Meet Me at the Museum by Anne Youngson
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Published: August 2018
Summary: In Denmark, Professor Kristian Larsen, an urbane man of facts, has lost his wife and his hopes for the future. On an isolated English farm, Tina Hopgood is trapped in a life she doesn’t remember choosing. Both believe their love stories are over. Brought together by a shared fascination with the Tollund Man, subject of Seamus Heaney’s famous poem, they begin writing letters to one another. And from their vastly different worlds, they find they have more in common than they could have imagined. As they open up to one another about their lives, an unexpected friendship blooms. But then Tina’s letters stop coming, and Kristian is thrown into despair. How far are they willing to go to write a new story for themselves?
Mini Review: This epistolary novel is perfect for readers of Guernsey Literary. It’s nostalgic, hopeful, sentimental. It’s not a happy novel, but it’s not sad either. These two people — a farmer’s wife in England and a museum curator in Denmark — find solace and companionship writing letters to one another throughout the course of a year. All their joys and sorrows of everyday life, in work and family, in love and friendship, in memory and philosophy, are shared in equal measure throughout the pages. The ending is open, but I’d like to think I know Tina’s decision and Anders’s response. A perfect, short, quick, warm read for the early winter months.
Empress of All Seasons by Emiko Jean
Published: November 2018
Genre: young adult, fantasy
Summary: Each generation, a competition is held to find the next empress of Honoku. The rules are simple: survive and conquer the palace’s enchanted seasonal rooms, and marry the prince. All are eligible to compete—all except yōkai, supernatural monsters and spirits whom the human emperor is determined to enslave and destroy. Mari has spent a lifetime training to become empress. Winning should be easy. And it would be, if she weren’t hiding a dangerous secret. Mari is a yōkai with the ability to transform into a terrifying monster. If discovered, her life will be forfeit. As she struggles to keep her true identity hidden, Mari’s fate collides with that of Taro, the prince who has no desire to inherit the imperial throne, and Akira, a half-human, half-yōkai outcast. The choices of Mari, Taro, and Akira will decide the fate of Honoku in this beautifully written, edge-of-your-seat YA fantasy.
Mini Review: This Japanese-inspired fantasy was high on my anticipation list for quite a while. Mari, Taro, and Akira are such lonely souls, and in the end all three want liberation and equality for the yōkai. But in order to do that, Honoku needs to be saved by Mari, the one true empress. This was incredibly plot-driven, and I wish there was more character development here — in many ways it felt like a Hunger Games trilogy retelling packed in one book — but in the end the story felt like one you’d sit around a campfire and listen to. A legend, an oral tale. So while it wasn’t what I fully expected, Jean still delivered!