I loved Kristopher Jansma's first book, "The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards", so when I saw this book at the library, I grabbed it. Let me just say, wI loved Kristopher Jansma's first book, "The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards", so when I saw this book at the library, I grabbed it. Let me just say, when I read the opening piece -- not a preface, not a prelude, and definitely not a prologue (ahem) -- I was so blown away, I had to stop reading. I literally had to take a breath and sit there, pondering what had just happened. I had never read anything like it, and I thought, "why have I never read anything like this before? Why has no one ever done this before? This is so brilliant and yet so obvious and yet so original and... and..." I was breathless and I had to read it again. I will go back and read it again, even if I don't read the whole book again (which I probably will, because Jansma's work benefits from rereading) because it is that good.
The book is simple in plot but devastatingly complex emotionally, especially if you know the author's own story. If you've ever lost anyone close to you (and who hasn't?) you should read this book.
Also, as an aside, the literary world seems full of insufferable, awful, unlikeable characters these days. It seems like that's what it takes to get noticed lately. I love that Jansma is able to redeem his insufferable a**holes. They are human and real and worth something at their core.
And they're writers, so maybe I'll forgive them anything. ...more
This book grabbed me first with its title, and then with the setting (Long Island, where I grew up), and the subject matter (old books, librarians, anThis book grabbed me first with its title, and then with the setting (Long Island, where I grew up), and the subject matter (old books, librarians, and tarot cards). It's one of the more inventive books I've read in a while, and I love the way the story winds from the past into the present and back again. There is some really beautiful prose -- sentences that make you pause and take note - as well as solid plotting and strong characters that keep you interested even as the story moves through time.
If you liked "The Night Circus" you should check this one out.
This is a debut novel, and I'm definitely going to keep an eye out for this author's next book. She's someone to be watched....more
I went into this with great hopes. I had been looking for a Sheherazad (I'm sure I butchered the spelling) adaptation to reCaution: Mild spoilers here
I went into this with great hopes. I had been looking for a Sheherazad (I'm sure I butchered the spelling) adaptation to read and was delighted when I found this. But there were two things that soured me on it quickly. The first was the YA tropes. The author couldn't seem to stop herself from describing how beautiful the main characters were, to the point that I was rolling my eyes. Couldn't they be just a little ordinary? Must they be perfection incarnate? Ugh. And then the looming love triangle that was set up from the initial pages; again, ugh. Yet another YA novel with yet another two-guys-and-a-girl triangle. Maybe I didn't read far enough... Maybe I need to give it more of a chance? But the story seems to have the inevitability of the train in the Matrix. The other problem was the character of the evil king. Right up front, there's an interlude that hints at why he's killing off a bride every morning, and we get the feeling that he's really not such a bad guy after all so it's going to be OK that she falls in love with him. To me, that's a dodge. To me, the novel would be much more interesting if it explored ideas such as the attractive power of evil, the difficulty of taking a life even when you are justified, and the ability of love to alter a person, even one who seems irredeemable. But instead we get a misunderstood bad guy (seen THAT before) and a self-sacrificing heroine torn between two lovers (seen THAT before). Ugh. ...more
I picked this up as part of my year of reading about America's founding. It was an interesting book and gave me a lot to think about. It reminded me tI picked this up as part of my year of reading about America's founding. It was an interesting book and gave me a lot to think about. It reminded me that as a writer of historical fiction, we are bound by the events that actually happened and can't just give our characters the outcomes that we want to, so some of the things I hoped would happen for Martha never did turn out. There is plenty of tragedy to go along with the privilege of being Thomas Jefferson's daughter, but to me the most fascinating part of her life was the inherent contradiction was living with the man who wrote "All men are created equal" and believing that slavery was wrong, but being a slave owner. The contradictory emotions and economic realities of that situation are all played out very distinctly here, and I had not realized that her husband was governor of Virginia and had tried to get slavery abolished in the early 1800s and had basically been politically destroyed by doing so. The authors handle these issues openly and make you think a lot about what life would have been like then.
I'm definitely going to pass this book on to the women in my book club....more