If I say that this novel didn't require me to do any work, it sounds like a vague insult, as if I'm saying that tWhat a generous caretaker of a novel.
If I say that this novel didn't require me to do any work, it sounds like a vague insult, as if I'm saying that the story or the characters were slight, and that's not at all what I mean. I mean that the novel, both through format (a very self-aware narrator's journal) and authorial intent (with a firm eye on the sort of story-telling pedigree that brought her there), anticipated my readerly needs and desires with such swiftness that I felt agreeably anticipatory and satisfied at all times. I did not have to tell myself to be patient to wait for one plot line to play out, because the book helpfully plied me with a pleasant drink while I waited. I did not feel done after it had given me a good meal, because right before the last course, it promised dessert.
The summary is accurate and pointless. It is about Cassandra writing about herself in a journal. Their family is penniless. They do live in a castle. She is, as it promises, deeply, hopelessly in love.
But not with any of the men in the book. They're all intriguing in their own way, don't get me wrong, and she does love many of them, in many different ways. The novel takes place in one of my favorite intellectual time periods to read and study, and this book plays across all of its nuances: artists' models and intellectuals, servants' quarters and vicars, romanticism and mysticism, the religion of church and the religion of a well-turned-out drawing room. But all of that is sort of beyond the point. The point is that Cassandra is deeply, hopelessly in love with life, and her utter, wry engagement with the castle she adores is what pulled me through the pages. Her voice is kind and self-deprecating, generous and wondering. The humans she observes — Topaz, her often-nude step-mother; Rose, her selfish and hungry sister; Mortmain, her once-famous father — are all seen through this well-meaning gaze, and even terrible events are colored with love (even when I thought characters could do with a polite punch in the mouth).
This book took very good care of me. It goes onto my comfortable re-read shelf immediately. ...more
This middle-grade graphic novel is a series beginning in all the satisfying ways and none of the frustrating ones.
Hicks takes her time setting up mulThis middle-grade graphic novel is a series beginning in all the satisfying ways and none of the frustrating ones.
Hicks takes her time setting up multiple characters and drawing the world (literally), showing us how many alleyways she could have turned down but didn't, hinting at the stories she might have told but hasn't yet. By staying the course on Kaidu's budding friendship with a girl from another part of the city, Hicks keeps the story cohesive and suitably intimate. There were three things that struck me the most: 1) I read this with Thing 1, who is 11, and both she and I were very pleased with the parkour-visuals of Kaidu learning to run over rooftops. 2) There's a monkish tower centering both the city and the book, and as a sucker for hermit-mythology-magic-people-hiding-in-trees-towers-cars-whatnot-tropes, I'm keen to learn more about it as well (luckily for me, I think, as the second one is called The Stone Tower). 3) This entire volume gently touches on the words we use for each other and for ourselves, and I think it offers kids a hard-to-teach lesson in a way they can effortlessly digest.
The Chairs' Hiatus is an intimate portrait of a musician who's lost both her music and herself, and the quiet journey back to understanding. Highly reThe Chairs' Hiatus is an intimate portrait of a musician who's lost both her music and herself, and the quiet journey back to understanding. Highly recommended....more
This swift-footed, kind-hearted historical is intensely satisfying in just about all the ways a novel can be satisfying. Without further ado, here areThis swift-footed, kind-hearted historical is intensely satisfying in just about all the ways a novel can be satisfying. Without further ado, here are five things you should know about it before picking it up:
1. A lot of times, historical fiction shows its work. As a history major, I don't mind a research-filled brick of a book, but I'd think carefully about who I recommended it to. Historical can be dense. Salt to the Sea is not that book: Sepetys chooses her word battles carefully for an incredibly fast read. Short chapters elbow you and say "read just one more, right?" until the book is all gone.
2. I wanted to call this a thriller when I first started typing up this recommendation, but the term's not quite right. It's quite fast-paced, but THRILLER feels wrong: it's not quite got that frantic electricity. ADVENTURE is closer, but still wrong. Shouldn't there be jeeps and a comic relief side kick in an adventure? There's mostly just soldiers and frostbite and abandoned soup in this one, which is not the same. Nevertheless, you should know: it's not a depressing book, although sad things happen in it.
3. The characters are lovely. There are many of them, all deftly and lightly-drawn, and because they come from all ages and backgrounds, the dynamics between them are ever-changing. It's told from four points of view to allow the reader to spin around the story from all angles, and because each of the POV characters brings something very different to the table, this swapping of eyes is satisfying rather than frustrating.
4. Sepetys has two other historicals out that I enjoyed a lot, but this one has headed briskly to the top of the list. it's confident and stylish in a way that is really satisfying to see.
5. This novel is the natural successor to Code Name Verity: a character-driven, accessible, YA historical with all the feels you could desire and enough research to bring down an elephant. If elephants were brought down by research.
The theme of this book is that nothing is perfect, but this book is a Liar McLiar, because this book is perfect.
This is a wise little tome of fairy-fuThe theme of this book is that nothing is perfect, but this book is a Liar McLiar, because this book is perfect.
This is a wise little tome of fairy-fuckery in the guise of a wasp nest. It's a magical story, and a kind one, and a giant in few words. I wish I had had it to give to my wry and unsentimental 11 year old anxious OCD-ridden self, but I'm very glad that I had it to give my wry and unsentimental 11 year old anxious OCD-ridden daughter. My favorite novel back then was The Fairy Rebel by Lynn Reid Banks; THE NEST grew from similar DNA.
1. It's told entirely in e-mails. As a writer, I understand that yes, this is a gimmick. I have a high-gimmick tolFIVE THINGS ABOUT THE 52-HERTZ WHALE
1. It's told entirely in e-mails. As a writer, I understand that yes, this is a gimmick. I have a high-gimmick tolerance, though, as long it doesn't get in the way of my emotional or intellectual enjoyment of a book. With 52, it worked for me. It might not for you, though, so I'm putting it right here as #1. Full disclosure. Emails.
2. With that out of the way, I can tell you that I found the two main characters of this book — a disenchanted, heartbroken film student and a socially challenged, maybe-Aspergers whale lover — revoltingly charming. Both of them have terrible things happening in their lives — fractured relationships and public humiliation — but the conceit of e-mail-chapters means it is funneled through their wryly self-deprecating and dutifully factual voices, respectively. The novel is ultimately uplifting without being saccharine. I know I use the word big-hearted a lot to describe the books I love, but it fits this little novel well.
3. There is some deft portrait-making in this book. 52 doesn't have a lot of words to do it in, since there's no description and a fair number of characters sending e-mails, but I nonetheless felt I knew all the parties involved. It is nothing like SOME DAY THIS PAIN WILL BE USEFUL TO YOU, apart from also possessing a narrator named James, but it touched me in the same way. I felt I'd met real people.
4. My teen years were populated by many non-teens, and I appreciated that this teen novel was populated by non-teens as well. It made what could be a rather claustrophobic contemporary into a roomy narrative.
5. There are really not any whales in this book. I mean, there's one, but he spends a lot of the book dead, so don't get excited. Spoiler? I just want you to be prepared if you're coming for the whales. Come for the whale, stay for the human dysfunction....more