The Friday 56: Blanca & Roja

The Friday 56The Friday 56 is a weekly blog meme hosted by Freda’s Voice. Join us every Friday and share an excerpt from a book you’ve been reading.

Rules:

*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader.
*Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grab you.
*Post it.
*Add your (url) post here in Linky. Add the post url, not your blog url. It’s that simple.

**Be sure to leave a link to your Friday 56 post in the comments!**

“The ache bloomed into pain.

I tried to get out of the room before I doubled over.

‘You okay?’ Yearling called after me.

I stumbled to the kitchen window.

A thick slice of moon hung in the sky, the outer edge hard and solid, the inner light translucent, like an orange segment. Halfway between last quarter and crescent.

Es la luna, mija, my grandmother said every month when this happened. It pulls at you.”

Anna-Marie McLemore’s Blanca & Roja, is one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read. It combines two of my favorite kinds of stories: magical realism and fairy tale retellings. One of the most unique aspects of this novel is McLemore introduces a character who has really bad periods (as shown in this excerpt) and I loved how open and honest this portrayal is. You can read my review of this one here. Cover is linked to Goodreads. Excerpt from page 156.

From the Goodreads Synopsis:

      “The biggest lie of all is the story you think you already know.
      The del Cisne girls have never just been sisters; they’re also rivals, Blanca as obedient and graceful as Roja is vicious and manipulative. They know that, because of a generations-old spell, their family is bound to a bevy of swans deep in the woods. They know that, one day, the swans will pull them into a dangerous game that will leave one of them a girl, and trap the other in the body of a swan.
      But when two local boys become drawn into the game, the swans’ spell intertwines with the strange and unpredictable magic lacing the woods, and all four of their fates depend on facing truths that could either save or destroy them. Blanca & Roja is the captivating story of sisters, friendship, love, hatred, and the price we pay to protect our hearts.”

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ARC Review: Blanca & Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore

Title: Blanca & Roja
Author: Anna-Marie McLemore
Series: N/A
Pages: 384
Publisher:  Feiwel & Friends
Release Date: October 9th 2018
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher which does not influence my review*

      “The biggest lie of all is the story you think you already know.
      The del Cisne girls have never just been sisters; they’re also rivals, Blanca as obedient and graceful as Roja is vicious and manipulative. They know that, because of a generations-old spell, their family is bound to a bevy of swans deep in the woods. They know that, one day, the swans will pull them into a dangerous game that will leave one of them a girl, and trap the other in the body of a swan.
      But when two local boys become drawn into the game, the swans’ spell intertwines with the strange and unpredictable magic lacing the woods, and all four of their fates depend on facing truths that could either save or destroy them. Blanca & Roja is the captivating story of sisters, friendship, love, hatred, and the price we pay to protect our hearts.”

swirl (2)

I’ve been enamored with Anna-Marie McLemore’s writing since her debut The Weight of Feathers. With each novel she has written, I have fallen even more in love, not with just her words but with her ability to weave together stories where sadness and hope, magic and reality meet as though they were two sides of the same coin. In Blanca & Roja, a novel inspired by the fairy tale Snow-White and Rose-Red, two sisters have grown up knowing that a bargain made by their ancestor means one day the los cisnes, the swans, will come to claim one of them as their own, as they have done with each generation of their family. Their love for one another has kept them from falling into the same trap sisters before them have, allowing the fear of being taken from this world to overpower their love for one another. The del Cisne girls have always been viewed by outsiders as something more akin to witches, these strange and unknowable sisters who live in the woods and whose very existence they blame whenever anything goes wrong in town. With each passing day los cisnes do not come to claim one of them, Blanca and Roja grow more confident that they have outsmarted them. But the swans are not to be cheated and when two boys disappear into the woods, they are inexplicable lured into a story that could break both them and the de Cisne sisters.

Blanca & Roja alternates between four different perspectives: the del Cisne sisters and the two boys whose stories collide with theirs. Blanca and Roja are as different as night and day. Blanca has always been viewed as the more gentle of the two, her golden hair and lighter skin have made it easier for her to move around in the world, for people to see her as otherworldly and blessed, rather than feared. She instinctively protects her younger sister, wanting to save her from being taken by los cisnes. Blanca has done her best to keep her sister close, to not allow any discord to grow between them. She’s tried to harden her edges, to make herself a little more like her sister while also helping Roja become softer, so when los cisnes comes to claim one of them, the sisters would be too much alike for the swans to lay claim to either. But her fear that Roja has already been marked as the “bad” sister leads her to decisions that will inevitably cause a rift between the two. Roja has never been an easy child. When she was younger her temper always got the better of her. Though prized by her father for her unwavering curiosity, there aren’t many others who’ve seen Roja as anything other than a foil to her sister. Unlike Blanca, Roja has all but accepted that she will be the sister taken. She knows that fairy tale stories are never about the darker of the two sisters, the one with brown skin and sharp edges. Both sisters are desperate to save the other, but secrets have a way of sowing distrust and when you grow up being told you are only allowed to be one thing while your sister is another, resentment inevitable follows.

This is as much Page Ashby and Barclay Holt’s story as it is the title characters’. Page is non-binary and has fought to claim himself in a world where everyone wants to attach one name to him and be done with it. Barclay becomes the first person to accept Page as he is, but it is Blanca who becomes the first person to ask. Page does not have a preference when it comes to pronouns, sometimes “he” feels right and sometimes “she” (McLemore uses both pronouns for Page throughout the novel), the most important thing for Page is that people don’t box him in. Page and Blanca are drawn to one another, but also doomed from the very beginning because like Roja, Page knows that people like him do not get to be princes in fairy tale stories. Barclay has grown up in a family where loyalty to your blood is placed above all else. When he ends up in the woods, he is trying to outrun the consequences of not holding fast to this mantra. He carries a secret that he isn’t quite ready to let out, lest everything he’s ever known to be true be destroyed. Unlike Page and Blanca’s relationship, Barclay and Roja are too rough around the edges to be taken with each other so readily. They navigate around each other like wounded wolves, afraid the other won’t or will make the first move. 

Anna Marie McLemore’s Blanca & Roja has every element I’ve come to love about her novels. Her descriptions are lush, her storytelling skill unparalleled, and her ability to bring such nuanced characters to life keep me invested from page one.

5/5

★★★★★

Can’t-Wait Wednesday: Blanca & Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore


Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Tressa @ Wishful Endings where bloggers share which upcoming releases they’re most looking forward to. Join us every Wednesday and watch your TBR list multiply. Cover is linked to Goodreads.

I always struggle to come up with a favorite author, but each time Anna-Marie McLemore publishes a new novel, I get closer and closer to immediately shouting out her name when asked. McLemore’s writing always feels fairy tale like, so it’s no surprise that her upcoming release Blanca & Roja is is based on the fairy tale Snow-White and Rose-Red. I have an eARC of this one, which I am very excited to pick up.

 width=Title: Blanca & Roja
Author: Anna-Marie McLemore
Series: N/A
Pages: 384
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Release Date: October 9, 2018

      “The biggest lie of all is the story you think you already know.
      The del Cisne girls have never just been sisters; they’re also rivals, Blanca as obedient and graceful as Roja is vicious and manipulative. They know that, because of a generations-old spell, their family is bound to a bevy of swans deep in the woods. They know that, one day, the swans will pull them into a dangerous game that will leave one of them a girl, and trap the other in the body of a swan.
      But when two local boys become drawn into the game, the swans’ spell intertwines with the strange and unpredictable magic lacing the woods, and all four of their fates depend on facing truths that could either save or destroy them. Blanca & Roja is the captivating story of sisters, friendship, love, hatred, and the price we pay to protect our hearts.”

Are you participating in Can’t-Wait Wednesday or Waiting on Wednesday? Is this book on your TBR? Be sure to leave a link to your post in the comments and I’ll visit!

The Friday 56: Wild Beauty

The Friday 56The Friday 56 is a weekly blog meme hosted by Freda’s Voice. Join us every Friday and share an excerpt from a book you’ve been reading.

Rules:

*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader.
*Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grab you.
*Post it.
*Add your (url) post here in Linky. Add the post url, not your blog url. It’s that simple.

**Be sure to leave a link to your Friday 56 post in the comments!**

Azalea nodded to them. The other four took off their shoes so their feet would be silent. They rushed up the dark wood staircase and tore through Reid Briar’s things.

Estrella and Dalia threw aside clothes and cuff links, books and boar-bristle shave brushes.

“Don’t go so fast,” Gloria said. “We have to put everything back where it was.”

Anna-Marie McLemore’s Wild Beauty is one of my favorite novels of 2017. If you enjoy magical realism or even if you haven’t given it a shot, try this author’s books. I’m continually impressed and she is one of the few writers that I auto-buy. You can read my review here. Cover is linked to Goodreads.

From the Goodreads Synopsis:

      “For nearly a century, the Nomeolvides women have tended the grounds of La Pradera, the lush estate gardens that enchant guests from around the world. They’ve also hidden a tragic legacy: if they fall in love too deeply, their lovers vanish. But then, after generations of vanishings, a strange boy appears in the gardens.
      The boy is a mystery to Estrella, the Nomeolvides girl who finds him, and to her family, but he’s even more a mystery to himself; he knows nothing more about who he is or where he came from than his first name. As Estrella tries to help Fel piece together his unknown past, La Pradera leads them to secrets as dangerous as they are magical in this stunning exploration of love, loss, and family.

Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore

Title: Wild Beauty
Author: Anna-Marie McLemore
Series: N/A
Pages: 352
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Release Date: October 3rd 2017

      “For nearly a century, the Nomeolvides women have tended the grounds of La Pradera, the lush estate gardens that enchant guests from around the world. They’ve also hidden a tragic legacy: if they fall in love too deeply, their lovers vanish. But then, after generations of vanishings, a strange boy appears in the gardens.
      The boy is a mystery to Estrella, the Nomeolvides girl who finds him, and to her family, but he’s even more a mystery to himself; he knows nothing more about who he is or where he came from than his first name. As Estrella tries to help Fel piece together his unknown past, La Pradera leads them to secrets as dangerous as they are magical in this stunning exploration of love, loss, and family.

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“Fireflies lit the flowers, drawn by the damp air and mild scent of azaleas and dahlias. During the hottest summer months, Estrella and her cousins slept in the afternoons and woke at dusk, gardening by the lightning bugs’ glow.”

Anna-Marie McLemore’s Wild Beauty is as complex as it is beautiful. Estrella and her cousins are part of a long legacy of Nomeolvides women who have cultivated the La Pradera gardens for the last century. Flowers bloom and flourish under their fingertips at will, but their enchanting gift is not the only inheritance passed down from mother to daughter. For the Nomeolvides women, their love is a curse upon the men they love. They either watch them disappear, some vanishing right before their lover’s eyes, or watch them walk away, never to be heard from again. When Fel, a mysterious boy, appears in their garden with no memory of who he is, the Nomeolvides women believe his arrival may mean the return of their past lovers. But Fel’s quest to discover who he is will uncover dark truths that will change the Nomeolvides women’s lives forever.

McLemore once again dazzles with her storytelling ability. With lush and intimate descriptions, the gardens of La Pradera come to life. The setting is equal parts magical and strange. There is both darkness and light in the Nomeolvides’s world that the author is expert at exploring. The women in Wild Beauty are well-rounded and engaging. I loved how the author let’s the reader learn more about these young women as they learn about themselves. When the novel opens, Estrella and her cousins are desperate to outrun their family curse. Though history says that it is only men that disappear, none of them want to take the risk when it comes to Bay Briar. Bay has been a part of their world forever and ever since she lost her grandmother, who owned the land the Nomeolvides have cared for for generations, they feel even more protective of her. When they all discover that each of them has fallen a little in love with her, they take action, sacrificing their greatest treasures to La Pradera in exchange for Bay’s safety. McLemore focuses on the alienation these young women experience because of their gift, but she also explores how the possibility of finding love can alienate them from one another. It’s a consequence predicated on the idea that love is something that will eventually caused them pain.

Fel adds another wrinkle to the story. The ease at which the Nomeolvides women welcome him into their family filled me with so much affection for them. Though sadness is ingrained in their world, it is their love for one another that motivates and drives them. There’s a growing affection between Fel and these women. They care for him like one of their own and he in turn feels the need to protect them. He wants to discover who he is, but there’s a part of him that is afraid of the truth and what this will mean for his relationship with these women. Estrella and her family are an ensemble I’d like to see more often. There are three generations of Nomeolvides women under the same roof who are joined by and large by their shared grief, but are inevitably separated by experience. While the older generations know grief intimately, the younger ones have not yet lost someone they love. The older women have walked this life for decades. They know what it’s like to love and grieve, to watch those closest to them crumble under the weight of loss, and what it’s like to give everything to the land that has both blessed and cursed them. Estrella and her cousins are only beginning to learn what it means to be a part of the Nomeolvides family.

Wild Beauty is a multi-layered story that will have readers enthralled from the very first page. McLemore has crafted a novel that devastates readers both with its beauty and sorrow in equal parts. If you’ve never picked up this author’s novels, you are missing out on some of the most profound and stunning writing published in recent years.

5/5

★★★★★

The Friday 56: When the Moon Was Ours

The Friday 56The Friday 56 is a weekly blog meme hosted by Freda’s Voice. Join us every Friday and share an excerpt from a book you’ve been reading.

Rules:

*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader.
*Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grab you.
*Post it.
*Add your (url) post here in Linky. Add the post url, not your blog url. It’s that simple.

**Be sure to leave a link to your Friday 56 post in the comments!**

“And when their hands all fell on her, she knew it was true, that they were one animal in many bodies. When one set of fingers lost its grip, another tightened. When Miel threw her weight against one of them, another pulled back so the force dissipated and did not land.”

There are few books that truly sink their teeth into me and Anna-Marie McLemore’s magical realism novel When the Moon Was Ours is one of them. I’ve never fallen faster in love with a book. It’s one of the most beautifully written books I’ve ever read and I’d recommend it to everyone. You can read my mini review here. Excerpt is from page 65. Cover is linked to Goodreads.

From the Goodreads Synopsis:

      “To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees, and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town. But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel’s skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they’re willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up.

If you’re looking for a fun challenge to take part in this summer, consider joining the Summer 2017 Comment Challenge. Each month (June-August), we’ll be pairing bloggers and encouraging them to comment on each other’s blogs all month long. Sign-ups for June are open through May 27th. Click the image to the left for all the info!

If you haven’t already, be sure to enter the giveaway on my blog. I’m taking part in the May Book of Choice Giveaway Hop which ends the 15th of this month. It’s open to the US and INT, so be sure to enter. Click on the image on the right to enter and be sure to check out all the other participants’ giveaways.