In the spring of 1885, seventeen-year-old Jessilyn Harney finds herself orphaned and alone on her family’s homestead. Desperate to fend off starvation and predatory neighbors, she cuts off her hair, binds her chest, saddles her beloved mare, and sets off across the mountains to find her outlaw brother Noah and bring him home. A talented sharpshooter herself, Jess’s quest lands her in the employ of the territory’s violent, capricious Governor, whose militia is also hunting Noah–dead or alive.
Wrestling with her brother’s outlaw identity, and haunted by questions about her own, Jess must outmaneuver those who underestimate her, ultimately rising to become a hero in her own right.
Let me start off by saying that this was my first western, so this is by no means an especially knowledgeable or well-informed opinion.
I suppose it makes sense to start first with authenticity. Again, bearing in mind that my only context for this novel is Bugs Bunny cartoons, Whiskey When We’re Dry felt to me as authentic as they come. I felt like I was reading some classic like Lonesome Dove, or like I was living in the unsettled California frontier. The dialogue, the scenery, the whiskey, it all rang so true and clear. The Wild West didn’t feel Holleywood-ized, but as bleak and barren and desperate as it must actually have been.
If I’m being honest, I completely hate that meme. But I am sooooooo psyched for May! Time to share some personal news: I quit my job. I’m just so miserable, I hate my job, I hate my commute, I hate not spending time with my kids. PLUS, working on a library degree I need to be at a school that, you know, HAS A LIBRARY. So I quit. And it feels SOOOOOO GOOD. So yeah, I’m totally psyched for May. Counting the days, even.
Except, it’s also terrifying because I don’t have a job for next year yet. So pray for me friends!
Anyway, Calendar Girls May promises to be super exciting as well! The votes are in, and our theme is ready to go! Drumroll please…
Six Degrees of Separation is a monthly blog event hosted by Kate at booksaremyfavoriteandbest. It’s inspired by the 6 Degrees of Separation, a movie game where you attempt to connect actors in six movies or less. But we do it with books!
This month we’re starting with How to be Both by Ali Smith.
Alright, I’ll show my lack of literary fiction chops here: I had never heard of How to be Both going into the post. I looked it up and read several reviews and summaries. Here’s what I got. Y’all, this book is ART. It won all kinds of awards, including the Man Booker Prize. I don’t typically read prize winning literature, but I have read one other Man Booker Prize winner…
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction (?) Maturity Level: 4 View on Goodreads Rating: ⋆⋆⋆
Seventeen-year-old Serendipity “Pity” Jones inherited two things from her mother: a pair of six shooters and perfect aim. She’s been offered a life of fame and fortune in Cessation, a glittering city where lawlessness is a way of life. But the price she pays for her freedom may be too great….
In this extraordinary debut from Lyndsay Ely, the West is once again wild after a Second Civil War fractures the U.S. into a broken, dangerous land. Pity’s struggle against the dark and twisted underbelly of a corrupt city will haunt you long after the final bullet is shot.
I’m sorry to say Gunslinger Girl did not live up to my expectations. It was a fun enough book, but it failed to deliver on being a high-octane Western adventure, and there wasn’t anything to make it stand out in the noise of YA adventure novels.
Happy April! I promise I don’t have any April Fools jokes planned for y’all, just some straight-up honest gushing about books.
You guys! Surprise endings or shocking plot twists is one of my absolute favorite things in a book. A big twist gives the book such a wonderful feeling of fun and excitement! A book without any big surprises often falls flat for me. I want a book that can keep me on my toes!
So, obviously, I had a really hard time with this theme because I couldn’t pick just one favorite! Here are some of the amazing contenders that I was thinking of:
Life of Pi by Yann Martel (OMG THAT ENDING!!!!)
Angels and Demons by Dan Brown (okay, I was 15, it was shocking at the time…)
The Scarlet Pimpernel by Emmuska Orczy (never saw his identity coming) Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi (seriously, what even HAPPENED?!?!?!)
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid (if you tell me you saw the love interest coming, then I’m calling you a liar)
An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green (maybe I would have been less surprise if I’d have known it was a series…)
In the end I went with a book that a) I’m sure I’ve never used for Calendar Girls before and b) I read before ANY of these books. And, if we’re being honest, it might be the book that MOST shocked the socks off me. Ever. So, without any further ado, my favorite book with a surprise ending is…
Guys, I love Broadway. I completely missed my calling singing under the bright lights. What was I thinking, choosing band over choir and theater? *le sigh*
Unsurprisingly, many of my favorite musicals are based on books. Are you shocked? I know you’re shocked. So just in case you’re looking for something to listen to or something to read or BOTH, here are some of my favorite musicals based on novels.
Yes, novels. No, I’m not including Hamilton. Sorry, we can talk about that masterpiece another time.
5. West Side Story
It’s no secret that I love Romeo and Juliet, and West Side Story is just as powerful, if not more so. My bookish friends might not realize that I am a huge Leonard Bernstein fan. I thought about including Candide in this list, just to show off, but it’s really more of an opera, and who am I kidding? I just love the overture. (band nerd!) The amazing thing about West Side Story is that it is STILL so relevant! The racism, the gang violence, the music! If you’ve never watched the movie I highly recommend it, though be ready for some white people portraying POC.
Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Fantasy Maturity Level: 3+ View on Goodreads Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆
When smallpox kills her parents, Camille Durbonne must find a way to provide for her frail, naive sister while managing her volatile brother. Relying on petty magic—la magie ordinaire—Camille painstakingly transforms scraps of metal into money to buy the food and medicine they need. But when the coins won’t hold their shape and her brother disappears with the family’s savings, Camille must pursue a richer, more dangerous mark: the glittering court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.
With dark magic forbidden by her mother, Camille transforms herself into the ‘Baroness de la Fontaine’ and is swept up into life at the Palace of Versailles, where aristocrats both fear and hunger for la magie. There, she gambles at cards, desperate to have enough to keep herself and her sister safe. Yet the longer she stays at court, the more difficult it becomes to reconcile her resentment of the nobles with the enchantments of Versailles. And when she returns to Paris, Camille meets a handsome young balloonist—who dares her to hope that love and liberty may both be possible.
But la magie has its costs. And when Camille loses control of her secrets, the game she’s playing turns deadly. Then revolution erupts, and she must choose—love or loyalty, democracy or aristocracy, freedom or magic—before Paris burns…
Thank goodness Enchantée lived up to my expectations! I was so excited for this book: a fantasy set in Revolutionary France, who could resist?! Trelease delivered on everything I was hoping for.