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: I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Ok y’all! Big round of applause for completing the first book of 2023 for me! Full disclosure; this book was on the shorter side so I was able to listen to it whenever I had a free moment so , like, while driving and multitasking! I love audiobooks because they allow me to devour a story while doing other things too! I kept seeing this title splattered all over Goodreads last year and my daughter loved ICarly and Sam and Cat growing up so I said….why not? I listened to the audiobook because the author narrates it so you are literally hearing their own story with their own voice….I love that! Anywho, on to the review!

  • Format: Audiobook
  • Length: 6 hours 26 minutes
  • How I Discovered This Book: Highly Rated and Recommended on Goodreads
  • How I Acquired: Audible Monthly Credit
  • Date Started: 01/03/2023
  • Date Finished: 01/10/2023

Whew! Kudos to Jennette for being so candid and brave in telling her story. I chose the Audiobook edition because I prefer to hear people’s personal stories in their own voice….literally….if possible. It just adds the personal touch to it even more. I must say, Jennette read her book, talking in a fast pace so there were times I had to re-listen to parts to make sure I heard everything correctly.

Her story is a heartbreaking one but it is told with a candor and bluntness that would often times catch me by surprise. The way she talks about her abuse or certain experiences with a straight forward, nonchalant tone as she drops a bombshell on you, definitely makes your eyebrows go up at times. I wouldn’t say this book is hilarious, especially given its topics but there is definitely a tone of Gallows Humor throughout but it adds to the context of where she is coming from recalling these times in her life. The Gallows Humor helps drive home the feelings of self-loathing and emptiness she felt so I think it is an important ingredient in the storytelling.

I do think this book should come with a trigger warning for those who suffer or have suffered from eating disorders, narcissistic parents etc. So for readers with those backgrounds, please read with caution. A lot of the abuse at the hands of her narcissistic mother just really blew my mind. As a mom, I couldn’t even fathom some of the things that her mother did to her so it was heartbreaking to listen to. I think and hope writing this book was truly cathartic for Jennette because as a mom, my 17 year old daughter grew up watching ICarly and Sam and Cat. They were 2 of her favorite shows and I would laugh along with my daughter while she watched. I think this book is a good example of “you never really know what goes on behind closed doors.” Just because a young, pretty actress seems to come from a place of privilege and has a dream life……doesn’t necessarily mean she really does.

I really like how Jennette wraps the book up…not with a pretty bow but with the simple fact that there is no fairytale ending and she is fully aware that she is a work in progress with her healing. On that note, I hope Jennette embraces her life and its potential and continues to work towards the life she wants and her healing. I do recommend listening to this one simply because she is sharing her story…the good, bad and really ugly and at the end of the day, she is just a human like the rest of us….just trying to be her authentic, true and vulnerable self. All the while, embracing and acknowledging her inner struggles and slipups sometimes while still working towards healing each day. It doesn’t get much more real or human than that. P.S. I’m glad her mom died too…..SMH!