Review: Field Notes on Love

Field Notes on Love
By Jennifer E. Smith
Published March 5, 2019 by Delacorte Press

Sometimes you just want a book that you will make you feel happy, and Field Notes on Love was that book for me. It’s got a very original meet cute story and people falling in love against the backdrop of a cross-country train trip.

Hugo has a major problem. As a last hurrah before starting college, he and his girlfriend Field Notes on Lovewere going to take a train trip across the United States. For Hugo, who’s never been outside the UK, this is a big adventure. Then his girlfriend dumps him and he finds out that all the reservations for the trip are under her name and nontransferable and nonrefundable. So, Hugo turns to the internet to look for a traveling companion with the name Margaret Campbell.

Enter Mae (full name, Margaret Campbell). Her dream was to go to the University of Southern California for film school. She got into USC, but not the film school and she’s trying to reassess her work, not understanding why it didn’t measure up. She’s in a weird place, and when she sees Hugo’s post, she decides to go for it, and they take the cross-country trip together.

This book was really delightful. Hugo and Mae are great characters. They’re both at a crossroad in their lives. Hugo is a sextuplet. He’s never been on his own, and he’s supposed to be starting college with his five siblings in a few weeks. Suddenly, he’s not sure this is the path he wants and he’s feeling trapped. In an effort to move past the failure of her film school application, May decides to start a film while they’re traveling, and she and Hugo interview their fellow passengers about love. She’s got some barriers set us, but with the encouragement of her sassy grandmother, she opens herself up.

Field Notes on Love is a really cute, fun travel romance. It’s perfect for anyone who loves travel and trains (if you find trains romantic, this is definitely the book for you).

I received an ARC from the publisher through Amazon Vine.

 

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Review: Bloodleaf

Bloodleaf
By Crystal Smith
Published March 12, 2019 by HMH Teen

After checking out the description, I wanted to read Bloodleaf because it seemed to have a lot of tropes I love: a princess in hiding, banned magic, and a forbidden romance. Then I realized that it’s a loose retelling of the Grimm’s fairytale The Goose Girl, and that sold me on it, because I love fairytale retellings. I really enjoyed this book. It’s got a great Bloodleafheroine, a swoony romance, spirits, and blood magic.

Princess Aurelia of Renalt is in a precarious position. Although her mother is serving as queen until her younger brother comes of age, the true power in the kingdom is held by the Tribunal, an anti-magic group that burns anyone suspected of being a witch. It’s a fear-based regime, and Aurelia is hiding her blood magic, but not very well, because she’s widely suspected of being a witch. After an assassination attempt, her mother sends her to the neighboring kingdom of Achleva, whose prince she is betrothed to. On the journey there, she is attacked again and barely escapes with her life. She manages to make her way into Achleva, where she assumes a new identity and tries to figure out the plot against her.

Now calling herself Emilie, Aurelia starts to build a new life. She forges an alliance with a mysterious nobleman named Zan, tries to figure out the plot against her, and makes a friend, something she hasn’t had in years. She also has the chance to explore her blood magic without the fear of being executed as a witch.

Bloodleaf was a great read. Aurelia is a great main character, and I like how much she grows as a person throughout the book. She embraces her power and learns how to survive on her own. Unlike a lot of fantasy I’ve read, the magical system makes sense and works within the political context of the world. There are lots of twists and turns to the plot, and being familiar with the original fairytale, I guessed one of the plot twists, there’s a big twist at the end that was a complete surprise. The romance was a fun one, because I tend to like romances where both parties are keeping big secrets. I highly recommend it.

I received an ARC from the published via Amazon Vine.

 

Review: When the Sky Fell on Splendor

When the Sky Fell on Splendor
By Emily Henry
Published March 12, 2019 by Razorbill

A Million Junes by Emily Henry was one of my favorite books of 2017, so I was really excited for her latest release, When the Sky Fell on Splendor. Splendor is a very different book on the surface. It’s ostensibly a science fiction story,  with things falling out of the sky, conspiracy theories, and government agents in pursuit, but this is really a book about broken families, the bonds of friendship, and healing from trauma.

SplendorFive years ago, there was an explosion at the Splendor steel mill that killed or injured many people. Frannie’s brother Mark has been in a coma since the explosion, and her mother left the family a few months later. She and her other brother Arthur are part of a tight-knit group of friends, all of whom were affected by the explosion. Frannie, Arthur, Remy, Nick, Levi, and Sofia call themselves the Ordinary, and they make movies they post on YouTube. One late summer night, they’re working on their latest film when something comes out of the sky, hitting a power station and knocking the friends out for six hours. When they wake up, they all have strange scars and something more, each of them gaining some sort of power or change from whatever fell from the sky.

The story goes into science fiction territory at this point, with mysterious things caught on video, conspiracy theories, and government agents in pursuit. But this is really about Frannie and her relationships. All of the friends lost something after the explosion, especially Frannie who blames herself for her mother leaving, thinking that she expected too much of her mother. In the wake of the event, the group splinters. Arthur is obsessed with using the event for fame. Nick drops out of the group completely. Frannie is terrified by what’s happening to her and withdraws from her friends.

This is ultimately a book about a found family. This is a group of kids who came together in the wake of a tragedy, and their bonds are so beautiful. It really captures the feeling of being young and having a crew that you can depend on for anything, but also the very real fears associated with high school ending, friends leaving for college, and lives changing. It’s a really lovely book.

I received an ARC from a trade with another reviewer.

 

 

 

 

Review: Daisy Jones and the Six

Daisy Jones and the Six
By Taylor Jenkins Reid
Published March

Daisy Jones and the Six is an oral history of a fictional 1970s rock band and their implosion at the height of their success.

I love the oral history format. It gives you multiple unreliable narrators as we get to see the same events through different eyes. One person gives their memory of something, Daisy Jonesand in the next paragraph, another person puts a very different spin on it. The format works really well for this story about a complicated group of people and how things fell apart.

The main conflict is the fraught relationship between Daisy Jones and Billy Dunne. Billy is the charismatic lead singer of The Six, and Daisy is a solo singer. After a successful hit duet, Daisy ends up joining the band, and things start to go to hell. They’re two very creative, but messed up people. Billy is trying to stay sober for his wife and kids, and Daisy never met a drug she wouldn’t try.

The book is a fascinating look at the 70s rock scene in Los Angeles, and the fictional band bears a passing resemblance to Fleetwood Mac. The process of creating an album really comes alive, and the lyrics for the final album are included at the end of the book, which adds a nice level of detail and context to the narrative.

I couldn’t put this book down. I think it will appeal to anyone who enjoys unreliable narrators, interesting formats, and messed-up but fascinating characters. It’s also perfect for music nerds. Highly recommended!

I received an ARC from Amazon Vine.