rebecca and has dinner with The Diviners. There’s something whimsical, yet dark and Gothic about the word choice and overall atmosphere of the book-because that’s what was created here, an extensive and powerful atmosphere of mystery, magic, and yearning. 

Here’s the thing, while I have an English degree and love the classics, I’ve never been one for magical realism. Something about it feels false but to tell this story, it was the perfect choice. The Life and Death Parade is unsettling. It will make you question what is real and what is cleverly promoted through lies, smoke, and mirrors. There are many times when it seems you’re on the verge of answers but when they come, they’re to a different question or not all what you expected. And some things are started and left unfinished. Whether it was an intentional decision or not, it’s as much of a mystery as the truth itself. 

There’s a kind of lazy, upper-class entitlement that threads through the book. Like Holly Golightly in male form. The characters are…eclectic and not exactly likeable. They did have unique, if odd, personalities. I wish I would have liked them enough to become invested in their future, but really, I just cared about the story itself. 

The plot was intriguing. It sucks you in and holds you prisoner. You need to know what happened and there are so many possibilities. I loved the blend of magical, traveling performers, and praying to specific saints for favors. The Life and Death Parade is a culture in itself and so cool. There’s a New Orleans vibe set in the English countryside. The crafting of altars, psychic readings, and sensationalization drags the reader right into that world, and begs them to question whether they believe and how much it matters.

At its heart, this is a story of grief and trying to process how it happened after the fact. The characters are lost in the past and don’t know how to move forward because of their tragic loss. They all mourn in different and arguably unhealthy ways because they were waiting for closure that would not come on its own. 

I liked that there wasn’t really an in-your-face consuming romance, but one that hummed beneath the story and yet was the entire foundation for the events that occured. 

All in all, this was a strange, enjoyable read. 

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this: 

Read on, 

Jordan

 

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ARC Review: The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon

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synSubhi is a refugee. Born in an Australian permanent detention center after his mother and sister fled the violence of a distant homeland, Subhi has only ever known life behind the fences. But his world is far bigger than that—every night, the magical Night Sea from his mother’s stories brings him gifts, the faraway whales sing to him, and the birds tell their stories. And as he grows, his imagination threatens to burst beyond the limits of his containment.

The most vivid story of all, however, is the one that arrives one night in the form of Jimmie—a scruffy, impatient girl who appears on the other side of the wire fence and brings with her a notebook written by the mother she lost. Unable to read it herself, she relies on Subhi to unravel her family’s love songs and tragedies.

Subhi and Jimmie might both find comfort—and maybe even freedom—as their tales unfold. But not until each has been braver than ever before.

review4/5 Stars 

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & Disney-Hyperion

Sometimes a great book is balm for the soul, and other times, a book wakes you up. Sometimes the darkness in this world is too much that it’s easy to look away and selectively forget the atrocities that happen every single day to people who seek nothing but peace and a place to call home. The Bone Sparrow reads like a folktale. With a blend of lyrical storytelling, startling bursts of horrific reality, and two children from different worlds even though they live footsteps apart, The Bone Sparrow brings those who don’t have a voice and are cast aside like a dirty little secret to vibrant life. 

Subhi is dreamer. Caught up in his world of stories and a father he’s never met, his hope is a burst of light and longing that fights hard against the injustice that surrounds him. Cushioned by his child-like wonder at the simple magic of dreams, words, and legends, Subhi is a captivating character. His words are innocent and full of loyalty. He holds those he loves so high as protectors and the good. What others see as negative, he sees as okay because he’s never known any different being born in the refugee camp. Kids find truths and say them with such simplicity that it’s both profound and enlightening. So many times, I had to pause and reread. What initially seems light and offhand is actually jarring in its insight. After witnesses something truly despicable and triggering, Subhi’s world is no longer Night Seas and whales who sing to the moon, it’s starvation, pain, and abuse. It’s a letdown he never expected. This awakening is heartbreaking and crushing. This perfect little spirit who lived the world on a cloud and reveled in simple happiness broken and downtrodden. Seriously, it sucks the life right out of you. So powerful and emotional.

Friendship is everything in this story. It’s a hero, it’s a savior, it’s hope and longing and love. This unlikely pairing between a motherless girl with just as much yearning as Subhi, clinging to a past that she refuses to let go, is so special. 

Some parts of this story are graphic and dark. This book is categorized as MG on some sites and I’d really consider it before sharing with young kids. Though the protagonists are 10, the subject matter is more mature. The violence might be a bit much, especially one scene in particular. 

The pacing was so-so. The build up far less and later than I would have hoped for to create the right amount of tension and anxiety. 

Jimme is an outside oblivious to what is really going on behind the fence or to how detention centers work. She’s heard rumors of how lucky the refugees are, how much food they get, and her curiosity makes her fearless. Jimmie doesn’t have a care in the world besides her desperation to preserve the last vestiges of her mother through her mother’s journal. Like Subhi, she doesn’t understand what she’s looking at and no one takes the time to explain. Those who are part of the situation and don’t explain the gravity are just as culpable as those who ignore. Jimmie’s ignorance is hurtful, but full of heart. She adores Subhi and their friendship is cute and full of instance love. Through stories, they grow to trust and rely on each other. 

The story of Burma, the conditions in refugee camps, detainment centers, how those seeking asylum are treated are all brushed under the rug unless it is brought to international headlines and even then it disappears after a while. What happens to these people? How are they living? Who is helping them? Are they getting help at all or are they worse off? These questions and many more are addressed and examined in this book. They shouldn’t be forgotten and unfortunately, it takes perseverance and willingness to care, and compassion to make change. 

Insightful reading, 

Jordan