The Secret Horses of Briar Hill by Megan Shepherd- Review

 The Secret Horses of Briar Hill by Megan Shepherd

THE SECRET HORSES OF BRIAR HILL
by MEGAN SHEPHERD
Published: October 11th 2016 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Genre: middle grade > magical realism, horses, historical fiction (WWII)
Pages: 240p
Source: library borrow
Rating: ★★★★★
There are winged horses that live in the mirrors of Briar Hill hospital. In the mirrors that line its grand hallways, which once belonged to a princess. In those that reflect the elegant rooms, now filled with sick children. It is her secret.

One morning, when Emmaline climbs over the wall of the hospital’s abandoned gardens, she discovers something incredible: a white horse with broken wings has left the mirror-world and entered her own.

Tucked into the garden’s once-gleaming sundial, Emmaline finds a letter from the Horse Lord. He is hiding the wounded white horse, named Foxfire, from a dark and sinister force—a Black Horse who hunts by colorless moonlight. If Emmaline is to keep the Black Horse from finding her new friend, she must collect colorful objects with which to blind him. But where can Emmaline find color when her world is filled with gray?

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This is my favorite middle grade read of the year – of the last three years, actually. It’s a magical realism story set during WWII, where a girl in a hospital sees winged horses in the mirrors.

Here’s a confession: I’m a horse girl. You’ve got horses, you’ve got me. I’ve read a load of horsey stories in my life, more in my youth than I have in the last few years. I think I have the pedigree required to call myself an expert on horse books, and this is an excellent horse book. It doesn’t share many of the more childish cliches of horse books, save one: girl finds injured horse, does everything to save it. And it does it so darn well.

There’s such depth to this that, after the past few middle grade novels I’ve read, I honestly wasn’t expecting. It’s beautifully written. The children behave like children and don’t speak like overly wise adults. It’s heartwarming and heartbreaking while being neither saccharine nor melodramatic. Something about the writing and the story combined to give me such a nostalgia trip that I cried once or twice.

If you know a Horse Girl™ of any gender, send this book their way.

 

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Review: Human Acts by Han Kang

Human Acts by Han Kang

HUMAN ACTS
by HAN KANG
Published: January 17 2017 by Hogarth Books
First Published: as 소년이 온다 by 창비 May 19 2014
Genre: literary fiction
Pages: 224p
Source: proof from publisher via LibraryThing Early Readers Program
Rating: ★★★☆☆

In the midst of a violent student uprising in South Korea, a young boy named Dong-ho is shockingly killed.

The story of this tragic episode unfolds in a sequence of interconnected chapters as the victims and the bereaved encounter suppression, denial, and the echoing agony of the massacre. From Dong-ho s best friend who meets his own fateful end; to an editor struggling against censorship; to a prisoner and a factory worker, each suffering from traumatic memories; and to Dong-ho’s own grief-stricken mother; and through their collective heartbreak and acts of hope is the tale of a brutalized people in search of a voice.

An award-winning, controversial bestseller, HUMAN ACTS is a timeless, pointillist portrait of an historic event with reverberations still being felt today, by turns tracing the harsh reality of oppression and the resounding, extraordinary poetry of humanity.

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Review: Room by Emma Donoghue

Room by Emma Donoghue

ROOM
by EMMA DONOGHUE
Published: September 13th 2010 by Little, Brown and Company
Genre: fiction > contemporary
Pages: 321p
Source: library borrow
Rating: ★★★★☆

[snipping the synopsis despite myself because I really believe this one should be walked into blind if possible] [[yes I prefer going into every book blind but this is a great one to know nothing about before page one]]

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2016 in Review (or, I’m in love with Slammerkin)

So… I’ve been gone. For a multitude of reasons I won’t go into, at least not in depth.

I may post reviews on this year’s reads in future (Slammerkin for sure), but to be honest, it was a pretty bland reading year for me. 2016 was the year I finally felt comfortable putting a book down and saying “no” and never looking back. As controversial as it may be, Truthwitch is what it took for me to tell a book to jog on. (Is this controversial? If you read it, did you like it? More on this in a future post, probably.)

I kicked Anna Karenina to the curb after three years. Gates of Thread and Stone, The Golem and the Jinni (I blame the audiobook narrator, honestly), Library of Souls, Dorothy Must Die, Scar Tissue, The Scorpio Races, and Where She Went followed into my dnf-for-good shelf.

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Slammerkin and Saga stole my heart this spring and I don’t know if I have it back yet. I read the Red Rising series, finished The Raven Boys quartet, rolled my eyes through Michelle Phan’s embarrassment of a webtoon, but nothing has captured my heart quite like Slammerkin did. I might write it a love letter, seal it in a bottle, and drop it in the Mississippi in the hopes that some twist of fate will give me the ability to love another book.

I loathe my illnesses for many reasons, least of which is stealing my ability to give a real and proper review of Slammerkin the first time around. If anything, Slammerkin was detrimental to my mental health given my vulnerable state, but I couldn’t put it down. I may never give another five star review again for that fact alone.

But- I’ll save that for my review. I’m giving it a reread as a treat after I finish this draft of my novel (which also took up a considerable part of my year).

Despite 2016 being a dumpster fire in nearly every regard, even with all the literary disappointments I faced, it can never take Slammerkin from me.