Laura Kasischke's The Life Before Her Eyes is quite a remarkable book. I picked it up well over a year ago on the recommendation of an independent boo...more Laura Kasischke's The Life Before Her Eyes is quite a remarkable book. I picked it up well over a year ago on the recommendation of an independent bookstore owner, and read the prologue when I got home, knowing I was in the middle of a couple of other books at the time, but still wanting to get a taste of the book. After finishing the prologue, I felt that I had had a satisfying reading experience on just those 10 pages alone, and couldn't wait to get to reading the rest as soon as I could. That was October, 2008. The book has been sitting on my shelf, unread, ever since I'm ashamed to say. This week, Laura Kasischke was doing a reading and signing at my local bookstore, so I was determined to read through this book this week, and I'm just sorry that it has taken me so long to finally get around to reading such an amazing story.
Diana and Maureen are best friends in high school. They do everything together, go everywhere together, are rarely separated. Their bright futures are still stretched out before them with all the potential that is available, until they are forced to make a decision that will alter that future forever: Which one of them is to die?
We skip ahead to forty-something Diana and her life now, her husband, her daughter, her happy existence. However, something seems to be wrong. It almost seems like her life is unraveling at the seams all around her. She is seeing things that aren't necessarily there or shouldn't be there, she is having moods swings, she is having unexplainable flashbacks to her younger days. What does all of this mean for Diana and what does it have to do with her younger self.
Kasischke's writing is so ethereal and atmospheric, it reads like a dream. We alternate between younger Diana and older Diana with a revolving narrative that has slight reflections from younger Diana onto older Diana's story. When the narrative is following Diana and Maureen, there is no real distinction between which girl is which, which seems fitting since they spend so much time together and are so connected, that there really is almost no distinction between them. As I progressed through the story and more became clear to me about what was happening for sure, I couldn't put the book down. I had a feeling I understood from the beginning what was happening but wasn't sure I quite had it, but when everything started to fall into place, the true power of the entire book was becoming clear to me. I know this is all very enigmatic, but I don't want to give anything away; the power of the story is in its unraveling. A truly powerful and amazing story that is beautifully written and not quite like anything that I have read before.(less)
So, I'm not going to lie. When I received The Wednesday Daughters in the mail, I anxiously picked it right up and started reading, having loved Meg Wa...moreSo, I'm not going to lie. When I received The Wednesday Daughters in the mail, I anxiously picked it right up and started reading, having loved Meg Waite Clayton's two previous novels. Then I thought for a moment that I was reading something a little too familiar. I felt like The Wednesday Daughters was treading too similar waters, that the characters from The Wednesday Sisters had been dropped into the setting of The Four Ms Bradwells, where friends go off to a cottage in the woods to deal with a major life change. Well, I was wrong. Yes, it does seem at first as if the Daughters borrow heavily from her previous two novels, but that's not really the case. At all.
The book opens with three of the Wednesday Daughters, Julie, Anne Page, and Hope, arriving at Ally's (Hope's mother) writing cottage shortly after Ally's death. They've come here to help Hope sort through her mother's belongings, and almost immediately on their arrival, Hope begins to discover there is an entire portion of her mother's life that she didn't know about. What follows is a lovely story on the discovery of family ties and friendships, and how those ties can bind, even through the years and beyond death.
Intermixed in the story is a biography of sorts of Beatrix Potter. Ally had been working on this biography when she died, and how Clayton has her go about working on it is actually quite clever.
Quite frankly, once I really got into the story, I couldn't put it down. I actually read the entire book in two sittings, and I'm honestly embarrassed by my initial reaction to the book. Meg Waite Clayton has clearly had some amazing female friendships in her lifetime, as she knows how to write about them and create realistic and believable characters and the experiences and emotions, both good and bad, that flow between friends who are more family and who have known each other their entire lives. I liked how Daughters isn't a direct sequel to Sisters. Yes, there is mention of the Wednesday Sisters from the first book, and there are even guest appearances, but this isn't really their story. This story deals directly with the Wednesday Daughters, and the challenges that their generation can face in the real world. You don't need to read Sisters to enjoy Daughters, but being familiar with the first book does enhance the reading experience for Daughters.
I love Meg Waite Clayton's writing. She writes in such a familiar fashion that is so easy to read, and moves the story along with such beautiful imagery. I enjoy her characters, I enjoy her pacing, I enjoy her language. So basically, ignore everything I said at the beginning of this review and pick up the book. If you've read her previous novels, you'll be reminded why Clayton is such a great writer, and if you are new to her writing, you'll be pleasantly surprised.
I have been a huge fan of Gail Carriger since I first read Soulless several years ago, and have been following her Parasol Protectorate series. (Full...moreI have been a huge fan of Gail Carriger since I first read Soulless several years ago, and have been following her Parasol Protectorate series. (Full disclosure here: I haven't actually finished the final book, Timeless, as I really don't want the series to end.) When I heard that she was going to be writing a YA series set in the same universe, I was thrilled. When I was given an opportunity to read an ARC of the book, I was beyond thrilled. I'm happy to report that Ms. Carriger has not let me down with this new series.
Sophronia Angelina Temminnick is, by all accounts, a tomboy in an era when such shenanigans by a female is frowned upon, at the very least. She likes to see how things work, she likes to be active, and she could care less about the finer points of civilized, ladylike behaviour. All in all, she's the bane of her mother's existence. Enter Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. Sophronia's mother is hoping that sending Sophronia off to finishing school will help curb some of her more unappealing attributes.
Unbeknownst to her mother, Mademoiselle Geraldine's is not your typical finishing school, for Mademoiselle Geraldine's teaches its girls not only the finer points of ladylike behaviour, but also the finer points of subterfuge, seduction, poisoning, and various other talents necessary to a successful life of espionage. At first, Sophronia does not want to go to finishing school, until she discovers the underlying nature of Mademoiselle Geraldine's and finds that her particular skills help her to fit right in at the school.
One of the things that I liked most about Etiquette & Espionage is how Ms. Carriger works it into her preexisting universe. Taking place roughly 25 years before the events of the Parasol Protectorate, we find ourselves meeting the younger versions of some of the characters we're already familiar with. (I won't tell you who, as that's part of the fun!) I was curious how/if Ms. Carriger was going to tie these two series together, and I think she did an admirable job. If you come to Etiquette & Espionage already familiar with the Parasol Protectorate series, you'll find yourself recognizing some of the characters. If Etiquette & Espionage is your first outing with Ms. Carriger's characters, these younger versions stand perfectly well on their own, and you can use this book as a gateway drug into the more sophisticated world built in the Parasol Protectorate.
This draws me to the only fault I have with the book. The Parasol Protectorate is so witty and clever and sophisticated in so many ways, and knowing how Ms. Carriger is able to able to write, to see her scaling back on her sophistication to make it more palatable for a YA audience took me aback a little. I'm not even quite sure that that's the best way to put it. I can see all the hallmarks of her usual cleverness, but somehow it just didn't seem to hit the mark every time, and the book did seem rushed sometimes, as if she were forcing it to be shorter. Now, don't get me wrong, I was giggling through almost the entire book, but it did seem to be lacking something. Perhaps, being Ms. Carriger's YA debut, she needs time to grow into her YA voice, to get the pacing down and learn how to write a shorter story. I don't know. Maybe I'm analyzing too much. You can be sure that this one little thing won't be keeping me from picking up the rest of the series as it is released.
So, in my opinion, Ms. Carriger has proven that she can hold her own as a YA writer as well as an SciFi/Fantasy writer, and while there is the argument that there might a little room for improvement, she hasn't disappointed this reader at all. If you are a fan of the Parasol Protectorate, or are curious about Ms. Carriger's writing, I wholeheartedly recommend Etiquette & Espionage!
Etiquette & Espionage will be available from Little, Brown & Company on February 5, 2013.(less)
**spoiler alert** I absolutely loved this book. I was trying to decide on a TIOLI challenge book for March (read a book by an LT Author) and I needed...more**spoiler alert** I absolutely loved this book. I was trying to decide on a TIOLI challenge book for March (read a book by an LT Author) and I needed something that was more brain candy than anything else, and after reading a couple of other reviews/recommendations of His Majesty's Dragon decided I'd pick up the first book if I found it at the bookstore. Much to my now pleasure, they had a copy and I went ahead and broke my no new book buying rule for about the 100th time this year and picked it up. Needless to say, the next four are on their way from Amazon now.
Novik takes another look at the Napoleonic Wars in this series, one where dragons are an important part of all armies and their fighting forces. The dragons are harnessed at birth (when they emerge from their egg) with a human rider who becomes their captain, and together they become a fighting force with an entire crew that works to keep the dragon healthy and safe. When Capt. Laurence captures a French ship carrying a dragon egg, at first he imagines only what his share of the prize money will be, but when it is discovered that the egg will hatch before they reach port, the decision is made to try to harness the dragon right on the ship, something that has never been done before, as the Aerial Corps has always handled all eggs and the subsequent harnessing. Much to his surprise, when the new dragonet hatches, it completely ignores the man whose name was pulled to try the harnessing, and instead speaks directly to Laurence and allows him to do the harnessing. Now Laurence must leave the navy and with the newly named Temeraire, must learn the ways of the Aerial Corps. And I couldn't put the book down from here on out.
I loved the growing relationship between Laurence and Temeraire. Instead of just being mindless beasts bent on destruction, Novik has created intelligent and engaging characters in her dragons, and from the moment that Temeraire speaks to Laurence, I was totally lost in their growing friendship and trust. I think this, above and beyond anything else in the book, was what had me hooked from the beginning. There was just something about the way that Novik had Laurence and Temeraire grow closer that I just found totally mesmerizing. The other side stories were just as equally well-written, but it was the experience of watching Laurence and Temeraire grow into their partnership that held the entire book together so unquestionably. Of course, there is so much more to the story than just their growing relationship; there is also their training and the interactions on both Laurence and Temeraire's parts with their new comrades and the battle at the end of the book where we learn the true nature of Temeraire's breeding. It's just all so well put together, I loved every moment of the book and read it in 2 days.
I always enjoy discovering a new author, but to be able to find a book that I can so easily get lost in as well is a complete treat for me, and I can't recommend His Majesty's Dragon enough. I'm anxiously looked forward to moving on to the second book in the series, Throne of Jade. This will easily be topping my list of favorite books of the year.(less)
A "Where's Waldo" for Doctor Who fans, journey across some of the Doctor's various locales and try to find him, Amy, Rory, the TARDIS, and numerous ot...moreA "Where's Waldo" for Doctor Who fans, journey across some of the Doctor's various locales and try to find him, Amy, Rory, the TARDIS, and numerous other items in this book for both kids and adults alike. (less)
Truth be told, my reading this book and my reviewing are somewhat far removed, but as I'm trying to get caught up on my reading/reviewing for the year...moreTruth be told, my reading this book and my reviewing are somewhat far removed, but as I'm trying to get caught up on my reading/reviewing for the year, I'm going to talk about the impressions the book left me with, even after this amount of time. Ivan, a gorilla, has lived most of his life in a circus-themed shopping mall where he has been the star. There is also Stella, the elephant, and Bob, and stray dog who has befriended Ivan and Stella. When the owner of the mall decides that Ivan and Stella aren't pulling in the audience that they should, he purchases Ruby and tries to force her to perform for the shoppers, but she is young and scared and takes to Stella immediately. What stands Ivan apart from other gorillas is that he likes to draw, and the daughter of the custodian of the mall helps nurture this talent in him. As Stella grows older, Ivan promises to Ruby that he will watch over and find a way to get her out of the mall, even though he's really not sure how he's going to be able to keep that promise.
What follows from there is a story full of love, hope, and humanity. Ivan proves to be able to reach above his lot in life and keeps his promise for Ruby, but it's really how he goes about keeping that promise that is so amazing. This was a book that I'm glad that I read, and I know I'm not doing it any justice with this review, so just trust me when I say that this is a book full of magic and love, and if you have small children, this would be a perfect book to read aloud to them and to share and to talk about.
You know what, this is a perfectly silly little book, a "Where's Waldo" for Doctor Who fans, but it makes me smile, and sometimes all you need is a pe...moreYou know what, this is a perfectly silly little book, a "Where's Waldo" for Doctor Who fans, but it makes me smile, and sometimes all you need is a perfectly silly little book that makes you smile.
As with "Where's the Doctor", travel with the Doctor across time and try to find him, Amy, Rory, the TARDIS, and various other items in this book for both kids and adults alike. (less)
Dickens' perennial Christmas classic about Ebenezer Scrooge and his visits from the ghost of his former partner, Jacob Marley and the Ghosts of Christ...moreDickens' perennial Christmas classic about Ebenezer Scrooge and his visits from the ghost of his former partner, Jacob Marley and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Yet to Come and the Christmas lessons Scrooge learns from them. I try to read this every year around the holidays, and it never seems to get old.
The illustrations in this particular edition by P. J. Lynch are gorgeous!(less)
I don't think it's any surprise around here that I love comic books. They captured my imagination when I...moreReview originally posted at From My Bookshelf
I don't think it's any surprise around here that I love comic books. They captured my imagination when I was a kid, and 30ish years later, they still capture my imagination. Over the years, the stories have grown up too (at least, I think so), and characters and trends have come and gone, and my interest has waxed and waned, yet I always come back to them. And I hope that they continue to capture my imagination far into the future, because they can seriously just be so much damned fun!
So, when I first heard about A Once Crowded Sky, I couldn't wait to get my hands one it. The book blurbs had said that Tom King, a former CIA agent who also worked as an intern at Marvel Comics and DC Comics, has written a book that takes everything that's great about comic books and put it into literary fiction. And you know what? They were right.
A Once Crowded Sky is the story of PenUltimate, the last existing superhero in Arcadia City, the only hero to still have his powers and who would still be able to play in the great and wonderful game of superheroes and villains, if there were any left. But, there are not. He is the last. And why is he the last, you ask? Well, all I can say to that is, "Spoilers!". I actually can't go into a whole lot of the plot or storyline in the book, for just that reason. The story plays out as it needs to play out, and I'm afraid that if I were to give anything away, I'd be ruining something. So, I'll just talk about my feelings during and after reading.
First off, King plays by the rules of comic books in his story. The heroes fight the villains, fight amongst themselves, save the day, do the impossible, and start all over again next month. In this world, the rules of the comic book and the monthly publishing timeline work to their advantage. This is something that I particularly loved about the book, their inner knowledge that this is how things worked in their universe. All the superheroes understand this, and that's part of what is hard for them, now that their powers are gone. They're very self-aware of their part to play in the grand scheme of their universe, and now that it's gone, they are trying to piece their lives back together as best they can.
King does such a great job of writing this as a comic book come to literary life, that when I was reading it, I had the same feeling of "so much damned fun" that I get when I'm reading a really well written/drawn comic book. He understands the pacing needed to make a good comic, and translates it perfectly into literary form. As more of what is happening in the background of the story and more is revealed to what the whole story was about, that feeling just continued to grow. Everything about this book is just "so much damned fun"! However, the great thing about this book is that King has written it in such a way that even those who are not fans of comic books could enjoy it.
I'd really like to see more form Tom King in the future. If this is what we're getting from him on his literary debut, I'm anxious to see what he can do next. (less)
I'm not entirely sure that I would be able to do justice in describing Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane. The book is equal parts nostalg...moreI'm not entirely sure that I would be able to do justice in describing Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane. The book is equal parts nostalgia, beauty, terror, and magic. Nostalgia for a simpler time when magic was all entirely too possible for a young child; the book is beautifully written, nothing forced, it just is; Gaiman's writing is capable of creating such terrifying imagery to what can scare a child, something that would not be possible in less deft hands; Gaiman has created a magic all his own for adults, by reminding us that once upon a time, our childhood selves did believe in magic, and somehow he reawakens that sense of wonder in this small volume he has crafted. It's a wonder that such a slim little book is capable of manifesting so many emotions in such a short time. This is Neil Gaiman we're speaking of, so of course it really comes as no surprise to me when I really think about it.
I think I may just leave this review, for what it's worth, at that. I mean, I could go on and on about the book, but I don't want to give anything away. The magic of the book is in letting it speak for itself, telling you its story, and letting you take it all in.
So, if I haven't made it obvious, this is a book worth reading. I know it will be topping my list of books for the year, and I know it's going to be one that I will be revisiting over and over again through the years. This book and I are going to become best friends.
Go and read it. Read it again. You won't be sorry.(less)
Being young doesn't protect you. Horrors come for kids, too.
Never heard of Victor Lavalle before? That's OK, neither had I until I r...more**spoiler alert**
Being young doesn't protect you. Horrors come for kids, too.
Never heard of Victor Lavalle before? That's OK, neither had I until I received a notice from NetGalley saying that this book was available for review. After reading Lucretia, I think this is something that I think I need to fix. Lucretia and the Kroons is a prequel of sorts to Victor Lavalle's The Devil in Silver and if The Devil in Silver is anywhere near as good as Lucretia, I think I'm in for a treat. A creepy treat, but a treat all the same. (Full disclosure here, I had no idea that Lucretia and the Kroons was anything more than a standalone story. I only discovered it was a prequel after I looked up Lavalle after reading the story.)
After Lucretia's (or Loochie's) mom tries to throw her a birthday party (to disastrous results), all she wants is for her friend Sunny to come home from hospital, where she is undergoing cancer treatment. On the big day of Sunny's return, Loochie's brother comes to their apartment and tells Loochie about the Kroons, a family of druggies who lived 2 floors above them in their apartment building. According to her brother, the landlord boarded the Kroons into their apartment to let them fend for themselves, as they had become far too dangerous to deal with, and nobody had seen them in quite some time. Loochie isn't sure if her brother is telling the truth or if he's just trying to scare her, but either way he tells her to be careful, as terrible things can still happen to her even though she is young. When Sunny is kidnapped by none other than the Kroons, Loochie takes it upon herself to rescue her best friend.
What follows is hard to describe. It is equal parts horror, magical realism, and coming of age. Loochie finds herself in a world gone wrong, yet one that is strangely familiar. Loochie eventually finds Sunny and saves her, but at what cost to either girl, or the one Kroon sister that has come to their aid? Based on the description of The Devil in Silver, the events of Lucretia and the Kroons is the explanation as to how Loochie ends up in the situation she finds herself in.
I know this all sounds really vague, but it needs to be. The story is too easy to spoil and really too hard to explain it without sounding crazy. I felt like I was reading a lost Twilight Zone screenplay. I could imagine what the world Loochie finds herself in easily, and could easily picture what this would look like as a television program or even on the big screen. Everything about this story is just like our world, just a little off. I thoroughly enjoyed ever bit of it, even though it is fairly short, and will definitely be checking out The Devil in Silver in the near future.(less)