Cover Image: Ivory Apples

Ivory Apples

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Member Reviews

Ivory Apples had great potential to be everything I love in a dark fantasy story.

The setting was ominous, the writing was lyrical and the characters were thrown into challenging situations. The story in itself had a strange contrast where the writing flow seemed very fairytale-esque but the content was dark and mature in themes and nature. I personally, didn’t mind that too much.

Only few authors can make me feel intense, personal feelings towards characters so I was thoroughly impressed when I found myself hating the antagonist of this book with a passion.

That being said, I overall did not enjoy this book. 
1. While the writing was beautiful, the book was not written well.. if that makes sense. (It probably doesn’t lol.) 
We follow Ivy from age 14 to 18 or 19, and the plot just melded together in a long, laborious prose. There was no structure to the story. It seemed like Ivory Apples hadn’t been reviewed by an editor. 

2. The magic system was wonderful and yet, I wanted more structure there as well. Highly interesting concept, but mediocre execution.
3. The characters were not exactly likable. Look, I don’t need the characters I read about in every book to be nice people. In fact, I appreciate unlikable characters. But I also love growth and development of said characters, and it seemed stupid to me that all of them stayed the same throughout the course of 4-5 years. 

Final thoughts: The elements individually were fantastic but they were not combined very well.

Rating: 2/5 ★
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Great book! I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.  
Thanks to the Publisher for giving me the opportunity to read it in advance
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I know I'm a little late to the game on this review, but when I did finally get to this little gem, I couldn't put it down.   First, I love books within books!  There was the great balance of tension and enchantment.  Lovers of Kat Howard and Sarah Addison Allen should definitely pick this up.
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I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review. 

I'm glad to see I am not the only one who had mixed feelings about it. It's taken me months (and trying to read it three times!) to accept defeat and a DNF. Which is frustrating, because there were a number of things I liked about Ivory Apples, and tropes that are generally catnip for me as a reader. 

The prose is generally lovely, and there are some wonderful images presented. These are interspersed with pages of drudgery. The pace is too slow for my taste and a number of tantalizing plot points were ignored in favor of others that simply didn't hold my interest. I was especially frustrated by not being able to connect to any of the characters, and gave up when I realized I didn't especially care how the book ended. The furthest I made it was ~65%. 

That all said, I'm rating loosely, because I think this book might be amazing in someone else's hands. It's just not what I was expecting and hoping for.
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I was going to start out by saying I neither loved nor hated this book… but I think the rating kind of says that. Way to be obvious, Reb. This is one of those books about books, or rather, a particular book and it’s author and her family. The book in question is Ivory Apples, which was written by the great-aunt of the main character, Ivy. Adela Martin (Aunt Maeve)  has been living the life of a recluse since her book was published to much acclaim nearly 40 years prior. She’s trying to avoid fans, who’ve been clamoring for more books, more information, and worst of all… asking whether or not she had a muse.

Well, this all sounds like standard mad fandom fare until you realize that muses are real. They’re sort of like mischievous fairies that just hang out in your body if they think you’re cool. Ivy has a muse and her two younger sisters are madly jealous and desperately want their own, but that’s the way of siblings. The real meat of the story comes when Kate Burden makes her appearance. First she’s a kindly lady in the park that loves to invent games and tell stories. Then she’s coming over for dinner and dating their widowed father. And when he tragically falls down the basement steps and dies (suspicious much?) she’s their legal guardian and she’s quite the cruel stepmother figure. Kate is a crazed fan of Ivory Apples and she just knows that Adela had a real muse and she’s been trying to force one to be her own. She’s been trying to pry information out of the three sisters and resorts to brutal measures until Ivy finally runs away.

The most interesting part of this book follows Ivy after she’s fled what used to be her beloved home and family. Ivy’s homeless and has basically let her muse take over and guide her through life. She steals things, works odd jobs, and meets some interesting folks in her itinerant life. This goes on for much longer than I expected, though eventually she finds her way to Aunt Maeve and cares for her. At this point she decides to save her sister from Kate and events are a bit more tense/actiony. 

Overall, this was a decent read though I doubt it will be memorable in the long run. It’s a bit fantasy-lite and the parts that stand out the most were the evils of Kate Burden and the almost continuous tragedy of a life that Ivy and her sisters had. The imagery portrayed in the book was a mix of horrid and lovely, with the lovely bits being the homes of the muses. Picture hidden lakes tucked away in dark pine forests with glowing lights and frolicking fae or the cozy village from the Ivory Apples story. And then there’s Kate, with her dark horrors and illusions that make the girls think they’re back with their deceased parents. Honestly, the overall tone of this book was a bit of a downer.
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Thank you netgalley and publisher for the early copy!

I tried out the first few chapters but could not connect with the plot/writing style.
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3.5 stars.

Ivory Apples by Lisa Goldstein contains a good handful of my favorite tropes. It contains a book within a book and is a dark fantasy with a magical realism flare. 

Ivy Quinn's great-aunt Maeve is a recluse, an author by the real name of Adela Madden (for some reason listed in the Goodreads synopsis as Adela Martin), who wrote the cult fantasy novel, Ivory Apples. She is in hiding from a following of obsessed fans, some of whom Ivy assumes must be out to harm her in some way. When the mysterious Kate Burden becomes obsessed with Ivy and her sisters, Ivy is highly suspicious in all the right ways. What follows is a tumbling story of darkness, deception, and fantastical bits all rolled into a narrative with beautiful and whimsical writing.

This was my first time reading a Lisa Goldstein work, but it certainly won't be my last. Her writing style is magnificent and I devoured this book. For some, this won't work...as it requires a bit of suspending reality, but I love this kind of fantastical writing. Add in myth and legend, and well...I was hooked. 

I don't want to spoil any of the magic, so I will leave my synopsis rather vague beyond this point. However, I will say that I wanted more of Pommerie town and the original Ivory Apples. In fact, I wanted more of this book.  I really enjoyed my reading...in fact...the book was well on it's way to a 5-star rating...but I was let down somewhat by the ending. After so much intricate weaving of tale and prose, the ending just felt rushed and cluttered. The conclusion was unfulfilling. There was a bit of this that hinted at the potential for a sequel, though I could find nothing indicating that this is in the plans. I will say that the existence of a sequel would help bolster my rating as I could forgive a little vagueness should a continuation of the story exist. As it is, this could have easily been a 5-star for me with a more solid end. I will still likely grab this book for a reread in the future and will probably keep my fingers crossed for that hoped for redeeming sequel.

As a side note...a finicky bit of the narrative. For me, the presence of a romantic element for Ivy felt forced. It shows Ivy's increase in age/maturity as the tale goes on, but it felt like the existence of an LGBTQIA+ thread simply to check a box. I'm all for diversity in my reading and in my characters, but I don't like when authors appear to add this into the narrative simply to make their book seem more inclusive. In this case, Ivy's sexuality and romantic feelings did nothing to affect or further the plot and was a minor piece that more detracted from the overall flow of the book.
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This book is so different from all the other fantasy out there not only in the world but also magic systems and storytelling. I loved the familial elements of the story and how well it blended into the story and boy was it done good. Love the beautiful writing style and I love how the story keeps getting darker as u keep going into it ❤️My only problem was it was not paced properlu other than such a huge read
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This is my first read by this author. It was such an interesting, unique story that I have a feeling it will be sticking with me for awhile.  An interesting take on sprites/muses.  

I had no idea where the story was going and was pleased with how it ended.  I will be looking for additional books by this author!

Thank you to #NetGalley for this copy of #IvoryApples in exchange for an honest review.
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This book was received as an ARC from Tachyon Publications in exchange for an honest review. Opinions and thoughts expressed in this review are completely my own.

Lisa Goldstein has created a masterpiece of fantasy and reality.  Ivy and her family have a long kept secret and her great aunt is one of the most famous novelists of all time. Everyone wants to meet her and will stop at nothing to show their love for her books until Kate Burden gets too close and too obsessive almost having Ivy and her family secret exposed. Kate is asking way too many questions and growing her curiosity of Ivory Apples and Ivy will stop at nothing to protect her family and the magic she shares with her aunt. This book brought smiles all around my face and I could not stop reading it because there was something intriguing on every page. I know everyone will grow to love this book as much as I do.

We will consider adding this title to our Fantasy collection at our library. That is why we give this book 5 stars.
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Lisa Goldstein is one of the treasures of fantasy literature, with each new work a gem. Ivory Apples is, I think, her best yet. It centers around a book of the same name, one of those magical favorites that gets re-read a hundred times by obsessive fans, that helps readers weather desolate times, and that spawns fan clubs, websites, and entire conventions devoted to the story, its character, and its mysterious author. It’s also the secret in the lives of young Ivy and her three remarkable sisters. From as long as she can remember, her Great-Aunt Maude has been a recluse, an extreme introvert terrified of publicity, the family visits to her remote home never to be spoken of. For not only is Maude the author of Ivory Apples, she wrote it while partnered with an actual Muse. Soon the entire family becomes the target of Kate, manipulative and unscrupulous and single-mindedly set on getting a Muse of her own. I found myself swept up and captivated by the story in very much the same way Maude’s readers have been transformed by Ivory Apples. This book is a true treasure, worthy of multiple re-readings, a perfect holiday gift for the child in all of us.
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https://lynns-books.com/2019/11/14/ivory-apples-by-lisa-goldstein/
4 of 5 stars
Ivory Apples is one of those magical realism stories that also contains a book within a book.  It took me on the strangest journey to be honest and I can well imagine that this will definitely be a book that speaks to different readers in different ways.  On the face of it you could say this is about the hidden magic that sometimes touches people’s lives.  By the same token you could read between the lines and say this is a book about so much more.  Family dynamics, mythology, obsession and survival all play a role here and just a heads up this book is a wrecking ball on emotions and can be quite dark in a number of ways.  In other words magical realism can be one tough cookie so don’t underestimate it.

I’m not going to elaborate massively on the plot.  We meet Ivy and her family while she’s quite young.  They’re a slightly eccentric family, Ivy’s mother has passed away and their father looks after his four daughters.  Things are a little crazy but everyone is happy.  The family secret, kept firmly in the closet like all skeletons, is Great Aunt Maeve.  Maeve is the assumed name of famous author Adela Madden.  Adela wrote a book called Ivory apples – only the one book – but it has become something of a cult phenomenon and Adela went into hiding as a result.  Ivy and her family keep their aunt’s secret closely guarded, they visit her once a month but they never use her real name.  Then a stranger befriends the girls.  Kate, she’s almost too good to be true in some respects, like Mary Poppins landing on your doorstep and feeding you ladles of sugar.  Somethings up though and Ivy can just feel it and pretty soon everything is going to become a series of unfortunate events – yes, that was intentional.

So, if I’m not going to discuss the plot any further then what else?

Firstly, the writing.  This is my first book by Lisa Goldstein but here is an author that definitely needs to go on my auto buy list.  I don’t know what it is but here is an author that can make a book feel personal.  Like this book was written for me.  It was, I swear it was. The writing is really lovely, hypnotic almost.

Secondly the characters.  Let’s just be brutally honest – Ivy and Kate are the main characters – which isn’t to say that the supporting cast is weak just more that they’re show stealers.  Ivy has a great narrative voice that really hooked me in quickly.  Kate on the other hand.  She is relentless, she’s like the Terminator, she absolutely WILL NOT STOP.  She refuses to be beaten down or give in and it gives her a certain scary element that you begin to really buy into.  Like, she really can’t be stopped.

Thirdly, the inclusion of mythology.  I’m not going to tell you in what respect this plays a part because that would take us to the land of spoilers but I can say I loved this aspect and the way it’s magical but at the same time you could pass it off, just like when you see something out of the corner of your eye – you didn’t really see something – or did you?  So, yeah, the magic is here, it plays a very real part in the lives written about – but it’s an element that you could really think into, like is this really about coming of age, about finding yourself, about thinking you need something more than you actually need it.  I’m sorry for being mysterious but I really don’t want to give things away whilst at the same time I really want to discuss the way this made me feel.

Criticisms.  Nothing really, there are a few moments here and there where lulls occurred but they were fleeting.  I also must say that some of the things that the girls experienced made me feel downright sad – particularly one event which hit me out of nowhere.  And, I would just throw in here that I’ve read a couple of books recently with a very similar feel in certain regards – namely the famous author in hiding, the one off fantasy novel that is a huge success, etc, but, this books stands on it’s own in all other respects, just saying.

This is a novel driven by family, by love, by envy, by obsession and by finding yourself, your real self, and coming to terms with it.  And, in the midst of all of this is a magical forest and mythological creatures.

I received a copy, through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.
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Ivory Apples is a dark fairytale; intended for adults, rather than children.

I was reminded at first of books like Joan Aitken’s Wolves Chronicles, or Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events, as there are similar themes here: orphans, corrupt guardians, terrible trials and special powers or skills. However the tone here is older and darker, and infinitely more disturbing, as it deals with loss of sanity and the inability to trust one’s own senses.

The author’s imagining of the Muses – inspiration to artists and authors alike – is enchantingly wild and yet innocent. I was as bewitched by the woodland grove as the characters themselves were, and felt a strong compulsion to search for such a place myself, gifts (and sacrifices) in hand. What I wouldn’t give for a Piper of my very own!

Well, what I wouldn’t give is my family, my mind, or my future. Ivy is faced with some serious choices over the course of the story, and doesn’t always make the morally obvious decisions. Just as in reality, her character has the potential to love and sacrifice, but also to be selfish and neglectful. Similarly, whilst the villain/s of the story are led astray by their intense jealousy and selfishness, it was hard not to feel sympathy, even pity, for them as they are excluded from a world of magic and wonder for not being ‘special’ enough.

Ivory Apples is a story about stories and inspiration; growing up and responsibility; accepting oneself, and making the best of what you already have. This is not a happily-ever-after fairytale, but a grimmer story of toil and trauma. But magic is magic, whatever the flavour; and Lisa Goldstein’s glimpse into the dark secrets of creativity casts a lingering spell on the reader that no counter-spell can completely dispell.





There were a lot of things I didn’t understand about Great-aunt Maeve when I was growing up. For one thing, although she and my father insisted that we call her Maeve Reynolds, that wasn’t her real name.

– Lisa Goldstein, Ivory Apples


Review by Steph Warren of Bookshine and Readbows blog
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Ivy and her sisters have been brought up to keep the secret that their Great Aunt Maeve is really Adela Martin who wrote Ivory Apples. Maeve is a recluse hiding away from fans and refusing to answer their letters. Instead, the girls' father takes care of correspondence and business.

One day though while the girls are at the park, they meet Kate Burden. At first, all is fine, then Kate starts insinuating herself into their lives. Kate wants more than friendship. She wants something from Maeve. Something that Ivy already has.

The story takes some dark turns. Kate isn't the person she pretended to be. Ivy spends some time in despair. And magic of sorts is real.

Most of the book moves along at a good pace. There are a couple of spots where it is less show and more tell; and it slows the momentum. It is also a pretty dark fantasy. In some ways, it reminds me of The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert. Magic is real, but it's not for everyone. And it always has a price.

I give this book 4 out of 5 stars. It's good. It's well written except for a couple of slow spots. Kate is a good villain. And you will hope for the best for the girls. It's also so dark in a couple of places I had a little trouble reading on. It turned out to be a good October read. I'd recommend this book to fans of urban fantasy, magical realism, and dark fantasy.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. All opinions herein are my own and freely given.
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Seems like this would have been something I’d have really enjoyed. Ivy has a Great-Aunt in hiding. She is a VERY famous author with a connection to the magical world. Ivy as a young girl comes into contact with a muse, who chooses to attach itself to her. Unfortunately, a woman comes into Ivy’s life who wishes nothing but ill for Ivy and her sisters, in an effort to locate the famous Great-Aunt. Tragedy ensues.

The book has ties to fantasy themes and mythology. But the execution is haphazard and a little disjointed. Ivy’s journey was interesting at first, but she takes a hard swerve right in the middle of the book that I never was able to bounce back from. There was also some additional imagery about apples and the moon that never really landed properly.

I was not a fan of this one. I think if you liked The Thirteenth Tale, this is a little reminiscent, and probably the reason I picked it up to begin with. But the tone is much different. It is a simple fantasy.
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I liked it tho I didn't think I would. The sisters bugged me at first, but it came together nicely as the story and world building went on. Looking forward to see what she does next !
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This is a hard one to pin down, a blend of fantasy, mystery and a hint of magical realism. I was immediately drawn to the cover and the premise sounded intriguing. The book tells the story of four sisters , whose great aunt wrote one book, a much loved fantasy classic called Ivory Apples, before becoming a recluse who only has contact with the girls and their father, who acts as a type of secretary, answering fan mail etc. Numerous fan theories about the author have done the rounds online, and eventually one of her more obsessive fans tracks down the girls and manages to weasel her way into the family. Determined to find out about the real magic behind the book she loves, she goes to deadly lengths to shatter the bonds between the sisters , but the oldest, Ivy, is determined to protect her aunt, and her magic at all costs. 
Parts of this book work incredibly well, Kate, the fan with an ulterior motive is a captivating villain, and over the course of the book her actions become ever more horrific and disturbing. How magic works in the world the author has created is also very interesting , and I loved the almost mythological aspects of muses who inspire creativity through their magic. On the downside, this book is dark, and almost unrelentingly so, things continually go from bad to worse for Ivy and her family, with very little in the way of respite for her or the reader. In a weird way this book reminded me of an older style of fantasy, and I did enjoy the nostalgia, and the many layers of the story which gradually unfolded. 
I read and reviewed an ARC courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher, all opinions are my own.
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In Ivory Apples , four young sisters end up at the mercy of an outsider who charms her way into their family and then takes over. Kate is a clever but overly obsessed fan of the classic children’s fantasy book Ivory Apples — not just because she loves the story, but because she suspects that the author, Adela Martin, had access to real magic as she wrote the book, and Kate wants some of her own.

Oldest sister Ivy is the only one not fully taken in by Kate’s schemes, and breaks away from the family in order to keep her aunt’s secrets, only to return in desperation when she realizes that her sisters need rescuing. Meanwhile, Kate is right about one thing — there IS a source of real magic, and Adela and Ivy both have access to it.

I enjoyed the family dynamics and Ivy herself, as well as the central role played by the book Ivory Apples and its secrets. Not all of the magical aspects made complete sense to me, and the sense of urgency throughout lagged from time to time. Still, the book is different and unusual in all sorts of ways, and Kate makes for a devious and menacing bad guy beneath her pleasant and child-friendly exterior. I’d definitely like to read more by this author.
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I wanted to love this book so so much, but unfortunately, it fell short for me. My rating is somewhere between 2 and 2,5.

The premise is incredibly exciting and exactly my jam: The great-aunt of a four girls writes a fantasy book that is loved by tons of fans. Something mysterious is going on though. A suspiciously charming person that is interested in the book appears and the girls' world starts to change.
Wow! I was so excited. I got reminded of the premise of Hazelwood a lot - an old relative writes a very famous fantasy book that people obsess about. Going into the book, we get to know that great aunt doesn't want anyone to know how real name. Also, there's a place near her house, where magical creatures live. Hmm….suspicious, no? My first though: amazing! Does she not want to be followed by the people from her fairytale book? Because this place is real? Great! Let me know more about it! (Spoiler: No, the book won't let me know more about it. The name change also seems just a precaution against crazy fans. That's all.)

Unfortunately, after the first 30% of the novel, the story went an entirely wrong direction for my taste. Throughout most of the book, we didn't really get much to know about this original fantasy book - Ivory Apples - and get to see much of the great aunt or much magic and fantasy, really.
Yes, there were these magical creatures and one of them is a big part of the plot, but it's also not doing much than being annoying to the main character, bring her into trouble, do tricks or let her take a risk and go out of her comfort zone. We got to know one little story on top of the fantasy book and had tiny tiny passages from Ivory Apples, which can all probably be summed up in one paragraph of less than 10 sentences in the end.
 So this was a huge dissappointment for me. 
Some magical reveals in the end of the book didn't help to get my mood up, as it was too little too late and I didn't know, why the fact needed to be included into the book so late either way, as it didn't change anything in the plot much and made me even more sad to think of where the book could have gone, if it had used this potential plotline.

So many things were unnecessary and just dragged on and on. Half of the plot in the middle of the book, for example. Or the romance in the end.

Also, the villain Kate annoyed me to no end. Everything that she was doing seemed way too easy to succeed. This happened mostly because of her oh so Incredible rhetorical skills. As the main character said: She can lie her way through life and get what she wants by being convincing. Weirdly, she is also reaaally awful at storytelling and it's boring to listen to her talking and her imagination is basically non-existent. How do those characteristics match? I have no clue.
Example: Someone asks Kate how the hell she knows the password of a safe and thus how the hell could she get some important documents for her plan. Kate's answer: Oh, I don't have time to answer your questions and to think of such things. Don't bother me. Result: The person lets it be. 
Why? I'll never know. 

In the beginning I really liked the plot around her, she was mysterious, creepy, weird and I would have loved her to develop into some awesome great terror. But everything she did to the girls, even though it was awful and gruesome… I don't know… I just disconnected at some point and didn't see it as so bad, as I thought that most of the things could have easily been prevented.

This leads me to another point - the girls have been just passively chilling throughout their lifes and everything that Kate did to them, they just let it happen. Apparently also no authority in this world thought of checking in on them and to see how their lifes are going. Even though it is said later in the book, that Ivy is taking on everyone's problems and works to figure them out, I really didn't see it that much in the plot. She thinks of a plan, the plan doesn't work, as she falls for traps every single time there is one, and then she's all just like, oh well, ok, I lost, I'll just stay here and let her do bad things to me. 
Towards the end of the book, as the girls suffered some Trauma due to Kate's doings, kinda nothing at all happens about it. They sit around and stare into the world, and everyone lets them be. I don't know if this is supposed to be some critics on our modern society's way of neglecting mental health issues, but if it is, I didn't get that from the writing really and am just thinking of it now in hopes of finding any kind of exuse to why this heavy topic wasn't properly discussed in the novel.

Then, the relationships between all the girls confused me to no end. In the first part of the book, I could really see them as real people, real children and teens, behaving the way that fits their age. Later in the book, I lost that feeling as well. I didn't understand any of their cctions, motives, anything. Even though the book sometimes tried to provide some weird explanation for their cctions, those didn't make much sense. And yes, I am aware that in this story many things and characters are not supposed to make sense. But you know, even in the nonsense world, there is some logic to be found to that nonsense?

To sum up the review:

The plot started strong and then dissappeared after some 30% into the book. 
The character development wasn't there, or didn't make any much sense due to previously happened events. The characters seemed like something written on paper, not real believeable actual people.
For all the talk about the famous Ivory Apples-book, we didn't really get to know much about it.
The whole last part of the book was concentrated on freeing the magical creatures, which also seemed to randomly become the most important plot point and wasn't carried through logically.

One positive thing is, that the writing style itself was quite enjoyable and so it was fairly easy to get through the book quickly.

I am really disappointed, but hope that someday someone might take this premise and finally write something amazing for readers to enjoy.
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Tired of the same boring, unoriginal fantasy books? Then Ivory Apples might just be exactly what you need. It's a refreshingly unique take on magical realism from National Book Award-winner, Lisa Goldstein. I cannot tell you how much I loved it and finished it in a mere few hours despite trying to savour it. Both the primary and secondary characters were fleshed out incredibly well and were thoroughly engaging and the mix of mystery, magical realism, suspense, fantasy and mythology worked superbly to propel the slow-burn tale forward.

It follows Ivy and her sisters who are desperately trying to guard a family secret - their Great-Aunt Maeve is actually renowned writer Adela Madden, author of a book named Ivory Apples but values her privacy fiercely. When obsessive fan Kate Burden becomes too close to finding out the truth the sisters swing into action and come to her defence by trying to keep Kate at arm's length.

The writing style is really quite exhilarating and beautiful; it had me feeling very nostalgic and remembering reading all of those wonderful 90s fantasies I immersed myself in. It's a powerful story and as it moves forward it gets darker and darker and you see exactly how many intricate layers make up the plot. A great, original read. Many thanks to Tachyon Publications for an ARC.
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