**Welcome to Weekly Reads! Each Monday I’ll share reviews for my most recent reads. For more reviews, please visit my page, The Reads: From A to Z.**
Leaves are actually falling here in Houston, I can’t believe it! Usually our fall season is tragically late, but this year it seems to be right on schedule. In case you didn’t know, the first official day of fall is this Thursday, September 22nd – time to bust out the pumpkin spice!
Fall decorating is going into full effect this coming weekend, and there might even be some cookie decorating! Do you have any favorite fall crafts?
To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey
Commissioned to explore and navigate the impassable Wolverine River across the uncharted wilds of the Alaskan frontier, Lieutenant Colonel Allen Forrester sets off with a small group of men to face the unknown. Leaving his newly wed wife alone and with child, his journey is marked with uncertainty from the start, a dread only deepened by his witness to inexplicable acts of the spirits who haunt the canyon beyond.
“But what makes the questions of cultural loss the most uncomfortable, and difficult for me to address, are the inherent definitions built into it. If a group of people is described as existing in a state of loss, it is necessarily therefore lesser, and those that took greater. It’s such a limiting and two-dimensional idea. Who defines wealth and success? How can we say this person is valued less or more, is better or worse, because they are a part of one culture or another, and why would we want to?”
Loosely based on the party led by Lieutenant Henry Tureman Allen in 1885, very little was known about Alaska prior to his exploration. So much so, the U.S. purchase of Alaska from Russia became known as Seward’s Folly, for what value could this vast wasteland hold? Though the story is mostly fiction, it also follows much of the rich history of Alaska, from its vast wilderness to its indigenous cultures. It’s truly fascinating to see the exchanges between the men and the natives as they struggle to understand one another, followed by Forrester’s reports and their mixed reception by the American press. In one part of the novel, Forrester is walking the outskirts of the native village they’re staying at, but as he crests a certain peak, he finds himself bombarded and led away. He must be a captive, he thinks….but as it turns out, he was walking the wrong way, and into danger, and they were merely directing him to the correct path. It’s incredible how the simplest of exchanges can be so complicated when a common language hasn’t yet been established, how each movement can take on new meaning.
“That is excitement. We catch only glimpses, a burst of movement, a flap of wings, yet it is life itself beating at shadow’s edge. It is the unfolding of potential; all of what we might experience and see and learn awaits us.”
Part history, part love-story, and part natural wonder, each layer of the story will leave you truly breathless. The heart of the novel is the exploration into the unknown – as Forrester and his men journey deeper into the canyon, they’ll leave all traces of their modern world behind for the harsh realities of the wilderness. They’ll face hunger, despair, snow storms, and dangerous temperatures, relying on the hope that the natives they’ll encounter will be friendly, and willing to help. Each step of the way, the men are haunted by an old man, a puckering raven that cares only to expose the secrets of nature and the will of the forest, sending them into the mythological world of the indigenous peoples they meet. From the mysterious birth of a motherless child, who grows to be a great man among his people, to the fierce independence of women who conceal themselves as geese – each occurrence is interwoven so deeply into the natural world around them, that it must be real. The bellowing spirits of the canyon beating upon them in the midst of the snowstorm…the mysterious sickness that overcomes them after eating the medicine man’s food…they’ve witnessed it all, leaving the reader to deicide for themselves, reeling with inspiration and natural wonder.
Rating: 4 Stars Goodreads
The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
An epic new middle grade fantasy about an enmagicked young girl raised by an old witch, a bog monster a perfectly tiny dragon who must learn to control the magic buried within. Every year, the people of the Protectorate leave an offering to the witch of the woods: the youngest child of the realm, and every year, the witch finds an abandoned baby in the same peculiar spot. Taking the child under her wing and to a loving new family, each year, she feeds the forgotten babe by starlight, until one year, she mistakenly pulls moonlight instead, filling the child with an extraordinary power. As the child’s magic grows, so is it drained from the witch, and with Luna’s power unchecked, the witch decides to lock it away until the child is old enough to understand her lessons, until she’s ready to live without her loving new grandmother.
“Hope and light and motion, her soul whispered. Hope and formation and fusion, Hope and heat and accretion. The miracle of gravity. The miracle of transformation. Each precious thing is destroyed and each precious thing is saved. Hope, hope, hope.”
A beautifully written and inspiring coming of age story, I was completely charmed by The Girl Who Drank the Moon – between the teeny tiny dragon who always wants to play and the cranky old bog monster that instantly turns to mush with one smile from Luna, each character is perfectly delightful. Full of wisdom and clever humor, it’s a fairy tale story for any age, but it could be a little long for someone just starting the middle grade level, but it’s a story about stories and not a word is gone to waste. A perfect read for the coming season!
Rating: 4 Stars Goodreads
What have you been reading lately?