Beautiful. Heartbreaking. I fell in love with the language of it and the romance of it and the way my heart still hurts now that I've finished it.
It's...moreBeautiful. Heartbreaking. I fell in love with the language of it and the romance of it and the way my heart still hurts now that I've finished it.
It's brilliant but terrible in its lack of traditional happy ending. Both parties end up with - as harsh as this sounds - what they deserve, but God it still hurts.
I never expected to find myself enjoying a book that spoke so much about Catholic God and faith, but they speak of it in a way that's palpable to an agnostic Jew, which I think really says a lot. I don't shy away from conversations about faith, and in fact, find belief and adherence to those beliefs and searching for those beliefs to be a very real and human and admirable thing. The way the author intertwined the search for faith and the belief in religion with the search and belief in love was, for lack of a better description, done incredibly well. It didn't feel too didactic or heavy-handed, probably because Frances was so pragmatic about the whole thing. To say I enjoyed it doesn't pay homage to the way my heart feels torn apart, but throughout 3/4ths of this book, I did absolutely enjoy reading about Frances and Bernard falling in like and then in love and then I had to figure out what to do about how very much I respected Frances for her convictions and living up to them while I also very much believe in Bernard's declarations of love and try to live my own life believing in it.
*Spoiler alert in the next paragraph!
The one tiny glitch that I am still thinking about is how Bernard's character was framed after his marriage to Susan - all his infidelities. We are absolutely influenced by those we love most, and so though it is possible that Frances might have been influenced for the worse by Bernard's character, was it not also possible that in marrying Bernard, Frances could have been the making of him instead? Was Bernard's character allowed to run out of check because of Susan's character, herself?
That aside, it's going to take me a little while to build back up from all that again. Some books are supposed to make you feel like that.
I feel like I underlined half the book, but here are some particular favorites:
"I thought I had been growing up by unleashing my strength and mind onto the world, by imposing myself and not being afraid of it, but this suddenly began to seem like a lifetime of tantrums. I'd gotten used to having too much, at having whatever I willed become real, which had made my will promiscuous. Not strong at all." (19)
"She is a girl, but she is also an old man, and I see that there is intractability in her heart that may never be shattered. Perhaps that is because she grew up among women who love harder than they think, and she has strengthened her innate intractability in order to keep tunneling toward a place where she could write undisturbed by the demands of conventional femininity. So she may always think harder than she loves." (48)
"My life without you would certainly be less. That is one think I know." (77)
"'Bernard,' I said, and took his hand. 'No, no, that's not enough,' he said. He took the package out of my other hand, put it down on a chair, and then pulled me to him. He was right. That wasn't enough." (81)
"I wonder what of your mother was encoded in you without your knowing; what of your life is a letter she wrote you that you have just opened and will take your whole life to read." (85)
"...people who made a point to weave themselves together because they had poured out their blood among one another. They may be annoyed with each other, but they do not hate each other. They understand that annoyance is a fair price to pay for the strange protective love of family." (132)
"You rely on your books for things the rest of us search for in people... 'Your books need no help from me. They are for you alone. When you don't want to be alone, then here I am.'" (177)(less)
This book has been described as of interest to fans of the movie Possession starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Aaron Eckhart. While it's true that there are...moreThis book has been described as of interest to fans of the movie Possession starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Aaron Eckhart. While it's true that there are similarities - romance among two people brought together by new findings that shed light upon a piece of British history - the pacing of this novel would have been much better served as a movie. While I am glad I read it, I can't say I simply enjoyed it.
The story got lost for me in the emphasis placed on everything from the detailed descriptions of the British and Welsh countrysides to ancient historical events and genealogies to dreamscapes (which really seemed most out of place) to almost everything but the forward momentum of the story itself. I could see how the sweeping vistas would be gorgeous in a movie, or how the impeccably researched historical elements might appeal to history buffs, but I wanted more meat to the story itself. The very writing itself seemed to contain a kind of stereotypical British constraint that was occasionally swept aside by a fanciful phrase that almost did more to distract than add, it being so out of place.
All of that said, something about it kept me reading, maybe because the pacing was just enough to hook me in as I was about to give up with some new piece of the mystery or new development in a character's relationship. I did like the characters: Donald Gladstone is the co-main character along with Julia Llewelyn. He's an archaeologist; she's a researcher for the OED. Her husband, Hugh Mortimer, I thought was the least realized character, despite his rather central role in the end. Some intriguing minor characters come in, with Donald's American ex-wife being my least favorite, mostly because she either put on airs as a character or the author genuinely believes American women act like this (either one being of extreme annoyance to me).
A slow build for sure, I was almost most disappointed in the ending, for right as there is a final build-up to the actual find that brings all the various pieces of the historical mystery together, the author prefers to write something prosaic and leave it all to our imagination, what happens next, as opposed to giving the reader some closure - which, ironically I felt, was something several of characters throughout the novel were looking for (closure). Overall, I'd recommend less historical reference, more character development.(less)
Meet Hyde, Silver Heart, and Lady Sparkle. By day, they are assistants to three powerful men in Edwardian London. By night, they are the masked heroin...moreMeet Hyde, Silver Heart, and Lady Sparkle. By day, they are assistants to three powerful men in Edwardian London. By night, they are the masked heroines that make up the Friday Society.
When flower girls start being murdered, men of science turn up dead, and bits of London start blowing up, it is up to these three to use their unique talents to put it all together and save London from permanent destruction. Cora (Hyde) uses her brilliant scientific mind and her knowledge of the streets from her time spent living on them as a child. Nora (Lady Sparkle) uses her beautiful face and flexible body to escape any trap and scale any wall. Michiko (Silver Heart) uses her formidable fighting skills as a trained samurai to defeat any foe. Together they have the brains, beauty, and brawn to save London.
Irreverent, funny, full of steampunk costumes and inventions, these three ladies are set to take London by storm - as long as they can ditch their bumbling male handlers and be back in time by morning, of course.
"How shocking. Truly. One simply doesn't do such things in polite society."(less)
**spoiler alert** Having enjoyed Kresley Cole's adult novels, I was interested to see what her YA would be like. It's definitely smoldering, in more w...more**spoiler alert** Having enjoyed Kresley Cole's adult novels, I was interested to see what her YA would be like. It's definitely smoldering, in more ways than one. The heat between Evangeline (Evie) Greene and Jackson (Jack) Deveaux sizzles on the page, while the real burning fire of the Flash - the end of the world event that has killed almost everyone on Earth, turning the survivors into evil creatures called Bagmen who eat anything with liquid, or plain ole cannibals, or power-hungry militants - is gruesome enough to give you nightmares. Among the few non-evil survivors are 16-year-old Evie and the motorcycle-riding, whiskey-drinking, bad-ass bad boy Jack.
**SPOILER ALERT. PLOT DISCUSSED**
Former schoolmates from opposite sides of the bayou in Louisiana, the book opens with Evie talking about what happened in the week leading up to the Flash, the end of the world as everyone knew it. It's the first week of school and as one of the most popular and richest girls in the county (cheerleader dating the hot quarterback, etc.), Evie is trying her hardest to pretend it's business as usual. What she's concealing is the summer she spent in a mental institution, drugged and brainwashed into denying her psychotic episodes. She sees things - burning skies, plants that come alive - and often sleepwalks while having nightmares. Her mother sends her away, denying everything, and Evie is forced to play along. Everything is okay at first, but despite taking her meds, the hallucinations begin to happen all the time, and the voices in her head - voices of other teenagers - just won't stop. She also can't stop the fleeting flashbacks to a memory of her grandmother who used to tell her about Tarot; the characters were real in her grandmother's stories, not just symbols on cards. Add to all that the pressure her boyfriend is putting on her to have sex, the intense attraction and dislike she feels for new kid Jack Deveaux, and Evie is a hot mess.
Then the Flash happens, the scorching sun burning everyone and everything exposed. Evie and her mother were able to hide in their basement, but almost everyone else they know wasn't so lucky. With supplies running low, Evie makes a desperate discovery - her blood brings plants to life. Secretly tending a garden in her barn, Evie tries to not feel desperate at her mother's weakening condition, the rumors of the military and cannibals heading her way (not sure which is worse - to be repeatedly raped or murdered and eaten?), and she has no way out. Until Jack Deveaux rides up on his motorcycle one day, just ahead of the approaching army. When her mother dies in the night, Evie agrees to go with Jack on one condition - he take her to find her grandmother who Evie secretly thinks may have some of the answers to her hallucinations.
Evie has begun to realize that Tarot is real, that the voices in her head are really the voices of other teenagers who represent other Tarot characters, and that Evie herself is one of them. Along the way, Evie & Jack pick up other teenage survivors - Matthew, Selena, and Finneas - who Evie recognizes as other Tarot characters. It seems each Tarot character has a choice, whether to fight on the side of good or evil, though Evie has a hard time recognizing this battle within herself. As Evie, Jack, and the crew continue on their dangerous cross-country journey, they are fighting an uphill battle against almost everything - limited food and water, the Bagmen, the cannibals, the army they have to avoid, and most of all, their attraction to each other. Jack and Evie have an undeniable connection, Matthew loves Evie but like a brother, Selena wants Jack, while Finn wants Selena. It's all raging battles and raging hormones as the crew tries to adjust to each other, their powers, and what to do next. Both Jack and Evie have secrets to hide, and despite all they've been through, both don't quite trust each other. As Evie gets closer to realizing just who and what she really is, she realizes one of the things that scares her the most is that Jack will reject who she may turn out to be - she's not just the Poison Princess, she is the Empress, the one who will win over the other Arcana, the other members of the Tarot, by seeing them all dead with their glyphs written on her body.(less)
**spoiler alert** Melissa Marr hits it out of the park again in this book that took everyone – herself, her publisher, and her fans, as she was not sc...more**spoiler alert** Melissa Marr hits it out of the park again in this book that took everyone – herself, her publisher, and her fans, as she was not scheduled to release this year – by great surprise. What’s not so surprising is that if this book had any amount of graphic sex in it, it would be shelved in the paranormal adult romance section. It doesn’t, making it both appropriate and perhaps a tad disappointing for readers 16+. What it doesn’t have in sex, it makes up for in spades with magic and witchcraft, casual and purposeful violence, harsh emotional realities, and that romantic and sexual tension that can only be created by two people destined to be on opposing teams while being together. When you’re introduced to a centuries-old battle between witches and daimons, what else can you expect?
**Spoiler alert! Plot discussed!**
Mallory is, unknown to her, the missing daughter of Marchosias, ruler of the daimon world. Hidden for 17 years by her birth mother, Selah, a daimon Watcher, and her adopted father, Adam, a very powerful witch, in the Earth realm, Mallory was raised to hate and fight against daimons. Adam has used his magic to keep her from knowing her true daimon self, and that she is why they keep moving so often. He also uses magic to erase her memory of fighting the daimons Marchosias has sent looking for her, and that the new boy, the first boy, she has ever liked, is in fact Kaleb, a cur from the daimon realm, a part-time assassin hired to discover Mallory’s whereabouts, and one of the final contestants in the fight-to-the-death competition held at the Carnival of Souls. Once he does meet Mallory, the game changes, as they are both unprepared for the connection they have.
Kaleb recognizes Mallory as his mate, and when Adam goes missing in the daimon realm, Kaleb will stop at nothing – even aligning himself with Aya, the half-witch, half-daimon child of Evelyn, head of the Council of Witches, and Aya’s familiar, the daimon Belias – to help Mallory travel to the daimon realm, explore her daimon nature, stand up to her birth father Marchosias, and save her adopted father Adam.
I can’t help but be reminded of the machinations of the ruling families during the bloodiest years of European history, and half expect to see these twisted plot lines in a Showtime series like The Tudors someday. Earth vs. daimon realm, witches vs. daimons, parents vs. children, love vs. hate – all face off in Melissa Marr’s newest book, first in what is sure to be a trilogy or series.(less)
My friend asked me why I gave it only two stars, and this was my response. It's masquerading as a review:
I really wanted to like it! It was on my TBR...moreMy friend asked me why I gave it only two stars, and this was my response. It's masquerading as a review:
I really wanted to like it! It was on my TBR list, and then a book group I'm in chose it, so I was excited to pick it up. But it just annoyed the crap out of me almost from the beginning. I think it has a lot to do with the place I'm at in my own life right now, but everyone was SO whiny and self-centered and dishonorable that I had a lot of trouble feeling comfortable with any of the characters. Everyone was just so f-ing PASSIVE! "Wah, this all happens TO me. I'm in these situations I don't like but will continue to go along with because someone else is steamrolling right over my (mostly internal) weak protests." Pasquale was the only one I actually LIKED (though I get you don't have to like a character to connect with a book), and it wasn't just because I was proud of him for doing the right thing, but because he did something - anything - at all to change his life. Even Dee said at one point that being with her husband was like being on an island - like she was just waiting with him in this middle period, waiting for her life to begin (which was a HUGE theme throughout the course of the book). But she doesn't consciously DO anything to change her life, or her son's life, until Pasquale re-enters (I'm being vague to avoid spoilers in case anyone else reads this rant). In terms of the writing style, again that was something I really wanted to like, because in theory, I'm super supportive of multiple POVs and various narrative styles to move plot forward, but the way it was executed made me feel uncomfortable (again) and disjointed and vaguely annoyed almost the entire time. Then there's the writing itself, which I thought was a little rambly and whiny and self-congratulatory and cliched on the existential bits (and there was a part where the author consciously used a big metaphor and chose El Dorado when Don Quixote would have been a much better and more relatable choice). Also, I didn't like the last chapter, except for the very last Pasquale/Dee part. I suppose some argument could be made that wrapping up their story was given greater context by wrapping up the other loose ends of secondary and even tertiary characters, but the wrap-ups seemed too pat for me. There were two beautiful lines in the entire book that gave me pause, and other than that, the writing didn't knock my socks off. So, all of that combined, two stars.(less)
Quietly enthralling. That's the first thing that comes to mind when trying to describe this book. The basic facts - the lives of 4 people interwoven o...moreQuietly enthralling. That's the first thing that comes to mind when trying to describe this book. The basic facts - the lives of 4 people interwoven over a period of 40 years - don't do justice to the elegant and simple way this novel unfolds and lays out the complexities of the plot. Rachel Simon exhibits true mastery in how her writing jumps from time, place, and point-of-view to paint a complete picture using pivotal moments, and her writing is lovely to boot: "What is the history of the word for 'child'? What is the future of the word for 'mine'?" (pg. 154).
The story begins on the doorstep of Martha's farmhouse in the late 1960s. A retired schoolteacher and longtime widow, Martha leads a simple life, her social life consisting of writing and receiving letters from her former students and hosting a yearly holiday party. When a deaf black man and a mentally-ill white woman show up on her doorstep with a newborn, Martha barely has time to feed them and clothe them before officials from the State School for the Incurable and Feeble-Minded knock on her door. Without really understanding what is happening, Martha lets the men in and they search her home to find Lynnie, the woman, hiding in a back bedroom. There is no sign of Homan, the man, and the officials apparently don't know to look for the baby. As Lynnie passes Martha, while being dragged from the house, Lynnie manages to whisper, "Hide her," and so Martha does. For the next 14 years, Martha will dedicate herself to the care, feeding, protecting, and loving of the baby, Beautiful Girl, Julia.
Meanwhile, Lynnie is brought back to the School, where she must endure the derision of the guards, and inattention of the doctors, and the loss of both Beautiful Girl and Homan. Not everything is horrible, however, and with the help of her friends - Doreen, a fellow "inmate" at the school, and Kate, a school employee - Lynnie is able to use her artistic ability to draw pictures depicting her escape, her return, and continue with drawing her life after. Over time, conditions at the School improve, Lynnie's own mind and abilities improve, and she is able to work on learning to speak, learning to communicate, and learning to take care of herself within assisted environments, ultimately speaking up in favor of legislation that would close all schools like the one she grew up in. Yet, despite her personal growth, she is constant in her memory of Homan and her baby.
Homan, deaf, scared, unable to communicate as no one understands his signs, he can't understand American Sign Language, nor can he read lips, runs from one situation to another - some of them bad, some of them good - but most of them taking him farther and farther away from Lynnie and Beautiful Girl. For a long time, he keeps the thought of returning to the School at the forefront of his mind, but it's the 60s, and then the 70s, and the introduction of smoking pot into his life makes it easy for him to live more complacently with people and in situations that don't push him to continue toward his goal. After many years of living an almost apathetic existence, crossing paths with someone from his past will bring about a change in him that has him looking toward a brighter future.
Ignorant of the circumstances of her birth, Julia has only known her grandmother Matilda (Martha) and the various aunts and uncles (Martha's former students) that have given them food and shelter over the years. It isn't until Julia hits her teen years that she begins to question, she begins to rebel, and Martha faces the tough decision of what and how much and when to tell Julia the truth of her birth.
Forty years brings about a lot of change in the world, and in the people involved, but certain constants - like love, and sacrifice, and caring for others as part of human nature - weave a positive thread throughout the opposition all four main characters face. The final scenes provide a clever glimpse into the future beyond the book without wrapping things up too carefully, so that Lynnie, Homan, Julia, and even Martha live on inside the reader long past the final page.(less)