I'd like to think this book LOOKS like my novels FEEL.
What do I mean by that? I'm not precisely sure. TALES FROM THE LOOP is an art book, a handsomeI'd like to think this book LOOKS like my novels FEEL.
What do I mean by that? I'm not precisely sure. TALES FROM THE LOOP is an art book, a handsome matte collection of a dreamy alternate 80s. There's a bit of text, but the text is mostly besides the point. Really, TALES FROM THE LOOP is about the images: hyper-realistic paintings of Swedish life with decaying robots, inquisitive dinosaurs, rundown hovercraft, and well-worn androids. It feels like our world, but just a little strange. Sometimes this strangeness is magical, and sometimes this strangeness is off-putting, and sometimes, deliciously, it is both.
I read it first on my own, paging through slowly, and then I paged through it again with my eleven-year-old son, who found it an even more wistful experience than I did.
Sometimes a book feels like it has always existed. It’s not that it’s predictable nor unadventurous, merely that you can’t shake the feeling as you tuSometimes a book feels like it has always existed. It’s not that it’s predictable nor unadventurous, merely that you can’t shake the feeling as you turn pages that it is familiar — you’ve read it before or just known that it existed for so long that it feels as if you had.
The Secret Horses of Briar Hill was that way for me. Other blurbs for it compare it to The Secret Garden (it does have a secret garden) or The Chronicles of Narnia (it does have tiny British children in big houses), but really, I think what they mean is this: it feels like it has been sitting invisibly on the shelf next to those classics for decades, waiting to be discovered. It feels old. Right. Uncovered, rather than written.
It is a simple story: a girl in a World War II children’s hospital —Emmaline — has been seeing winged horses in the mirrors of the building. When she discovers that an injured pegasus has arrived in a secret garden, an intimate and wintery quest unfolds as Emmaline performs tasks for the Horse Lord. It is a book about the magic of hidden places and the colorless misery of war and also a book about kindness in all its forms. Originally, I had typed that it was also a book about illness, but the draining fight against the “stillwaters” in Emmaline’s lungs is really just another battle in the war devastating Britain.
The Secret Horses of Briar Hill is a morsel of a book, just 231 pages on my e-reader. I read it in a single hour and a half session, which felt perfect: the ability to linger in the shivering atmosphere of the book without interruption seemed right. Theoretically this is a middle grade novel, but I can’t decide how I feel about that. I would hand this immediately to someone who had enjoyed CODE NAME VERITY or FROM SALT TO THE SEA or any of the other YA historicals I’ve loved within recent memory and I’d also hand it to any adult who grew up with the classics mentioned above and expect them to enjoy it, but I’m curious to know how my eleven and twelve year olds feel about it. So much of what made this book poignant to me was empathizing with the unsaid experiences of the adults around the children in the book, and although the book would work fine without that insight, there is one beautifully heartbreaking moment in particular that becomes muted if you aren’t paying close attention to the adults in the scene.
I adored it. It is not a bombastic novel nor an epic novel. It’s a sweet, sad, beautiful whisper in your ear. Enjoy....more
It's a very particular kind of book done very well, which is not remotely a promise that you will like it. ThI don't know if you will like this book.
It's a very particular kind of book done very well, which is not remotely a promise that you will like it. The jacket copy is not untrue, but it also isn't helpful. Yes, this is book about the end of the world as we know it, yes, this is a book about a post-apocalyptic Shakespearean troupe, yes, this is a book about a Hollywood actor's dispiriting love life. But that doesn't tell you how the book feels — what the experience is like reading it. This is less a novel of plot and more a novel of theme, a precisely painted mural of people living in extreme circumstances. Some of the chapters take place after the apocalypse, and some take place before, but it doesn't change the tone — the characters' personal worlds are under duress in both timelines.
I take back what I said about the jacket copy being true, by the way. It says this book is "suspenseful." I think that's an unfair and incorrect descriptor for a book that shines for other reasons. I couldn't put this book down, but that is not the same as being suspenseful. My attention was held by the sharp insights on every page, not by a headlong plunge toward the end. Like I said, it's a book of theme, not story. Station Eleven follows a few central characters faithfully enough to satisfy my need for a human thread, but it might not be enough for those who strongly prefer plot-driven novels.
Verdict: unsentimental and clear-eyed portrait of what humanity considers civilization....more
I can't tell if this novel is a dream wrapped in razor wire or razor wire wrapped in dream. It doesn't really matter which it is — either way, I wokeI can't tell if this novel is a dream wrapped in razor wire or razor wire wrapped in dream. It doesn't really matter which it is — either way, I woke up satisfied.
This is a novel for lizard-hearted girls looking for other lizard-hearted girls in fiction. If you enjoyed Isabel Culpeper, this novel is for you....more
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.