Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance

Title: Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance

Author: Ruth Emmie Lang

Read harder Challenge: Yes; debut novel

Star Review: ♥♥♥♥♥ /5

Why:

This book is delightful and a must-read for many reasons.  Its tone is simple, bittersweet, and wistful – much like the character around whom this tale revolves, it doesn’t lose its sweetness despite some moments of sadness and loss.  The humor is wry and understated, just like I like it. I really enjoyed this book – finishing it in two days was not only a joy, but a compulsion.

 

We first meet Weylyn Grey as an infant, and quickly come to realize how special he is.  While he would hate to be described as “magic,” there are some very hard-to-believe things that happen around him.  As he tries to navigate his unusual life, he forms connections with an unlikely group.  Though the reader is sometimes treated to Weylyn’s point of view, the story is mostly told through the experiences of people whose lives he has touched. If I had to describe this book to someone in one sentence, I’d also feel obligated to add that this story is about wolves and a boy who grows up with wolves and the girl he falls in love with.  Wolves are pack animals, and the idea of the “lone wolf” is kind of a sad myth.  This book in a lot of ways is about the search for a pack, too.  Yeah – it’s hard to explain! There is magical realism in this book, and I loved recurring symbols that added constancy to Weylyn’s life even though it was always changing.

 

I just really loved this book so much! I’m so glad it is out so I can buy it for people for Christmas.  It’s ideal for folks that like to read with a sense of wonder but might be turned off my wizards and epic fantasy.  It’s great to gift folks that you love even when they have a hard time loving themselves.  It’s got some sweet romance, some coming-of-age and finding-yourself, and some humor.  It’s readable, devourable even, and quotable and well-crafted.

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Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance

The Enchanted

the enchanted
From amazon.com

Title: The Enchanted

Author: Rene Denfield

Read harder Challenge: No

Star Review: ♥♥♥♥♥ /5

Why: This book was lovely magical realism at its finest.  I felt transported, and at the end of the book, I felt changed.  I listened to this on audiobook, his stop, and bought a print copy to share with friends.  I really feel this book.

This is the story of men on death row, and the lives that radiate from that seemingly-forsaken place.  The narrator, referred to as Arden at points in the story, watches but does not speak.  Alternately, we see what life is like for a newly-arrived boy only serving a bit of time; for York, who refuses to fight on appeal to save his own life; for a variety of prison staff in this corrupt, vividly disgusting hellhole; and for Arden, the Lady whose job it is to save York, and the Fallen Priest.  Incidentally, the Lady shares her line of work – indigent defense of death row inmates) with the author.

All characters deal with more than their fair share of problems in their lifetime, but the title refers to an altogether unique and magical setting – the prison itself is alive.  Is in enchanted, and the narrator often refers to it as “This enchanted place.”  No enchanted place could be more heartbreaking.  I don’t want to share the stories of abuse, mental illness, and depravity that are contained in these pages, because you must read them yourself to understand how deeply everyone has been let down in this story. The setting will help you to understand, as it is its own character.

This books is about death row and prison: the corruption, the politics, and mental health issues.  This book is about humanity: love, vulnerability, and the act of moving on or moving forward or moving beyond. Its ending, while perhaps not happy, is one of the few truly beautiful endings I’ve come across in a while.

I will unreservedly recommend this book to all.

The Enchanted