Review: Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller

Bitter Orange

“Who wouldn’t want to rewrite their past, if it means it will change their future?”

Rating: FIVE Stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Synopsis

From the attic of Lyntons, a dilapidated English country mansion, Frances Jellico sees them—Cara first: dark and beautiful, then Peter: striking and serious. The couple is spending the summer of 1969 in the rooms below hers while Frances is researching the architecture in the surrounding gardens. But she’s distracted. Beneath a floorboard in her bathroom, she finds a peephole that gives her access to her neighbors’ private lives.


My Thoughts

It’s been two days since I finished this book and I’m still not quite sure how to put into words what a wonderful read it was. Bitter Orange is a historical fiction novel that is written with an element of mystery, and characters that will suck you right into the story. Our three main characters Cara, Frances, and Peter each have a psychological depth that only deepens as the story progresses and they develop. Each has a past they would do just about anything to change or forget, and their dynamic is one of codependency on that front, but also solidarity. But what I loved most about this novel was the thrill of wondering what was going on underneath the surface and when I was going to find out. The suspense builds slowly, but not in a way that makes you all jittery like you’ve had too much coffee. It’s perfectly paced and because you know going in that something will happen, it allows you to enjoy the entire reading experience rather than spend all your time trying to predict and guess at every page turn.

Claire Fuller takes you on a literary journey that not only keeps you interested, but gets you invested in the lives of the characters. And you won’t realize you’re that mentally deep in the novel until you put the book down for a spell and see that the story is all you can think about while you’re at work, making food, visiting with friends, etc. You’ll get bits and pieces of each characters’ past as they get to know one another but from their perspective, and the funny thing about perspective is that it does not always equal truth. In fiction or life in general.

This is the type of novel you could read again in the future and discover things you missed the first time. I’ve read reviews where people suggested the use of symbolism throughout the novel. While I agree that, yes, I can definitely imagine this book being examined in AP Literature classes, I didn’t pick up on the supposedly glaring symbolism and that may be in part due to the fact that I was never really that great at identifying those elements by myself. I took the AP Lit classes in high school and greatly enjoyed dissecting the books on a philosophical level, but had I not been in those classes I never would’ve picked up on many of the suggested themes if I had read the book on my own. So, I will absolutely reread this book in the future and take it slowly in hopes of identifying the possibility of hidden themes I may have missed the first time.

Overall, this was an excellent read and I feel so lucky to have picked it up. I will absolutely be recommending it to anyone with ears, in true bookworm fashion: too often and with so much enthusiasm that if executed properly will be interpreted as slightly aggressive and pushy. No apologies.

You can find the Goodreads page for Bitter Orange here


Thanks for reading! May your books be massive and your reading time infinite.

November Wrap Up & December Reading Goals

DEC TBR

We’re down to our last month of 2018 and what a year it has been! The month of November kind of got away from me in terms of reading and I’m beginning to think I also hit a bit of a reading slump somewhere towards the end of the month. But like most of you, I set a reading goal for the year in January and am now on the frantic side of my shelves trying to salvage that goal and see if there is any hope of meeting it. It’s not so much about the number of books I can read in a year, but more so about allowing myself the space and time to read the books I wanted to get to in 2018. So, here is the (very) short list of books I read in November, and the quite massive list of books I would like to finish by the end of December. Goodreads links will be provided for each 🤓


November Reads

Books I started in November but haven’t yet finished…


December TBR

I ascertained long ago that I am 100% a mood reader. Knowing this, I still ask myself each month why I make a TBR list if I am probably not going to get to each of the books on it. Maybe it’s the act of making a list, or seeing a stack of books just sitting there looking delicious and mysterious. Whatever the reason, I still make them and it is helpful to have that stack of books there as a reminder that I picked each individual book out for a reason. SO…to help increase the odds of each contestant for this month, if there is a book in this list that you have read and absolutely loved, please let me know!


That’s it for the wrap up and reading plans. I am really hoping for some great stories to read by the light of my Christmas tree and will have some reviews up for you soon!

Thank you for reading! Let me know if you would recommend any of the books listed above!

Moonshadow’s Guardian by Dianna Gunn

Moonshadow's Guardian

THREE Stars (3.5 actually)

Goodreads


My Thoughts

This book was a Netgalley find and the synopsis had all the magical, fantastical trigger words to pique my interest. Fantasy novels are like cravings for me and they never quite go away. I just climb the stacks and grab as I go, thankful that the fantasy genre is like a delightfully bottomless pit of stories and worlds perfect for escaping to. So, about Moonshadow’s Guardian….

This is not a bad book, or boring read by any means. I’ve been teetering on my 3 star rating and wondering if maybe four stars is better suited. But I’m sticking to my original feelings, the ones fresh after finishing the last page. So rather than rant and rave about why I didn’t like this as much as I wanted to, let me start by telling you what I absolutely LOVED about Book One of the duology.

The pages of this book are packed full of all sorts of different fantasy elements and characters. You’ll find a magic system with characters who know how to use it (and those who don’t understand it and therefore are afraid of it), demons and an underworld, ties to Greek mythology, architecturally stunning cities, spirits, vampires, and the most friendly dragon you’d ever want to meet. And one of the most impressive parts of this book is that it doesn’t hinder itself by sticking to the same fantasy genre rhetoric that can tend to get slightly boring, overused, and just worn out. It ties all sorts of these elements together in a fresh way, and leaves you with a story you DON’T feel like you’ve heard before a thousand times. A thousand thanks to the author for this.

At the end of the book I was wishing for more, the way a good read can tend to do. But that was the big problem I had…I was wishing for more detail, more backstory, and a deeper understanding of the world I had just spend hours trying to explore. What was truly lacking for me was that I felt the book should have been longer and allowed more room for development of every single element I have mentioned so far. I’ll only give one example so I don’t rant for days.

Our main character is a demon, and by the time her character story really comes into play she is already a couple centuries old. She has worked with the god Loki for centuries and yet there isn’t much about there time together except a few snide comments related to bad memories here and there. NOT ENOUGH. I felt no connection between the two characters and their relationship should have been a wheel house of interesting history. CENTURIES worth. And while it isn’t always necessary to go back and rehash every part of a character’s history, it absolutely is when every aspect of said character’s demeanor is based on their memories and past. The dynamic between these two characters kind of feels like a constant stream of inside jokes that we the readers are invited to listen to, but won’t be hearing the explanation for.

And while the narrative jumps back and forth to give the reader some perspective, it is nowhere near enough, and takes us to key events in the past that leave you wanting to know more of the backstory rather than give you all you need to know for the present narrative. That’s how you become emotionally invested in a character and I was disappointed to end the book and feel like I had missed out on what could have been an absolutely amazing story. I honestly think there is enough to work with here in just this one book to start a series, because that is how long it would take to truly impact the reader the way the author intended to. The book just felt very surface level and rushed. When there are these many elements jam packed into a story, there just needs to be more room for growth. The majority of the story left me feeling like I had come into a movie at the tail end, and no one was willing to rewind so I knew what the hell was going on.

Regardless, I have high hopes for the second book and I’ll be looking intently for it. I hope it gives more insight and contains a bit more of that history our characters keep hinting at. And overall, though it may seem like I secretly hated this book, I did enjoy the introduction of a story that could turn out to be fantastic and the journey was well worth the time spend reading. This was only book one and there is more to come with book two. I will be anxiously awaiting the conclusion.

 

Library Haul: Holiday Reads

NOV Library Haul

I love the library. I’m certain that without a local library at my disposal, my personal shelves would be out of control FILLED and I wouldn’t have any extra money left over to buy more shelves to put them in. I like having the option to buy a book, or check it out from the library before making any hasty decisions. The library is also my favorite place to unhaul books from my shelves, some of which WERE hasty decisions that didn’t pan out.

These are some books I have recently checked out in preparation for the holiday travels coming up. I thought I’d share them with you all and wish you a Happy Thanksgiving before the food comas begin. Hopefully, I’ll have some good reviews for you after the holiday weekend! Let me know if you have read and enjoyed any of these. Goodreads links will be included with each book so you can check them out for yourself.


Welcome to Lovecraft (Locke & Key, #1)  Head Games (Locke & Key, #2)

Locke & Key Volume 1                                     Locke & Key Volume 2

Graphic novels are not normally what I enjoy reading, but every now and then one will catch my interest. I appreciate the fact that these books seem to have some substance to them, meaning they are thicker than most graphic novels. Welcome to Lovecraft is the first in the series and feels quite dark and spooky. I grabbed the second in the series in case I really enjoy this. Excited to get started on these!

The Blasphemer

The Blasphemer by Nigel Farndale

This is a historical fiction set in 1917 and I believe introduces a few philosophical ideas within the main story line. I was recommended this book by a Goodreads friend and after scanning the synopsis decided it was worth a try. Lucky for me, the library had it just sitting on the shelves when I went looking for it. This is one book I believe may have the potential to be quite dry, so I am hoping it’s not a difficult read and rather one that has me thinking in an enjoyable way.

Bitter Orange

Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller

Just released in October of this year, Bitter Orange is another historical fiction, but with a mysterious thriller component. I saw this book on SavidgeReads, a booktube channel that I have just fallen in love with. After hearing the synopsis and the reader’s thoughts on the book after completion, I knew I had to get my hands on it.

Local Girls

Local Girls by Alice Hoffman

I am a huge fan of Alice Hoffman’s writing. In fact, The Dovekeepers and The Ice Queen are both books of hers that remain in my favorite books list. Why I always wait so long to pick up another book by Hoffman, perhaps I’ll never know. Thankfully, I remembered to look for her books last time I was at the library and ended up coming home with this intriguing novel. I didn’t read much of the synopsis, so rather than looking up what it’s about on Goodreads and telling you about it here, I’m deciding to go into this one blind. She’s never let me down before, so why not?


That’s all I have for this haul. Support your local library! Thanks for reading and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Engines of the Broken World by Jason Vanhee

Engines of the Broken World

Goodreads: Engines of the Broken World

Rating: FIVE stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


My Thoughts

A few years ago, this book made its way onto my forever shelves. The cover drew me in and the blurb on the back cover intrigued me enough to make the purchase. Plus, I am a sucker for books that I’ve heard nothing about and have just kind of, stumbled upon. Especially if the book turns out to be a five out of five reading gem. Oh happy day!

I hadn’t even read the Goodreads synopsis of the book before making the purchase, OR reading it. What I did know about the book was from this mysterious back-cover blurb, which also happens to be the first two paragraphs in Chapter 1. It went something like this:

It snowed the day our mother died, snow so hard and so soft at the same time that we could neither bury her nor take her out to the barn. So we set her, my brother and me, under the table in the kitchen, and we left her there because we didn’t know what else to do. There wasn’t anyone else to ask, our father dead for years and the village nearly empty and no one to help out two kids left alone in the winter.

Except it wasn’t winter, not really. It was October. Storm like that, with snow like that, we shouldn’t have had til much later, til Christmastime, or even past that more like. But we didn’t spend much time thinking about how the weather had gotten all strange. We just dealt with it.

Now I won’t tell you how to read, or claim to know there is a right way or a wrong way to read a book. However, if you decide to give this book a read, my personal recommendation is 1. don’t read the synopsis or any reviews on it (minus this one of course 😉) and 2. go into it with an open mind, meaning the less you know about the book may be better than knowing until you read it.

Our two main characters are alone in the world and having to deal with some very strange things, some more frightening than others. They are challenged with choices and decisions that will determine the course of fate, or maybe that’s just what they’ve been told. Truth and lies swirl, making the air thick with uncertainty, and these two siblings are all the other has left in the world. The reader certainly gets taken along for a chilling and unsettling ride. Head spinning situations will leave you with questions better left unanswered, as the truth tends to be more disturbing than its comforting counterpart.

This is not a religious book, nor does it aspire to convert the reader. There are religious themes within, but these themes are mostly centered on philosophy. And philosophy is amazing brain food in my opinion. At about 5 pages in, I remember thinking that the book was slightly strange, weird even..maybe even too weird for me to continue. But I’m glad I kept going. If you find yourself thinking the same thing, continue reading because you will adapt and it won’t take long at all. This is where horror and science fiction blend in a delightful way.

I’m not going to say anything more about the book because I really do stand by my “less is more” perspective. I am really impressed with the author’s writing style and the fact that the story is gritty and deep. The atmosphere itself adds an element that pulls the reader into the lives of these children, feeling each emotion as if this world were one with theirs at the same time. This is a book I wish I could go back and read again for the first time. If you decide to read this story, I truly hope you enjoy it as much as I did.


Happy reading! What stories have you read recently?