Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang

  • Title:  Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance
  • Author:  Ruth Emmie Lang
  • Genre:  Fantasy; Magical Realism
  • Pages:  352
  • Publication date:  November 7, 2017 – St. Martin’s Press
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley

Description:  Orphaned, raised by wolves, and the proud owner of a horned pig named Merlin, Weylyn Grey knew he wasn’t like other people. But when he single-handedly stopped that tornado on a stormy Christmas day in Oklahoma, he realized just how different he actually was.

As amazing as these powers may appear, they tend to manifest themselves at inopportune times and places, jeopardizing not only his own life, but the life of Mary, the woman he loves.

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance tells the story of Weylyn Grey’s life from the perspectives of the people who knew him, loved him, and even a few who thought he was just plain weird. Although he doesn’t stay in any of their lives for long, he leaves each of them with a story to tell: great storms that evaporate into thin air; fireflies that make phosphorescent honey; a house filled with spider webs and the strange man who inhabits it.

There is one story, however, that Weylyn wishes he could change: his own. But first he has to muster enough courage to knock on Mary’s front door. (publisher)

My take:  When I began reading Ruth Emmie Lang’s debut novel I felt a bit lost and unsure if I was the intended audience. But not one who gives up on a book easily, I kept reading. And I’m so happy I did. It’s about a boy who lived in a forest with wolves and his journey through life. It’s about the people (and the animals) he meets along the way. It’s about human nature, the ability to be kind, the willingness to be kind, and seeking and embracing the possibilities life has to offer. I know this is kind of scattered and brief but allow me to end by saying I finished reading the novel with that delicious feeling of wishing it could go on and on. I love when that happens. It’s on my 2017 Favorites List, for sure.


Advance Praise:

“Ruth Emmie Lang dazzles with her inventive and magical debut. Told with brains and heart, Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance introduces a protagonist who is both mythical and relatable. Weylyn Grey leaves a lasting impression on everyone he meets, and he will on readers too.” —Michelle GableNew York Times bestselling author of A Paris Apartment, I’ll See You in Paris, and The Book of Summer

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance is a brilliant button on the coat of American magical realism. Think Charlotte’s Web for grown-ups who, like Weylyn Grey, have their own stories of being different, feared, brave, and loved.” —Mo Daviau, author of Every Anxious Wave

“Ruth Emmie Lang’s prose has the earthy warmth of a campfire story, best enjoyed in the woods and under the stars. Her contemporary spin on the American folktale, Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance, bristles with charm and curiosity, and its oddball hero, Weylyn Grey, will make you want to follow him into the forest.” —Winston GroomNew York Times bestselling author of Forrest Gump

“A wholly original and superbly crafted work of art, Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance is a masterpiece of the imagination. Intelligent, witty, and brave, Ruth Emmie Lang takes us on an uplifting and unforgettable adventure of love, magic, friendship and fate. An extraordinary work of fiction by a truly gifted author. ” —Lori Nelson SpielmanNew York Times bestselling author of The Life List and Sweet Forgiveness 


 

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The Secret Ingredient of Wishes by Susan Bishop Crispell

  • the secret ingredient of wishesTitle:  The Secret Ingredient of Wishes: A Novel
  • Author:  Susan Bishop Crispell
  • Genre:  Women’s Fiction; Magical Realism
  • Pages:  304
  • Published:  September 2016 – Thomas Dunne Books
  • Source:  Publisher

Description:  26-year-old Rachel Monroe has spent her whole life trying to keep a very unusual secret: she can make wishes come true. And sometimes the consequences are disastrous. So when Rachel accidentally grants an outlandish wish for the first time in years, she decides it’s time to leave her hometown—and her past—behind for good. 

The Cake Therapist by Judith Fertig – PLUS a two book US Giveaway

  • the cake therapist (6:2 Berkley)Title:  The Cake Therapist: A novel
  • Author:  Judith Fertig
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction; Magical Realism
  • Published:  June 2015 – Berkley Trade
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  Claire “Neely” O’Neill is an extraordinarily talented pastry chef.  But at a time when her life outside her kitchen seems to be falling apart, Neely moves back to her small Midwestern hometown from NYC to open a bakery and work through the heartache that caused her to flee her life in New York. The bakery, Rainbow Cake, named after her signature ROYGBIV confection, is perfect, intimate, and just what she’s always dreamed of. 

But Neely has a special gift beyond making the perfect Rainbow Cake: while every great chef can taste shimmering, elusive flavors that most of us miss, Neely can “taste” feelings—cinnamon makes you remember; plum is pleased with itself; orange is a wake-up call. When flavor and feeling give Neely a glimpse of someone’s inner self, she can customize her creations to help that person celebrate love, overcome fear, even mourn a devastating loss.
 

As she meets her new customers, Neely has a sense of secrets, some dark, some perhaps with tempting possibilities. A recurring flavor of alarming intensity signals to her perfect palate a long-ago story that must be told.  As she tastes her way through others’ mysterious pasts, she largely ignores the pain and uncertainty in her own.  Neely has always been able to help everyone else, but getting to the end of this story may be just what she needs to help herself.   (publisher)


My take:  If you enjoy what I like to call foodie fiction I think you’ll like The Cake Therapist. Judith Fertig combined characters, settings and problems of everyday people all resulting in a delicious novel. And she added a dash of magical realism that made for an even tastier story.
I loved the quietness of the novel – even in times of big, life-changing events. It seemed as though one of the characters (Sr. Agnes) was reading to me. Some pretty awful things happened but the tone of Fertig’s writing always kept me turning the pages. Sometimes when that happens in a novel I have to put the book down for a while. That didn’t happen once in The Cake Therapist.
My favorite character was Neely. She had such a positive, upbeat attitude that she made the people around her even better – as well as her baked goods. The Cake Therapist has two storylines that eventually come together, thanks to Neely. The possibility of finding closure and a new beginning made this novel a satisfying read. Recommended.

About the author:

Cookbook author Judith Fertig grew up in the Midwest, went to La Varenne Ecole de Cuisine in Paris and The Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and now lives in Kansas City. Described by Saveur Magazine as a “heartland cookbook icon,” Fertig writes cookbooks that reflect her love of bread, baking, barbecue, and the fabulous foods of the Heartland.

Fertig’s food and lifestyle writing has appeared in more than a dozen publications, including Bon Appetit, Saveur and The New York Times. You can read some of her cookbooks like novels–the fabulously photographed Heartland, the award-winning and James Beard Awards-nominated Prairie Home Cooking (a “tour de force,” says Saveur), the encylopedic All-American Desserts, and Prairie Home Breads. Her IACP Cookbook Award-winning The Back in the Swing Cookbook (with Barbara C.Unell) takes you on a delicious daily journey to get you back in the swing after breast cancer.


US Giveaway
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First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen

  • First Frost (1:20:15)Title:  First Frost
  • Series:  Waverly family #2
  • Author:  Sarah Addison Allen
  • Genre:  Magical Realism; Contemporary Fiction
  • Pub. Date:  Jan. 20, 2015 – St. Martin’s Press
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  From the New York Times bestselling author of GARDEN SPELLS comes a story of the Waverley family, in a novel as sparkling as the first dusting of frost on new-fallen leaves…

It’s October in Bascom, North Carolina, and autumn will not go quietly.  As temperatures drop and leaves begin to turn, the Waverley women are made restless by the whims of their mischievous apple tree… and all the magic that swirls around it. But this year, first frost has much more in store.  (partial synopsis from the publisher)

My take:  First Frost picks up ten years after we left the Waverly family in Garden Spells. Once again Sarah Addison Allen enchanted me with her characters, setting, and story.

Claire has a successful candy business but longs for something more. She’s just not sure what that might be.

Sydney also has a longing. She wants to have a baby with her husband. All attempts have failed and she’s not sure what to do. Also on her mind is daughter Bay, now a high school student. Sydney worries that Bay will repeat mistakes from her own past and wonders if she can prevent that from happening.

One day a stranger arrives in town bringing with him the goal of changing things for a certain Waverly. Will he be successful? No spoilers here!

As usual, I was charmed by Sarah Addison Allen’s storytelling. It’s a tale about allowing yourself to be who you know you are and not what others say you should be. I loved it all and hope for another Waverly story someday soon.

Note:  If you haven’t had the pleasure of reading Garden Spells I recommend you do so before First Frost. You’ll meet the Waverlys and discover their secrets and gifts from the beginning. 

The Glass Kitchen by Linda Francis Lee

the glass kitchen (July)

  • Title:  The Glass Kitchen
  • Author:  Linda Francis Lee
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  June 2014 – St. Martin’s Press
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis: Portia Cuthcart and her two sisters find their way from Texas to Manhattan over the years, the heiresses to a dilapidated brownstone on the Upper West Side.  Portia is running from a bad divorce and the knowledge that she has always been a little bit different, a little bit strange:  the talented cook who knew exactly what to serve on what occasion, even to the point of predicting events that hadn’t even happened yet.  But she doesn’t cook anymore.  She has tamped down this “knowing.”  It has caused her way too many problems.  When she meets twelve-year-old Ariel Kane, she sees a girl in desperate need of a mother and a family in dire need of fried chicken, biscuits, and strawberry rhubarb pie.  Widowed Gabriel Kane has his hands full with two daughters on the cusp of womanhood, plus the Kane family have so many secrets and rivalries of their own.  Ariel, especially, must find a way to bring them all together with the help of Portia: the non-cook, the non-believer in happy endings.  Portia, who just might have to rethink the pages of her own story and take a few chances to claim what she wants deep down inside…  (publisher)

My take:  Linda Francis Lee filled her novel with lovely and colorful characters who I couldn’t wait to get back to each time I had to stop reading. The story is rather heart-wrenching but never maudlin. I wanted to hug most of the characters at one time or another.

I loved the flavor of magical-realism woven through the novel (think Sarah Addison Allen). Portia’s “knowing” seemed to work on everyone but herself. As she slowly figured things out it made for an ending that I found sigh-worthy and left me smiling.

If you’re looking for a book that makes you happy each time you pick it up, a book about what makes a family, and a book about learning to accept oneself and others for who they truly are, you’ll want to read The Glass Kitchen.

Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen

lost lake

  • Title:  Lost Lake
  • Author:  Sarah Addison Allen
  • Genre:  Fiction; Magical Realism
  • Published:  January 2014 – St. Martin’s Press
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  Lost Lake is where Kate Pheris spent her last best summer at the age of twelve, before she learned of loneliness, and heartbreak, and loss. Now she’s all too familiar with those things, but she knows about hope too, thanks to her resilient daughter Devin, and her own willingness to start moving forward. Perhaps at Lost Lake her little girl can cling to her own childhood for just a little longer… and maybe Kate herself can rediscover something that slipped through her fingers so long ago. One after another, people find their way to Lost Lake, looking for something that they weren’t sure they needed in the first place: love, closure, a second chance, peace, a mystery solved, a heart mended. Can they find what they need before it’s too late?  (publisher)

My take:  I really liked this story about Lost Lake and the people who’ve had a connection to it over the years. They are people who’ve saved or been saved, loved and lost. They help each other realize they can find the ending they’ve hoped for instead of changing the ending to something more practical.

In her usual way, Sarah Addison Allen weaves a magical thread through her story. This time its in the form of an alligator that leaves clues for Devin, the young daughter of Kate. Devin reminds her mother of the innocence and hopefulness of her own youth. Kate’s happiest memories of her time spent at Lost Lake. Could this be the place for Devin and Kate to begin a new life?

Lost Lake is filled with quirky characters who add color and subtle depth to the story. I enjoyed them all and wasn’t ready to say goodbye as I turned the last page. Recommended to fans of Sarah Addison Allen and Southern fiction with a touch of magical realism.

The House at the End of Hope Street by Menna van Praag

  • house at the end of hope streetTitle:  The House at the End of Hope Street
  • Author:  Menna van Praag
  • Genre:  Women’s Fiction; Magical Realism
  • Published:  April 2013 – Pamela Dorman Books
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  Distraught that her academic career has stalled, Alba is walking through her hometown of Cambridge, England, when she finds herself in front of a house she’s never seen before, 11 Hope Street. A beautiful older woman named Peggy greets her and invites her to stay, on the house’s usual conditions: she has ninety-nine nights to turn her life around. With nothing left to lose, Alba takes a chance and moves in.

She soon discovers that this is no ordinary house. Past residents have included Virginia Woolf and Dorothy Parker, who, after receiving the assistance they needed, hung around to help newcomers—literally, in talking portraits on the wall. As she escapes into this new world, Alba begins a journey that will heal her wounds—and maybe even save her life. (publisher)

My take:  Feeling devastated and betrayed by recent events in her life Alba is surprised to find herself invited to live in a house where the walls breathe,  famous women in photos speak, converse even, and a ghost counsels her from the kitchen sink. Ahh magical realism, how fun you are to read 🙂  Fun and entertaining but revolving around serious issues of Alba and a few of her housemates. One woman is running from a tragic event in her life. Actually, her entire life was tragic. Another woman is almost forty and afraid her chance at finding love and having a child is slipping away. Almost every character in the book is dealing with some emotional issue.

The wise women on the walls (all former residents of the house) give advice or at least their opinions and it’s up to the living residents to either take the advice or not – to live life in the here and now – not the past. They need to figure out what they want to do moving forward and start working toward it.

I enjoyed this quirky, magical tale and recommend it to fans of the genre.