The tales of an unapologetic nerd
The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Utterly enchanting from start to finish.
The premise is simple: Morrigan is cursed. But in this return to the childhood nostalgia of special, talented, or "chosen" children, Jessica Townsend absolutely shattered my expectations. I went in hoping to be caught up in something comforting and familiar, something reminiscent of when I discovered the Harry Potter books or picked up Artemis Fowl for the first time. What I received, however, was a brand new world of magic and wonder. At 31 years old, I found myself desperate to delve deeper into Nevermoor, the Hotel Deucalion, and the mysterious Wundrous Society.
It has been a long time since I so eagerly returned, page after page, to a fictional landscape I hopelessly dreamed of being a part of. But what made it so special? What sets Morrigan Crow and her adventures apart from other tales of youthful quests and found families?
1) For starters: everything felt magical. What at first seems like it might simply be a Victorian-esque setting very quickly morphs into something much more ... well, wonderous. With a strange mix of tech -- new, old, imagined, actual -- and the mysterious something known only as Wunder, the arcane and the mundane seem to live in beautiful harmony. Buildings have personalities. People have special talents, vampires and witches are commonplace in Nevermoor, and even St Nick makes a jolly old appearance as a fantastical figure. But, none of it is jarring. Everything makes sense, in a way I can't explain but that made me positively giddy.
2) The characters. Are. CHARMING. Jupiter North is just curious enough, keeping secrets as any fantasy mentor would, but laying MUCH more out in the open than some school headmasters we've all read about in the past ;) They're characters that are easy to love, and easy to trust. And, as such, the twists and turns of unexpected revelations hit that much harder. I found myself wanting to sit down in the Smoking Parlor with the lot of them. Not a single major character felt one-dimensional, and I do so hope to see more of them in the rest of the series.
3) The curse. I could go on and on about the unique and delightful way Jessica Townsend spins the "cursed child" idea in Morrigan Crow, but I'd rather you discover it for yourself. Instead, I'll simply say this: the journey of the curse took me on a roller coaster of emotion that often left me breathless. Time and time again, I thought I'd figured it out myself. But, just as Jessica is a clever writer, Morrigan was a clever protagonist. Every question I had, Morrigan Crow asked for me. There was no sitting around, wondering how the main character could be so stupid as to not realize the truth. No screaming at the book "CAN'T YOU SEE IT?!" as I have done so many, many times ... Morrigan was with me the entire way. Along for the ride, asking the right things. At the right time. A clever protagonist, especially a cursed and fantastical one, will absolutely keep me reading until the bitter end.
I was gifted this book by a friend two years ago. I only regret that it took me until this year to finally open it, and lose myself in Nevermoor. Now, I cannot wait to rejoin the Wundrous Society in the rest of the series. Hats off to you, Morrigan Crow. And Jessica Townsend? You've got a fan for life. Now if you'll excuse me, I'll go back to dreaming about getting my little W pin in the mail, as I once dreamed of getting my Hogwarts letter.
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The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Never have I fallen so completely in love with a book from the moment the dedication began. When I started thumbing through the opening pages, I found a charming and delightful list of the best places to read. Immediately I knew: this is not just for readers. This is for readers like me.
Jenny Colgan's The Bookshop on the Corner is a love letter to all of us who love books, but perhaps a little more to those of us who had forgotten how to lose ourselves in them. It follows the journey of Nina Redmond, a librarian who has just the right knack for pairing up readers with the book they absolutely need. It was as if Chocolat had a literary twist and, for me, this book WAS what I needed. It was as if Nina herself had placed it in my hands and said, "Lose yourself. You have my permission, and you deserve to relax."
I have not found the time to read for pure enjoyment in almost a decade. Life simply got in the way, and I slipped out of the habit of falling asleep with a dragon-filled fantasy, or sinking into a bubble bath with a cozy romance. It wasn't until I started reading this gem that I realized how much I had missed it. And, on more than one occasion, that revelation drove me to tears. Nina's view of the world through page-colored glasses so reminded me of myself when I was younger, and every description of Scottish countryside or Midsummer sunset made me ache to feel that bookish thrill again like I used to. I found myself staying awake until 4 AM reading, something I haven't done since college. Everything about this book was, for me, a glorious and nostalgic reminder of what it is to love books. And that broke my heart.
It is a painful thing to realize you've lost something you love, and you didn't even notice it fading away. Every time I was hit by just how charming and delightful this book was (those moments often driving me to giggle out loud and risk waking the roommates, or squirm with joyous anticipation at the promise of blossoming romance within its pages) I was reminded just how much I love losing myself in a good book. I found myself, for the first time in countless years, returning to it simply for myself, and not because I felt like I had to.
And so, fellow bookworms who may have lost touch with the joy of reading, I gift you with this recommendation. Any flaws it may have had vanished into the haze of bookish joy. Because, at the end of the day, any book that keeps you going back, and brings you the escape you need is, in my opinion, perfect.
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Kaitlin Bellamy is a freelance actor, indie author, and all-around nerd. Welcome to her world, adventurer. It's gonna get weird.