Double the Historical Fiction: “Dominicana” and “Lair of Dreams”

I am loving this mini review thing. I’m posting everything so quickly that I’m now all caught up and have just one more review to go before my review queue is empty. Yeah me!

In this post, I’ll discuss two novels that share some similarities but are very different: The first is a historical fiction novel set in the 1960s about a 15-year-old girl’s immigrant experience as she leaves the comfort of her family in the Dominican Republic to move to New York City with a man twice her age. The second is a YA paranormal, historical fiction novel set in New York City in the 1920s about dreams that threaten the lives of the city’s inhabitants.

Both were good reads I enjoyed.


Dominicana by Angie Cruz

Genre:

Historical Fiction; Magical Realism

Series:

n/a

Pubbed:

September 2019

Goodreads summary:

Fifteen-year-old Ana Cancion never dreamed of moving to America, the way the girls she grew up with in the Dominican countryside did. But when Juan Ruiz proposes and promises to take her to New York City, she has to say yes. It doesn’t matter that he is twice her age, that there is no love between them. Their marriage is an opportunity for her entire close-knit family to eventually immigrate. So on New Year’s Day, 1965, Ana leaves behind everything she knows and becomes Ana Ruiz, a wife confined to a cold six-floor walk-up in Washington Heights. Lonely and miserable, Ana hatches a reckless plan to escape. But at the bus terminal, she is stopped by Cesar, Juan’s free-spirited younger brother, who convinces her to stay.

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“The Secret Lives of Color” by Kassia St. Clair

This is one of the best nonfiction books I’ve read this year. I learned much from it, and I’m glad I own a copy. Not only is it a great read that presents facts about a common topic in an engaging way, but I also love the design and format of the book.

The edition I own is a white, naked hardback with spots of color on it. From a distance, one gets the impression that it has a dust jacket that hides a rainbow cover beneath. The cover is appealing and matches well the title — The Secret Lives of Color.

Indeed, it is as if we are being told scandalous tales about colors, in some cases. I was unaware of most of the information I learned from this book, which covers 75 colors, shades, and hues and shares fascinating stories and facts about each. The book is divided into broad color families. A section is dedicated to each — white, yellow, orange, pink, red, purple, blue, green, brown, black — with chapters within each section that discuss variations of the particular color. For example, the first color discussed is white. First, we get an overview of the color as an introduction to the section, and then we begin a chapter on a variation/type of the color. The first is lead white, the second chapter is on ivory, and the third is about silver. The amount of chapter in each section varies, but the chapters are no more than three or four pages, and each page contains a simple border in the color being discussed.

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Triple the Fantasy: “Silver in the Wood,” “Kiss of the Spindle,” “The Lost Years of Merlin”

I hardly ever post mini reviews of novels. I prefer to dedicate a full post to each one. But things are getting ridiculous because it’s now November and there are books I read in August that I haven’t yet talked about on here. Not that it’s a big deal, but I like to post a review for every book I read so being this behind on reviews irks me. It makes me feel as if I’m not progressing with my reading goals, even if I am.

Although the stories I’ll discuss in this post are all fantasy, they are quite different from each other. The first is a Tor novella about a Wild Man of the woods whose life is upended when he receives a visit from an unassuming human. The second, a paranormal, historical fiction romance with some steampunk influence that’s inspired by the fairytale Sleeping Beauty. And the third is a middle-grade fantasy novel about the boyhood years of the famous wizard Merlin.

I enjoyed reading two of the three, but one was surprisingly boring. However, I’m glad to have read them all. Here’s what I thought of each.


Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh

Genre:

Fantasy

Series:

n/a

Pubbed:

June 2019

Goodreads summary:

There is a Wild Man who lives in the deep quiet of Greenhollow, and he listens to the wood. Tobias, tethered to the forest, does not dwell on his past life, but he lives a perfectly unremarkable existence with his cottage, his cat, and his dryads.

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“Emperor Mage” by Tamora Pierce

Either this book or In the Hand of the Goddess was the first book I read by Tamora Pierce. So many years have passed since that day that I can no longer remember, but I recall that I loved Pierce’s Song of the Lioness and Immortals books and would reread them often. Now that I’m revisiting them years later, I find that I still enjoy them despite their shortcomings in certain areas.

Genre:

YA Fantasy

Series:

The Immortals, book 3

Pubbed:

November 1994

Goodreads overview:

Daine must confront a powerful leader in this third book of the Immortals series, featuring an updated cover for longtime fans and fresh converts alike, and including an all-new afterword from Tamora Pierce.

When Daine is sent to Carthak as part of a Tortallan peace delegation, she finds herself in the middle of a sticky political situation. She doesn’t like the Carthaki practice of keeping slaves, but it’s not her place to say anything—she’s only there to heal the emperor’s birds. Her worries only expand once she learns that her own power has grown in a dark and mysterious way.

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“The Good Luck Girls” by Charlotte Nicole Davis | Review & Discussion

This is one of the many books I received when I attended the ALA Conference in D.C., that amazing event where I received more books that my shelves could possibly hold. If it wasn’t for Dani from Perspective of a Writer, this book would still be stacked on the floor waiting to be read. She reached out asking if I’d be up for a buddy-read of it and, excited, I said of course.

Below is my review and also an extension of Dani and my discussion of the book. Basically, we swapped questions about the book and made a blog post of it. You can see Dani’s responses to my questions here.

Goodreads summary:

Aster, the protector
Violet, the favorite
Tansy, the medic
Mallow, the fighter
Clementine, the catalyst

The country of Arketta calls them Good Luck Girls–they know their luck is anything but. Sold to a “welcome house” as children and branded with cursed markings. Trapped in a life they would never have chosen.

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“Childhood’s End” by Arthur C. Clarke

I’m convinced that science fiction works for me only as movies and TV shows. I don’t take well to it in novel form.

I was eager to read Childhood’s End because I’d seen the TV miniseries that aired on SyFy a couple years ago. I think it was three episodes total, and I liked the first two but didn’t like how it ends. I thought the book would be better, but the show has since grown foggy in my mind so now I can’t tell. I just know that I enjoyed watching the TV show more than reading the book.

Genre:

Science fiction

Series:

n/a

Pubbed:

August 1953

Goodreads summary:

Childhood’s End is one of the defining legacies of Arthur C. Clarke, the author of 2001: A Space Odyssey and many other groundbreaking works. Since its publication in 1953, this prescient novel about first contact gone wrong has come to be regarded not only as a science fiction classic but as a literary thriller of the highest order.

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“In the Night Wood” by Dale Bailey

This was a random purchase. I was in the bookstore browsing the shelves when I saw this gorgeous cover peeking out at me. I took the book down, admired the cover, and read a bit of it to see if I should purchase it. I immediately fell for the writing and left the store with the book. When the NEWTs Magical Readathon rolled around, I decided to settle down and read the story. I liked it.

Genre:

Literary fantasy

Series:

n/a

Pubbed:

October 2018

Goodreads summary:

In this contemporary fantasy, the grieving biographer of a Victorian fantasist finds himself slipping inexorably into the supernatural world that consumed his subject.

American Charles Hayden came to England to forget the past.

Failed father, failed husband, and failed scholar, Charles hopes to put his life back together with a biography of Caedmon Hollow, the long-dead author of a legendary Victorian children’s book, In the Night Wood. But soon after settling into Hollow’s remote Yorkshire home, Charles learns that the past isn’t dead.

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