Book Review: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton

January 21, 2016 Book review 13 ★★★

When I put The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender down, I really had no idea what I had just read! It was certainly strange and beautiful writing.  I was intrigued but not overly invested in the story.  But the writing, oh the writing!


Book Review: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye WaltonThe Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton
Published by Candlewick Press on March 27th 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Magical Realism, YA
Pages: 320
Format: Paperback

Magical realism, lyrical prose, and the pain and passion of human love haunt this hypnotic generational saga.

Foolish love appears to be the Roux family birthright, an ominous forecast for its most recent progeny, Ava Lavender. Ava—in all other ways a normal girl—is born with the wings of a bird.

In a quest to understand her peculiar disposition and a growing desire to fit in with her peers, sixteen-year old Ava ventures into the wider world, ill-prepared for what she might discover and naïve to the twisted motives of others. Others like the pious Nathaniel Sorrows, who mistakes Ava for an angel and whose obsession with her grows until the night of the Summer Solstice celebration.

That night, the skies open up, rain and feathers fill the air, and Ava’s quest and her family’s saga build to a devastating crescendo.

CREATIVE Magical Paranormal Well Written


My thoughts on The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton:

I feel conflicted! I half loved this one and the other half wanted more story and more focus but mostly I just wanted to know what hell was happening. Now I’ve put the book down and I still don’t really know.

“By this point Viviane Lavender had loved Jack Griffith for twelve years, which was far more than half of her life. If she thought of her love as a commodity and were to, say, eat it, it would fill 4,745 cherry pies. If she were to preserve it, she would need 23,725 glass jars and labels and a basement spanning the length of Pinnacle Lane.

If she were to drink it, she’d drown.”

The story is very whimsical and quirky and if you like this in books then I think you might fall head over heels in love with it. I’m very pragmatic and so some of these elements didn’t sit well with me and I needed explanations. You have to be prepared to just accept a lack of world building around the fantasy elements and accept that things just are as they are.

I also wanted more to happen. The descriptions were fab but the book is heavy on description and low on action.

That’s my downside. On the upside (and it’s a huge upside) I loved the writing. The author has a gorgeous way with words. She can string out words in an original way and they made me smile, wowed me, hurt me and jarred me. There is also quite the mix between poetic expressions followed sharply by images that are as unsentimental as can be. I loved that contrast.

I enjoyed the characters but didn’t feel overly attached to any of them. The main character is Ava and her claim to fame (not that she wants fame/notoriety) is that she was born with wings. Her mother and grandmother get a lot of book time and we only really get to know Ava in the second half of the book.  All the women are very individual and have something very peculiar about them but as I read I just accepted them as they were.  Which is probably the whole message behind the book anyway.

“To many, I was myth incarnate, the embodiment of a most superb legend, a fairy tale. Some considered me a monster, a mutation. To my great misfortune, I was once mistaken for an angel. To my mother, I was everything. To my father, nothing at all. To my grandmother, I was a daily reminder of loves long lost. But I knew the truth—deep down, I always did.
I was just a girl.”


The Transatlantic Book Project!

Overall it’s a book I’m glad I took the time to read. Now let me tell you why I read it. It’s a book I read as part of the Transatlantic Book Project organised by Rachel @ Confessions of a Book Geek and Alicia @ A Kernel of Nonsense. We all take turns reading the book, making notes IN THE book and then posting it on to the next person on the list. I was second to read the book and I loved reading Rachel’s notes and seeing what she underlined. It was so interesting to see what struck Rachel and it felt a little like having a conversation with her about the book. And on occasion I found myself replying to her comments with my own random wonderings.  I did find I had stage fright about what to write myself, I felt very self-conscious and thought that everything I wrote sounded childish!  But it was a fun experiment and I might even annotate more books in the future as I like the idea of leaving permanent thoughts in the book for some person in the future to find.


Rating Report
Did I feel it?
Overall: three-stars


Who should read The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton?

I’d recommend this to you if you love fantasy books that dip into historical fiction, feature original characters and are full of beautiful phrasing.  I did want to love it more than I actually did so you should take that into account but it’s well worth the read for the writing alone.


Talk to Trish: Have you read this one?  Does it appeal to you?  Do you ever makes notes in a book as you read?


Never miss a bookish post! Plus you get a free download - Note to Book - to document your own bookish thoughts.

Signup now and receive blog posts by email.

I agree to have my personal information transfered to MailChimp ( more information )

I will never give away, trade or sell your email address. You can unsubscribe at any time.

13 Responses to “Book Review: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton”

  1. Rachel

    Great review! We had such similar thoughts! I’m so glad I get to see your notes before shipping this one back over to the US! I don’t think I would annotate all my books, but I love the idea of annotating more, and reading annotations others have read. I’m playing with the idea that instead of doing a buddy read, doing it through the same book with annotations and then discussing at the end. Either that, or maybe if this one works out well, we’ll keep the Transatlantic Book Project going and let two other bloggers pick books they get to keep and do it all over again!
    Rachel recently posted…Review: Single Woman Seeks Revenge

    • trish

      It’s funny how alike our bookish thoughts nearly always are.

      I don’t believe I would ever annotate all my books either but I definitely want to do it more when the mood takes me. It was a fun experiment! I can’t wait to do it with Harry Potter, and I’m so looking forward to rereading it too as I haven’t reread it with years (pre blogging!). I think keeping the Transatlantic Book Project going would be a fab idea, it’s such a positive way of bringing out little blogging community together. I’m so glad you dreamt it up and invited me to take part.

    • trish

      I know the project is such a fun idea, I hope it grows and really takes off for Rachel and Alicia as it’s a great way of bloggers to exchange books and thoughts.

  2. Nuzaifa @ Word Contessa

    I believe The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender falls under the sub-genre that many refer to as magical realism. Such books are usually set in a world that mirrors reality but at the same time hold this sort of strange and ephemeral other-worldly quality. I’ve read a few books from this genre and the writing never fails to enchant me. As gorgeous as the writing is, I often find that such books leave me wondering as to whether was any ‘real’ story. So I can definitely understand your dilemma with rating it.

    As for whether I’d read this one, yes! If not for the gorgeous cover the at least for beautiful prose. 🙂

    The Transatlantic Book Project sounds like a super fun one! I tried it once for a non-fiction book that I had to review and it helped me to write a more in-depth review than I normally would. Brilliantly reviewed, Trish. 🙂
    Nuzaifa @ Word Contessa recently posted…Post Reading: Leverage – Joshua C. Cohen

    • trish

      I have read a few magical realism books now Nuz and feel much the same way you do. The writing here is gorgeous and yes it’s well worth reading for that alone. But just like you said, I wanted more ‘real’ story and more explanation as to what the point of it all was.

      I loved taking part in the Transatlantic Book Project and I can’t wait for my next book in it to get more insights into other bloggers thoughts as they happened while they read!

  3. Sarah @ One Curvy Blogger

    I love pretty, descriptive prose but sometimes I just need the author to TELL me what they are trying to say. I’d say your issue with this book is similar to the issue I had with the raven series by Maggie Stiefvater, even though I enjoy the series they can be hard to follow. The Transatlantic Book Project sounds great! I want to check it out for myself.
    Sarah @ One Curvy Blogger recently posted…Symbiont by Mira Grant

    • trish

      I think your feelings about magical realism are very similiar to mine! I adore Maggie Stiefvater’s writing but totally agree that they are hard to ever know what is going on! Which makes them a challenging read for me.
      The Transatlantic Book project is great fun!

  4. Cait @ Paper Fury

    Omg, I just absolutely have to say I LOVE the idea of writing in a book and passing it around. tHAT IS SO CLEVER?!?! I love it. Ahem. But back to the book…xD I read this one too and didn’t really like it? I was disappointed that it barely seemed to focus on Ava for SO LONG and I didn’t care about any of the characters. I felt like I was reading the history of a bizarre family instead of an actual captivating story?? Buuuut, I will not deny the beauty of the writing. IT WAS GORGEOUS.
    Thanks for stopping by @ Paper Fury!

    • trish

      I know Cait! I’m so glad that Rachel and Alicia dreamt this project up as it’s so much fun. the next book is Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone and I can’t wait to see what notes others have made in that!
      I found it odd too that more than half the book was Ava’s mother and grandmother (the title lied!). But the writing was relish, I wanted to lick it off the page 😀

    • trish

      It was interesting Christy and one of the best things about this project was it made me read a book that I would have otherwise bypassed. And I’m glad I did read it.

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.