Poisoned Apples and Clockwork Hearts | Mini Book Review + Desktop Wallpaper!

Happy Sunday friends!

I hope you’re enjoying all the lovely things that late fall has to offer: fuzzy socks, warm tea, gingersnaps, the start of plaid skirt season, the works! My mind, per usual, has jumped straight to the holidays (A Very Kacey Christmas plays in an eternal loop on my Spotify account) but I am enjoying these last tastes of fall as well.

Autumn, after all, is one of my favorite times of year to read fairytales! With an abundance of spooky forests, magic lore, and gruesome-yet-beautiful imagery, folklore retellings always seem to feel at home in the brisk fall air. My latest read, Poisoned, certainly does! Jennifer Donnelly’s newest book has Grimm-style gore, plenty of kindness, and a heroine whose clockwork heart charmed my own.

Once upon a time, a girl named Sophie rode into the forest with the queen’s huntsman. Her lips were the color of ripe cherries, her skin as soft as new-fallen snow, her hair as dark as midnight. When they stopped to rest, the huntsman pulled out his knife . . . and took Sophie’s heart.

It shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Sophie had heard the rumors, the whispers. They said she was too kind and foolish to rule — a waste of a princess. A disaster of a future queen. And Sophie believed them. She believed everything she’d heard about herself, the poisonous words people use to keep girls like Sophie from becoming too powerful, too strong . . .

With the help of seven mysterious strangers, Sophie manages to survive. But when she realizes that the jealous queen might not be to blame, Sophie must find the courage to face an even more terrifying enemy, proving that even the darkest magic can’t extinguish the fire burning inside every girl, and that kindness is the ultimate form of strength.

Goodreads

Jennifer Donnelly is such a talented writer, and I always marvel at the command of language she displays in her books. Poisoned — like Donnelly’s 2019 output, Stepsister — is a refreshing take on a classic tale; it both celebrates and subverts the beats of the Grimm Brothers’ Snow White. It’s feminist and folksy! A winning combo!!

In honor of Poisoned, I’ve created some desktop wallpapers with a favorite quote of mine from the book. You can check out the wallpapers and download them below!

Desktop Wallpaper Version 1

Desktop Wallpaper Version 2

iPhone

To make these wallpapers, I used the font Bevalonia. Download it here!

Have a fantastic start to your week, and happy reading!

xx

lulu

Broken Wish by Julie C. Dao | Book Review

Hello, friends! This review contains very mild, very vague spoilers.

I hope you’re all having a fantastic Sunday! Some highlights from my weekend have included making Orangette’s amazing caramel blondie recipe, laughing/crying at Heidi Schreck’s What the Constitution Means to Me, and getting into the Christmas spirit with playlists and gift guides (it’s never too early, y’all!!)

I’m taking a break from eating raw cookie dough and avoiding essays, though, to pop in here with a book review! I’ve been in a fantasy, fairytale mood as of late, and so today we’re going to take a look at Julie C. Dao’s Broken Wish, the first book in a new series. Let’s get to it!

1865. Hanau, Germany.

Sixteen-year-old Elva has a secret. She has visions and strange powers that she will do anything to hide. She knows the warnings about what happens to witches in their small village of Hanau. She’s heard the terrible things people say about the Witch of the North Woods, and the malicious hunts that follow. But when Elva accidentally witnesses a devastating vision of the future, she decides she has to do everything she can to prevent it. Tapping into her powers for the first time, Elva discovers a magical mirror and its owner—none other than the Witch of the North Woods herself. As Elva learns more about her burgeoning magic, and the lines between hero and villain start to blur, she must find a way to right past wrongs before it’s too late.

Julie C. Dao is one of my favorite authors of recent years! Her books often reimagine folklore, imbuing classic tales with new takes on unsettled magic and complicated love. So, it’s fitting that she wrote Broken Wish, the first in a series of four books to be written by four different YA writers, with each installment taking place in a different time period but all dealing with the same family curse. I thought the novel was an exciting, Grimm-inspired kickoff to the venture, and it felt perfect for the autumn season!

Though it features superstitions, witch-trials, and false pretenses galore, Broken Wish is simultaneously such a cozy, warm book. Dao’s characters show their love for one another through baked goods (I approve!) and the novel’s sensory descriptions of molasses cookies, ginger cakes, and steaming tea are truly lovely. The settings, descriptions, and character relationships are where the book shines. Overall, Broken Wish is the literary equivalent of a delightful fall bonfire (with magical s’mores!) 

Dao has had great success in writing protagonists with diverse personalities. Her debut novel, Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, chronicled the rise of a ruthless, fascinating queen, Xifeng, who couldn’t be more different than Broken Wish’s perpetually optimistic Elva. Yet Dao excelled in writing both girls; I loved the fact that Elva grew as a character without losing her positive, genuine nature. Dao’s books feature women who are outwardly strong, inwardly brave, and everything in between, and I’m here for it. Feminist fairytales rule. 

On that note, Broken Wish honors classic folklore, but it also celebrates people who don’t fall under historic fairytale archetypes. One of my favorite characters in the book was Cay, Elva’s younger brother who adores embroidery, exploration, and farm work. His versatile personality reflects one of Broken Wish’s strengths: the novel finds humanity in characters whom traditional fairytales may have been left one-dimensional.

I say cheers to complex witches, heroines, sorceresses, and mortals, yes?

xx

lulu

October Book Round-Up

Hi friends,

I’ve missed you all!! My school transitioned to hybrid learning this past month, and I’ve been adjusting to the new schedule. I’m happy to have found some time to blog though — there’s lots to catch up on!

It snowed where I live this past weekend, and, while I have been listening to Kacey Musgraves’ Christmas album on repeat for weeks already, I was not prepared for such a drastic change in weather. So, today — though turtleneck sweaters, chocolate cream pie, and boatloads of cranberry sauce are on the horizon — I’m going to revel in orange leaves and wicked spells and take a look back on my recent October reads. We’ve still got spooky witches and magic doorways to talk about!

You can check out my October reading round-up below. Be sure to let me know what you’re currently reading or what you’ve finished, too! Recommendations are always welcome.

I continued my love affair with Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s work this month (I have her entire bibliography on hold at various libraries!!) with the 1920s-set Gods of Jade and Shadow. The book honors and incorporates Mexican folklore, and its central relationship is so lovely, I haven’t stopped thinking about it for weeks. Plus, the clothes are super glam.

My birthday was in October, and I was lucky enough to receive some new books as gifts! Among these was Leigh Bardugo’s The Lives of Saints, which has beautiful art and prose (though I would expect nothing less from everyone’s favorite witch-aunt/author!), as well as Alice Oehr’s The Art of Cake. I definitely recommend learning the history of the Grishaverse and croquembouche all at once — it’s a fascinating (and tasty!) endeavor.

I got into the spooky spirit this Halloween season with Seanan McGuire’s delightfully-weird Wayward Children series! The first two novellas, Every Heart a Doorway and Down Among the Sticks and Bones ask what happens to children after they return from magical realms and fantastical worlds. The books are fast and insightful, heart-warming yet dark. They’re also totally worth your time.

Finally, I finished things off with Julie C. Dao’s latest offering, Broken Wish. It’s the first in a series to be written by four popular YA authors, and I loved how Dao both paid tribute to classic fairytales and crafted an original, feminist-tinged story. Curses and witches make for perfect October reading!

What books did you read last month?

xx

lulu

August Book Round-Up

Hi friends!!

It’s September! Which means it’s almost fall! Yay!

I adore the cooler weather, spooky stories, and Dave Malloy music that accompany autumn, but I also feel like summer blew by. Whew.

Today though, we’re staying in the realm of ice cream cones, mini dresses, and sunshine. I’m looking back at the books I read in August, and while I didn’t get around to as many books I hoped to this summer, I did discover some of my new favorite novels. There were haunted mansions, talking gorillas, and fiddles galore!

You can check out the books I read last month, plus some brief thoughts, below.

Atonement was one of my summer reading assignments for school, and I was enamored with McEwan’s classical use of language! The book is an interesting treatise on the nature of writing, though the middle section – describing a soldier’s life during WWII in great detail – wasn’t my cup of tea.

This was my second time reading Americanah, and Adichie’s novel is well worth revisiting! It was a summer reading assignment as well, and I really enjoyed analyzing my favorite passages and quotes. I’m eager to pick up Half of a Yellow Sun, too.

Mexican Gothic, I think, is one of my favorite books ever. Noemí is such a stylish, witty protagonist, and the mystery freaked. me. out. As the title suggests, things get Jane Eyre-style spooky. I won’t spoil. But it’s real twisty. (And have you seen the accompanying paper doll? Silvia Moreno-Garcia understands my desire for literary-based crafts and I appreciate it. I also recommend you check out her FAQ on Goodreads, in which she explains how Mexican Gothic calls out HP Lovecraft and Arthur Conan Doyle on their racism.)

I mentioned how much I enjoyed The One and Only Bob a couple posts ago, but I really do love Katherine Applegate’s verse-like writing and canine protagonist. It’s a heartwarming story, and a fitting follow-up to The One and Only Ivan. Both reduced me to a big mass of tears.

After loving The Downstairs Girl and Outrun the Moon, I checked out Stacey Lee’s debut novel, Under a Painted Sky. It skews to the younger side of YA, yet I’m sure it would please history buffs of any age! I really appreciated the novel’s central friendship; Sammy and Annamae were so freakin’ cool. Plus, it’s a diverse western! Stacey Lee is the best.

What books did you read this August?

xx

lulu

Currently Loving | May 3 – 10

Happy Mother’s Day everyone! I’m enjoying some warmer weather and sunshine this Sunday, while also catching up on schoolwork, reading, and (best of all!) baking. How about you?

Here are the books, songs, and other media that caught my eye this week…

Joan of Arc on the Dance Floor” by Aly & AJ | I’ve been listening to “Potential Breakup Song” on a constant loop since 2007. I’m giving that classic a rest, though, to enjoy Aly and AJ Michalka’s newest single. “Joan of Arc” is a pop banger, with electric beats and dark, cool-girl lyrics. It’s like you’re at a club, but that club also happens to be a graveyard. Dance on, everyone. 

The Borgias | Just when I think I’ve exhausted the backlog of soap-y TV period dramas, a new one always finds its way into my Netflix queue. In the same vein as Reign and The Tudors, The Borgias (2013) is a sexy, scandalous take on the Renaissance papacy. The show is nowhere near historically accurate, nor is it always very good. But it’s always pretty, always twist-y, and I can’t stop watching.  

Home Cooking Podcast | The West Wing Weekly won my podcast heart, so I was delighted to hear that former TWWW host Hrishi Hirway was teaming up with professional chef Samin Nosrat to produce a 4-part audio miniseries. Armed with expert knowledge and top-notch puns, the pair answers listeners’ questions about cooking during quarantine. It’s very inspiring; thanks to Samin, I made a medieval precursor to eggnog!

Mothers Before, edited by Edan Lepucki | I read an excerpt from Mothers Before earlier this week on The Cut, and though I haven’t been able to get my hands on the full book, it won a place on my “to-read” list for sure. The collection of essays and photos is so moving (and timely, considering today’s celebrations!)

Supernova by Marissa Meyer | I adore Marissa Meyer’s books. They’re dramatic. They’re fluffy. They’re usually too long. Fittingly, the conclusion to her Renegades trilogy gave me everything I wanted: superhero action, cheesy romance, and science fiction fun. It was great.

what things did you watch, read, or listen to this week?

xx

lulu

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