Review: Nocturne by Alyssa Wees

Rating: 4 out of 5.
  • Format: E-Book
  • Length: 240 pages
  • How I Discovered This Book: Browsing through NetGalley
  • How I Acquired This Book: Many Thanks to Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Del Rey for the Advanced Reader Copy via NetGalley
  • Date: Published: February 21, 2023
  • Date Started: January 24, 2023
  • Date Finished: February 20, 2023

Thanks to Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Del Rey for the Advanced Reader Copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

In this haunting, lyrical fantasy set in 1930s Chicago, a talented ballerina finds herself torn between her dreams and her desires when she’s pursued by a secretive patron who may be more than he seems.

Growing up in Chicago’s Little Sicily in the years following the Great War, Grace Dragotta has always wanted to be a ballerina, ever since she first peered through the windows of the Near North Ballet Company. So when Grace is orphaned, she chooses the ballet as her home, imagining herself forever ensconced in a transcendent world of light and beauty so different from her poor, immigrant upbringing.

Years later, with the Great Depression in full swing, Grace has become the company’s new prima ballerina—though achieving her long-held dream is not the triumph she once envisioned. Time and familiarity have tarnished that shining vision, and her new position means the loss of her best friend in the world. Then she attracts the attention of the enigmatic Master La Rosa as her personal patron, and realizes the world is not as small or constricted as she had come to fear.

Who is her mysterious patron, and what does he want from her? As Grace begins to unlock the Master’s secrets, she discovers that there is beauty in darkness as well as light, finds that true friendship cannot be broken by time or distance, and realizes there may be another way entirely to achieve the transcendence she has always sought.

Book Synopsis – NetGalley

Wow, first of all, I just want share that the cover is simply breathtaking with nice little Easter eggs from the story illustrated within it. Now, onto the story! The lyrical prose is so eloquently written and I know that may not be everyone’s cup of tea but I thoroughly enjoyed it as it gave the story a breath of descriptive, fresh air. It transports the reader’s senses (all 5 of them) along with the reader throughout the book. This gives the story and its characters atmospheric texture.

The first half of the book lays the foundation of the plot with the real-world side of things then in the second half, the reader is transported into the magical. I can greatly appreciate the author’s background in ballet (as I have none.) I love myths and fantasy and stories of the seemingly ordinary become extraordinary and finding their strength within. This story fit the bill for that especially with a female lead character. I would highly recommend for fantasy / mythology lovers, as well as, those with backgrounds in dance and performance arts that love a little plot twist and magic mixed in. The romance in the book is very mild and suitable for younger readers.

I loved the strong female connection between Grace and Emilia and how the lean into each other during difficult and joyous times. Remember, sometimes family is the people you choose! I also love the themes of how darkness can be beautiful and feel like home as well as light and how the duality can exist in all of us.

Overall, this book was beautifully written and I enjoyed the premise and the author did a wonderful job of portraying the mythic themes of love, loss, friendship, dance, music and finding one’s true strength within.

Below is a hauntingly beautiful playlist that was compiled by Random House Books on Spotify. Hopefully, this can give you some melodic enhancement as you read! Enjoy!

Review: Reminders of Him by Colleen Hoover

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
Spice Level

    Coming in at Book #3 read in 2023 is Reminders of Him by Colleen Hoover! In the current bookish world, if you haven’t heard of or seen a book by Colleen Hoover by now, you may be living under a rock. She is plastered all over BookTok and Bookstagram and best sellers lists, so I had to find out what the big deal was. Another runover from 2022 to 2023. This was my first introduction to a CoHo book so let’s dive into it!

    • Format: Audiobook and E-Book
    • Length: 10 Hours and 17 Minutes / 335 pages
    • How I Discovered This Book: CoHo is highly, highly recommended on BookTok and Bookstagram and a friend and co-worker also recommended her.
    • How I acquired: Thank you to Kindle Unlimited! This was Read and Listen! I love that feature!
    • Date Published: January 18, 2022
    • Date Started: Dec 21, 2022
    • Date Finished: Jan 22, 2023

    This is the story of a young mother named Kenna, who is back in a small town after her whole world fell apart 5 years prior. She had a rough childhood and just when things start to look up, her life is completely upended. She just got out of prison after the death of her boyfriend and is looking to start over. It is also the story of a guy named Ledger who befriends Kenna and naturally, sparks fly….pretty hot, but there is so much that complicates matters between them as it turns out, Ledger is the best friend of her deceased boyfriend. This is not a meet cute story where things go swimmingly. There are others involved that complicate this dynamic, as well. I enjoyed the pace and flow of the story as it gives you more of Kenna’s backstory piece by piece instead of shoved at you all at once. I liked that because it keeps you coming back for more.

    In the beginning, after I found out the basic gist of the plot, I’m thinking, “How is CoHo going to make this all wrap up neatly at the end and it be believable?” Let me just say that she pulls it off. I like that she allows the characters to be realistic and messy and complicated. No Mary Sue’s here. The writing style is pretty straight forward, no eloquent prose or complex wording but the author does a pretty good job of relaying the complexities of judging others’ too soon and also trying to understand others’ point of views. I think Ms. Hoover did a great job with Kenna’s letter writing and thought processes as she tries to make sense of everything and see things from other people’s perspective and not just dwelling in her own character’s misery. I honestly believe the world itself could use more of that understanding from other perspectives because then it would allow for more forgiveness and empathy, just as the characters in this novel try to navigate. There was one hitch with Ms. Hoover’s writing style from the male’s perspective. I just wasn’t buying phrases in Ledger’s mind about the color of Kenna’s hair and her smell when he first meets her. I’m not altogether too sure that guys really thing like that but then again, I could be totally off base. I alternated between reading and listening to the audiobook. The narration was decent. The male narrator sounded so intense, like he should be narrating the preview to some action movie, à la Die Hard or Terminator etc. The female who narrated Kenna’s part had a very soft and articulate voice.

    This book is about heartbreaking events that alter life as you know it forever. It is about choices that were made and perhaps not wisely so. It is about finding forgiveness in almost unforgivable circumstances. It is about forgiving yourself in almost unforgivable circumstances. It is about redemption and hope. It is about how we do things out of love and loyalty but don’t realize how those choices can have damaging effects. There were moments when I felt the sting of tears so make sure to have some tissues handy just in case. I will leave with some pretty poignant quotes from the book that stood out to me and hopefully intrigue you to pick up the book. All in all, not a bad introduction to Colleen Hoover. I look forward to reading some more of her work in the future.

    There is a super neat playlist that Ledger makes for Kenna and someone was cool enough to compile it on Spotify so here it is!
    “I take a drink of my coffee and close my eyes and cry because life can be so fucking cruel and hard, and I’ve wanted to quit living it so many times, but then moments like these remind me that happiness isn’t some permanent thing we’re all trying to achieve in life, it’s merely a thing that shows up every now and then, sometimes in tiny doses that are just substantial enough to keep us going.”
    ― Colleen Hoover, Reminders of Him
    *This hit hard!*
    “It proves that time, distance, and devastation allow people enough
    opportunity to craft villains out of people they don’t even know.”
    ― Colleen Hoover, Reminders of Him
    *It certainly does!*
    “Grudges are heavy, but for the people hurting the most, I suppose
    forgiveness is even heavier.”
    ― Colleen Hoover, Reminders of Him
    *That is deep!*
    “Sometimes I wonder if we’re all born with equal amounts of good and
    evil. What if no one person is more or less malevolent than another, and that
    we all just release our bad at different times, in different ways?”
    ― Colleen Hoover, Reminders of Him
    *We are all capable of both for sure!*
    “We’re all just a bunch of sad people doing what we have to do to make it until tomorrow.”
    ― Colleen Hoover, Reminders of Him
    *True Story....some days*