The Cranes Dance, by Meg Howrey, follows the life of ballerina Kate Crane. She takes us through an especially rough patch in her family life that coin...moreThe Cranes Dance, by Meg Howrey, follows the life of ballerina Kate Crane. She takes us through an especially rough patch in her family life that coincides with the career boost she may just need.
Kates sister, Gwen, is the superior dancer. Everyone knows this: Kate is a soloist, but Gwen is a principle dancer. But when Gwen’s neurosis get to be too much to handle, Kate calls up her dad to take her away. While Gwen is getting treatment, Kate injures herself but dances what has to be her best season yet. She snags lead roles, but her dependence on painkillers might be clouding her world.
Kate’s voice was instantly likeable for me. She is witty and funny. She addresses her audience directly, and is quite blunt and honest in her opinions. She is a very self aware and strong female lead. Her dancer lifestyle isn’t entirely relatable to me, but I felt I understood her regardless. Her emotions and thoughts are very well described.
Overall, this novel was interesting and engaging. I was never bored with it. I always wanted to read just a bit more before putting it down. Because of this, I finished it in one sitting. It’s a very quick read, but very good as well. I’d definitely recommend this book to anyone, dancer or not.(less)
In Your Face is a very interesting book. It sets out to see what humans find attractive in one another, and why. Not only is it very well researched,...moreIn Your Face is a very interesting book. It sets out to see what humans find attractive in one another, and why. Not only is it very well researched, the author also presents the information in a very accessible manner. Someone without a scientific background could easily pick up and following along in this book. It is clear, concise, and engaging.
Overall, this is a very fascinating read, and I definitely recommend it!(less)
I had high hopes for this book. Bob Massie has had some seemingly insurmountable challenges in his life. Despite this, he has overcome and beaten the...moreI had high hopes for this book. Bob Massie has had some seemingly insurmountable challenges in his life. Despite this, he has overcome and beaten the odds. His descriptions of his childhood are heartbreaking, but his attitude and strength are truly admirable. Towards the middle of the book though, his story became a bit of a drag. His college years and onward just didn't hold my interest the way his younger years did.
This was just an ok read for me. Though Massie himself has done remarkable things, his book fell short.(less)
Two weeks before December 21, 2012, a man speaking a strange language is brought into East L.A. Presbyterian Hospital with what appears to be a prion...moreTwo weeks before December 21, 2012, a man speaking a strange language is brought into East L.A. Presbyterian Hospital with what appears to be a prion disease. Dr. Gabriel Stanton, a prion disease researcher for the CDC, is called in. When it is realised that the patient is speaking a Mayan language, Chel Manu, an expert in Mayan Studies, aides as a translator. She is rocked by what she learns from this patient, though. Chel has recently acquired an incredible artifact from a shady source: a previously undiscovered Mayan codex, dating back farther than any other. What could this man have to do with the artifact? How does his terrifying disease factor in?
If you haven’t already heard, December 21, 2012, marks the beginning of the end of the world. Well, at least to those who misinterpret the Mayan long count calendar, anyway. This 2012 doomsday phenomenon has completely taken over. It’s everywhere, and as December 21st approaches, I imagine things will reach a fever pitch. 12.21, then, is a very timely novel. But if you’re thinking this novel bends actual Mayan fact to fits its plot, think again. Instantly, Thomason shows that he has done his homework. A simple change of the calendar isn’t what’s bringing on the end in this one. In fact, the novel’s fictional terror feels entirely to possible. Prions are well explained, also. And so is the meatpacking industry. Made me glad to be a vegetarian (well... not counting that salmon I had for dinner... I’ll stop eating fish really soon, I swear!).
Stanton is your classic workaholic. He has an ex-wife to prove it. Chel is quite dedicated to her work as well. She is passionate about her Mayan heritage. Both are driven people and very easy to like. The two are really good together. Here is a relationship thats takes some time to grow. The trust is not instant. As they work toward a common goal, they learn to rely on one another’s expertise and judgement. The character development is great in this one.
Also instantly likeable is Paktul and his ancient codex. As Chel and her team translate his secret writings, the reader gets a glimpse into the world of the ancient Mayans. His telling of events is lively and engaging. I found myself looking forward to his story, wondering what happened to cause it all. You see, what Paktul describes holds both the clues to great past of the Mayans and the terrible fate that may await the modern world.
12.21 is filled with plot twists, and it’s interesting to see how things eventually connect and fall into place. The writing is writing is solid as well. This book is definitely a page turner. I’d recommend it to anyone, doomsdayer or otherwise.(less)
What would you do if you could choose to be something . . . more: have your vision and hearing enhanced, become smarter and stronger, be vital even in...moreWhat would you do if you could choose to be something . . . more: have your vision and hearing enhanced, become smarter and stronger, be vital even in old age. Even fix medical ailments and control prosthetics with your mind. In Daniel H. Wilson’s Amped, people can now choose to have their brain implanted with a amplifier and their bodies enhanced. Thousands of Americans have chosen to become better versions of themselves. They are becoming “amps”. But as more and more people become amps, “pure” humans feel threatened. They can’t compete against amps. The amps go against the natural order, against God. As more and more legislation is passed, amps lose their rights and backlash is inevitable. Owen Gray has an amp. But his is medical, only intended to treat his seizures. Or so he believes. On the day that amps lose their Fourteenth Amendment rights, he learn that his amplifier might be something greater than he ever knew. Even greater than the standard implants, in fact. After heading out to seek the truth, he gets drawn into a plot that could rock this nation to its very core.
Owen is a middle-of-the-road kind of guy. I didn’t dislike him, but I didn’t immediately connect to him either. His backstory is minimal: we get the reason for his amp and not much else. The same is true for all characters, in fact. They aren’t given much of a description or story, leading to an overall lack of empathy on my part for them. Lucy, for instance, is a character it seems I should care about, but I can’t possibly bring myself to. I can’t even see why Owen should care for her. Their romance, if it can be called that, is as deep as a shower. Nick, on the other hand, I liked. He seems like a sweet kid just trying to grow up in a turbulent time.
The pace is breakneck, perhaps to a fault. Everything happens so fast and there is hardly ever a dull moment. It all very exciting for the duration of the novel, but then the ending seemed slapped together. More description in the latter pages would’ve helped tremendously. In the interest of not posting spoilers, I’ll just say some things were skimmed over and I’m still curious as to how certain points resolved themselves. Still, this is definitely a fast and fun read. Between the fight scenes and the chaos, the amp abilities and the lawlessness, it was hard to put this one down. I finished the book in one afternoon, and I can easily see this book being made into a movie.
Amped raises some very interesting questions: How do we define humanity? How far can science go? Where do we draw the line? But the most pressing question of of all: Could the sort of legal discrimination that occurs in Amped really happen in America? It has in the past, here and elsewhere. The parallels in Amped to the Holocaust are most apparent, the maintenance port a Star of David. And surely this nation has learned from the worldwide history of human suffering. . . right?
Amped isn’t a philosophical look at the human condition in the midsts of a societal crisis, though. It’s a fast paced, action packed novel with some serious entertainment value.(less)
Just because we can’t see them does not mean that they don’t exist. Imaginary friends are, in fact, real. Their human fr...more[Also posted on Futuresfading]
Just because we can’t see them does not mean that they don’t exist. Imaginary friends are, in fact, real. Their human friend thinks them up, but then they have their own thoughts and emotions and ideas. They need their friends to imagine them into existence and believe in them to stay alive, sure. But this is just a form of life support, not proof that they’re fake!
Budo, he’s one of the oldest imaginary friends around. Max imagined him into existence, and has believed in him for over five years. Max is a bit different, possibly autistic (it’s never explicitly stated), and has quite the imagination. He imagined Budo being both smart and very human-looking. That, coupled with his age, makes Budo the envy of other imaginary friends. But all is not well for Budo: he worries a lot. Max is bullied in school, and Budo worries for his safety. Max’s parents’ arguments are mostly about Max, too. Budo worries about his friends disappearing as their human imagineers stop believing in them. Mostly,though, Budo is preoccupied with thoughts of his own death. He want to exist for as long as possible, to never disappear. And then, another worry: Max falls into a new and terrible danger. Only Budo knows the truth, and he must save his friend.
This novel is simply wonderful. It’s like a kids adventure story, but made especially for adults. Budo sees the world in a unique way, and he shows us his world the best he can. He is wise but still very childlike, and is the perfect narrator for this tale. This very real imaginary friend takes the reader on a ride and manages to connect on an emotional level. He feels as we humans do, and not only does he learn as he goes along, he grows as well.
With its interesting premise and fast pace, Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend is a most unlikely coming of age story. For adults looking to indulge their inner child, this book is highly recommended.
[Full Disclosure: I received an advance reader copy via Shelf Awareness](less)
Berlin, 1936. The Olympics are underway and all eyes are on Hitler’s Germany. The Nazi propaganda machine has hidden its brutality from view, but ther...moreBerlin, 1936. The Olympics are underway and all eyes are on Hitler’s Germany. The Nazi propaganda machine has hidden its brutality from view, but there are those who still recognise the veiled terror. Eleanor Emerson, expelled from the US swim team, meets up with Richard Denham, a British journalist. Together, they learn that Berlin is center stage for more than just the Olympics. They find themselves in the middle of a very different kind of game, this one between the Gestapo and The British Secret Intelligence Service. There is a secret document that threatens to bring down the Third Reich, and Hitler's men want to get it before it is handed over to the SIS... by any means necessary.
Eleanor is a feisty young woman with a rebellious streak. Being quite the socialite, she gets herself kicked off the Olympic team en route to Berlin for partying a bit too hard. Her lines are fantastic and full of wit. She is a strong, likeable character. The same can be said for Denham, the cynical journalist determined to report the truth. He, too, is very well drawn. We get a great sense of how he values both his profession and his fellow man. All of the good guys stand out in their own way, in fact. For that bad guys, though, I was more likely to get them confused. They get a bit muddled, but I got them straightened out in the end.
The historical backdrop is phenomenal! So many real people and events are wonderfully woven into the story. The Olympics is the obvious, but the Hindenburg is also written in. Even the Wallis Simpson scandal gets a mention. Berlin itself comes to life. It’s easy to imagine what things were like back then, with the city being cleaned up to show a “nice” face to the world.
My main criticism, and the thing that really knocked the rating down a star, is the ending. I saw it coming pretty early on and spent the rest of the book hoping I was wrong. It’s just pretty predictable and...safe. It wraps the story up neatly and reconciles the book with actual events, but after such an exciting story I found myself wanting something radically different. Something that rewrote history entirely. Still, Flight From Berlin is a well written historical thriller. A must-read for anyone interested in this time in history, and great for fans of thrillers as well!
[Full Disclosure: I won this book through Goodreads First Reads.](less)
The Names of Things, by John Colman Wood, tells the story of an unnamed anthropologist studying the nomadic Dasse people of the Chalbi Desert. In his...moreThe Names of Things, by John Colman Wood, tells the story of an unnamed anthropologist studying the nomadic Dasse people of the Chalbi Desert. In his field work, he observes the customs and rituals, as well as the normal day-to-day interactions, of the camel-herding Dasse. He is entranced by them, falling easily into their life. He builds a friendship with one of the nomadic men.
“You seized a bit of life, and life damaged you.”
The anthropologist’s wife, an artist, goes with him. She does not adjust, merely endures. She complains to him, but these go unheeded. He thinks that she can paint anywhere and shouldn't really mind the upheaval of her life. As he becomes more involved in his work, his wife slips further away from him. Eventually, she is lost entirely. The anthropologist must then sift through his grief and the deceptive past to find answers. He returns to the desert, the scene of the crime, to make sense of things.
“Death is a strange betrayal. The dead leave the living more certainly than if they’d run off with a lover.”
Told in alternating first-person and third-persons narration, the reader gets a multifaceted look into the anthropologist’s life. The third-persons drives home the notion that this man is an observer, even of his own life. He is an anthropologist through and through. Still, the overall tone is intimate and personal. We feel very close to this man. The anthropologists’ sorrows and desires become our own. The desert wilderness comes to life as well. The people, animals, and scenery are wonderfully described. Dasse burial rituals are very detailed. The reader is fully drawn into this world.
“All I wanted was to sing and dance and share the delight and seriousness of that night, and my desire to do so, a desire which arose from the differences between us, my incapacity, my lack of understanding, was the very thing that held me back.”
This book is not a thrill ride, not an adventure. It is quiet and contemplative, lyrical and flowing. The story is deceptively simple: what seems like a meandering tale turns into a poignant and evocative look at love, loss, and grief.
[Also posted on Futuresfading. | Full disclosure: I won a copy of this book from Librarything Early Reviewers.](less)
With such an intriguing title, there was no way I could pass up entering the Goodreads giveaway. And I’m so glad I won!
This is a women’s health book,...moreWith such an intriguing title, there was no way I could pass up entering the Goodreads giveaway. And I’m so glad I won!
This is a women’s health book, loaded with information about the fairer sex. It’s in a Q&A format, with each question being answered in great detail. There are ten chapters total, nine are themed and the last one is of miscellaneous questions. Following this is the appendix, source citations, and resources for further reading. There are also “Them and Us” segments scattered throughout that more closely compare men and women.
Instantly, you can see that this book is incredibly well researched. The author backs up each answer with studies and the prevailing theories. But this doesn’t mean the book is boring. It certainly doesn’t read like a textbook. Barnes-Svarney make the information interesting and easy to understand. Also, she’s funny. There are jokes and funny remarks throughout that make the book more enjoyable.
As for the questions themselves, they are very interesting. Some are things people often wonder about. Others, people just assume they know the answer already. But what we think we know by way of wives tales are dismissed, replaced by facts. Even if you know the general answer to a question already, as was the case for me with some, there is still more to learn because of the depth of the answers. Plus, it nice to be able to give sources when someone says “prove it” to you.
Overall, this book is well written and makes learning about health fun. It is both informative and insightful. I’d recommend it to any woman interested in learning more about how her mind and body works. I’d even recommend it to men who want to understand the opposite sex better.(less)
After her grandmother caught her having sex, Sarah Weaver has two choices: go to the college of her choice but pay for it on her own, or go to her gra...moreAfter her grandmother caught her having sex, Sarah Weaver has two choices: go to the college of her choice but pay for it on her own, or go to her grandmother's alma mater on her grandmothers dime. She chooses the later and finds herself at Wetherly College, and all-female school. There she meets Madison, her new roommate, and Agnes, the bizarre best friend.
Maddy is your quintessential beauty. Everyone seems to just love her. Worship her, even. There is a darker side though. Her initial quirkiness starts to take on a sinister edge. Agnes is Maddy’s best friend and bank account. Agnes is intensely loyal to Maddy, and her undying affection keeps her blind to the truth.
Sarah comes from a broken home, and all she wants is a family to call her own. She finds one in Maddy and Agnes. So enamoured she is with the new home they’ve created that she overlooks or accepts all the weird and crazy things that happen. The lies and deceptions, she rarely questions. Some of the deceit she even takes a compliment! She is very immature and irrational in this way. And as things spiral out of control, she just goes along for the ride. It’s infuriating at times. I found myself wanting her to just grow up, to just take charge of her situation.
Sarah is promiscuous. She refuses to get into relationships, citing her parents’ failed marriage. She feel love inevitably fails, that she might not even be capable or worthy of it. She has sex with Maddy’s boyfriend Sebastian on their second meeting, and with Reed on their first. With Reed, however, things are different. She feels that she can love him. She does love him, in fact...after about two meetings. Their love is that instant, shallow variety that features entirely too often in young-adult novels. It’s revolting. Reed often drops that “do you even love me” bomb typical of a unhealthy relationship. And our immature little Sarah accepts this as well.
Another bizarre element to this novel is the supernatural. All three girls believe in it and cite it frequently. Psychic intuition and gypsy readings are all taken to be real by the girls. It’s hard to tell if the reader is supposed to believe that supernatural elements are a true part of the novel’s world or just something the girls believe in. For instance, a ritual is spoken of as completely crazy, and yet a spell is used as a legitimate explanation of certain actions. The novel seems confused in this regard, like the author couldn’t decide how far into the realm of magical realism she wanted to go.
I wasn’t going to mention this initially . . . but how could I possibly leave out the deer? It’s a phenomenally absurd situation, unlikely to ever happen in the real world. Wanting to nurse a deer back to health is reasonable. Hiding one in your dorm and then at the St. Regis hotel is completely crazy. The only explanation I can come up with is that the author threw it in to show how unhinged these girls are. Yes, that has to be it.
Katherine Easer’s Vicious Little Darlings, despite its flaws, is an engaging read. Once I started, I was hooked. I wanted to see just how far these girls would go, how low they would sink. I had to know how things would resolve themselves. If you’re into young adult novels and don’t mind some absurdity, you may want to check this one out. It’s definitely a fast, fun read.
[Full disclosure: I received this book through Goodreads' First Reads Giveaway. Also posted on Futuresfading.](less)
England, 1936: The king is having a love affair with an American woman, and the threat of Hitler’s Germany looms over the country. Poverty is rampant...moreEngland, 1936: The king is having a love affair with an American woman, and the threat of Hitler’s Germany looms over the country. Poverty is rampant while those with position live in abundance. this is the backdrop for Abdication, by Juliet Nicolson. We follow three people living in England during this turbulent time.
May Thomas, traveling with her brother, leaves her Barbados home to make a new life for herself. Her passion for automobiles lands her a job as secretary and driver to Sir Philip Blunt. Here, she glimpses life in the upper echelon of British society. May is young, headstrong, and talented. Despite a secret he keeps from those close to her, she is willing to let love in.
Evangeline Nettlefold is an American from Baltimore gone to stay with her godmother, Lady Joan Blunt. She is friends with Wallis Simpson, the woman who stole the kings heart. Evangeline is a sad, jealous, bitter woman. She is a flawed individual, making her a times likeable and, at other times, detestable.
Julian Richardson is a well-off young man with an Oxford education. An idealist, the poverty surrounding his luxurious life troubles him. He takes an interest in May, who is frank and insightful when discussing the poorer people of the country. As his political opinions strengthen and his infatuation deepens, he can no longer ignore how he feels.
The historical aspect of the abdication of King Edward VIII is merely a backdrop to the story. Wallis Simpson is a part of the story as a supporting character, as Evangeline’s friend. The looming threat of war is featured in the same capacity. It is a backdrop to the human drama. This backdrop is, however, very well described. Juliet Nicolson is a very talented writer in this regard. London comes to life. Depth is lacking, however, when it comes to the main characters themselves. Julian in particular. We spend more time with May and Evangeline, and learn more about them but still a deep connection never really happened for me. Julian gets less screen-time, if you will, and so a connection with him is even more elusive. Another problem for me was pacing. Events seem to just chug along by mid-book. The story moved too slowly, and I found myself waiting for something to actually happen. Things pick up again towards the end, thankfully.
While Abdication has its problems, it is overall a well written novel. As it is well researched, it is insightful in a historical context. We get a good sense of this period in time.On the character level, though, it just isn’t very deep. (less)
Kate Williams’ The Pleasures of Men is a strange little book telling the strange tale of a strange protagonist and her strange thoughts. Can you guess...moreKate Williams’ The Pleasures of Men is a strange little book telling the strange tale of a strange protagonist and her strange thoughts. Can you guess what I’d call this book in a word? Strange.
Catherine is a troubled young woman living with her uncle in London. She undergoes some trauma as a child, and is now largely isolated. Rarely leaving the house, her imagination is her main company. When a serial killer begins murdering young women, Catherine tries to get inside his mind. She believes she can understand him. Catherine goes to the places where he has killed, the dirty streets where he roams. She imagines his past in vivid detail. She discovers, however, that things are not as they seem—that truth is a lot closer to home.
This books is well written and clearly well researched. This descriptions of London are vivid, the poverty is palpable. Still, it took awhile for me to get into it. The story starts off quite slowly. With shifting narratives in the beginning, it's difficult to parse out who is actually speaking: is it another person, or Catherine's imagination? Things becomes more clear in time, but at the start it’s a bit off-putting. At some point, however, the novel managed to snag my interest. I wanted to find out what Catherine's childhood trauma was, as well as the identity and motivations of the Man of Crows.
Bits of the plot can feel a bit contrived, though, and the biggest flaw is that it feels lacking in an apparent coherence. Still, the book overall is very dark and beautifully imagined. Anyone interested in Victorian England may enjoy this gothic thriller.
[Disclosure: I recieverd this book through a Shelf Awareness giveaway.](less)
Originally posted on futuresfading. This review is of an advance reader copy won from Goodreads.
The Glimpse, by Claire Merle, is a dystopian young adu...moreOriginally posted on futuresfading. This review is of an advance reader copy won from Goodreads.
The Glimpse, by Claire Merle, is a dystopian young adult novel in which society is divided and controlled by its government. The method of their subjugation? Mental health as determined by a DNA test. If that sounds ridiculous, it’s because it is. And Merle knows that. She has created a post-collapse world where the people are struggling for order, willing to put their trust in anyone with an answer. Que the Pure test. It claims to detect mental illness, and weeding these “defective” people out seems to improve society... at least for a privileged few, the Pure. And so, people buy into the big lie. I found the use of mental illness effective, and not at all offensive. It’s acknowledged pretty early in the novel that the test is a sham, that the ability to test for mental illness in DNA isn’t possible. The segregation of the people, ruling them with fear, is the real reason for the tests.
Ana, the protagonist, has her Pure status revoked when a certain anomaly comes to light. Now her future is in the hands of Jasper. She needs to bind with him or she’ll be cast out among the Crazies. Having been raised in a Pure community, she believes what she has been taught of them: they are violent, aggressive, unpredictable. When Jasper goes missing, Ana is determined to find him, to solve the mystery of his abduction. Out in the real world, far from the safety of her community, Ana learns the truth of the Pures and the Crazies, of the tests and the treatments her government issues. Her world is thoroughly rocked, and she will never be the same. Ana is a strong character. She rises to the challenges thrown at her. She has doubts and fears, but she does her best and uses her head.
At times, though, the highly improbable happens. This is a work of fiction, sure, but suspension of disbelief can only go so far. She played a lawyer and won based only on some reading she did? Really? With just a haircut and a pair of contacts, she went completely unrecognised? Ugh. No. Another problem for me: the instant-love. Ana meets Cole. Sparks fly. They love one another. Forever. Um, bite me. That sounds like a crush, like lust. The word “love” is used, though... am I to believe thats what it is? If that is love, then it is of the shallow variety. That magical Disney love that takes no time at all to manifest itself. It’s a fairy tale wedged into a dystopian novel, and it drags down the quality of the story for me.
Last major bone of contention for me: the glimpse itself. From what I gather of this ill-explained phenomenon, the glimpse is a look into the future that only certain people get. This entire concept seems so completely random to me! Why throw this little paranormal tidbit into the book? Nothing else in this novels world-building hints at anything psychic or supernatural, so why is it included? It seems to me that the only purpose for it is to push Cole and Ana towards one another. An attempt to make that little fairy-tale-love seem more believable, more real. It falls completely flat, though.
Despite these flaws, I’d still say The Glimpse is well written and engaging. Merle is clearly talented. The actual flow of the story was smooth; Ana, well drawn. As a dystopian novel, though, this isn’t one of the strongest I’ve read. If you like YA sci-fi in general, especially those with a strong element of romance, then The Glimpse may be right up your alley. (less)
The Green Shore, by Natalie Bakopoulos, is the story of a family living through the Greek military junta of 1967-19...moreOriginally posted on futuresfading.
The Green Shore, by Natalie Bakopoulos, is the story of a family living through the Greek military junta of 1967-1974. While most of the country sleeps, Greece suddenly changes. A group of colonels stage a coup d’etat and seize control of government. Eleni and Mihalis, Anna and Sophie, now live in a very different world.
At the start of this novel, it seems to me that Mihalis, a poet and past revolutionary, struggles with how to react. A part of him wants to act out against the dictators, while the rest of him is tired and justs want to reconcile with his wife. He recognizes the need for action, but feels he has done his part in the past. His niece, Sophie, is radical and ready. She believes in the cause but wants dearly to impress her uncle and boyfriend. The resistance seems to be a stage for her, and a movement only second. Sophie’s sister Anna is a shy, withdrawn, and sullen child. As a third child, she feels herself lacking in identity and importance. Eleni, Sophie and Anna’s mother, has a family and despite her past with politics, must put them first. Widowed, she has lost control of her children and has to reconcile what they want with what she expects.
This is very much a character driven novel. There is a semblance of a plot, sure, but it’s certainly not the feature. The political turmoil is a mostly a backdrop in the family drama, only occasionally propelling them forward. Each person's mindset and emotions are explored. Their past, their fears, their desires. We learn so much about these four main characters that is impossible to not relate to them, to not identify with them in some way. They want what we all want: to be rid of oppression, to love freely, to be happy. We all want to leave behind the best world possible for future generations.
Each character also experiences tremendous growth. The dormant are pulled into action, the overzealous lulled into more subdued protest. Mihalis and Eleni move from what they seem to have accepted to what they know is right. Sophie grows from her days as a kid playing at politics. Anna is, perhaps, the most transformed. She sheds her childish cloak of insecurities and becomes an empowered young woman.
Greece, as a backdrop, is wonderfully described. From Athens, to the islands; the shared home in Halandri, to the secret places the characters keep to themselves. The reader can feel like they are moving alongside each character. We are lounging with Mihalis in Kifissia, traveling with Anna to Hydra. And, as we escape with Sophie, Paris springs to life.
Don’t go into this novel expecting a fast paced, action packed plot. This isn’t that kind of book. It is for those seeking a story to connect with, something to contemplate. It is beautifully written, riddled with standout passages. I’d quote from it, but I have an advance reader copy won through Goodreads.(less)
[Originally posted on Futuresfading. This review is of an advance reader copy won from Goodreads.]
Bride of New France, by Suzanne Desrochers, is the s...more[Originally posted on Futuresfading. This review is of an advance reader copy won from Goodreads.]
Bride of New France, by Suzanne Desrochers, is the story of a young orphan named Laure Beausejour as she is exiled to the new world.
Taken from her parents as a child, Laure was sent to Paris’ Salpêtrière, where women deemed unfit for society were placed. Laure got a brief glimpse of wealth and family while working as a servant, but when her madame passes, she must go back to the wretched conditions at the hospital. In addition the the plight of rats, the people there are severely underfed. Infants are fed a watery milk concoction and most don’t survive. One young woman, whom Laure initially despised, passes away from scurvy. Laure attempts to get a letter to the king asking for improved conditions, but the hospital’s Superior finds out. A spiteful woman, she sends Laure to Canada, still a wild country, as punishment. Once there, Laure must struggle through loss, marriage, and surviving in this new land.
Laure is neither very likeable nor relatable. She initially seems bitter and jealous. Mireille, another girl at the Salpêtrière, evokes her envy. When Mireille dies, she seems to change a bit, but is still very selfish. She encourages her best friend, Madeline, to accompany her to the new world knowing fully well how dangerous this might be. Once in Canada, she endangers Madeline once more, all so she won't have to be alone. To her credit, Laure seems a bit more headstrong than other women sent to Canada. Perhaps she has even grown by the end of the book.
This novel is written in the third-person–present-tense, and I don’t think it really works. It felt a bit impersonal and alienating. At times, it seemed more like a clinical look than an intimate portrait. This story relies so much on a central character that this non-connection leaves the novel feeling flat and lacking in emotion.
Still, this was certainly an interesting look at how the poor of Old France were treated. How the women exiled to the New France had to make do with what they had and simply try to survive. Those interested in this time in history, as well as women's struggles, may find this book enjoyable. It is certainly very illuminating, I just wish it felt more personal.(less)
Only with the Heart is the story of a family being torn apart by Alzheimer’s disease. Claudia, who grew up a foster child, has finally found a family...moreOnly with the Heart is the story of a family being torn apart by Alzheimer’s disease. Claudia, who grew up a foster child, has finally found a family amongst that of her husband Sam. His mother, Eleanor, becomes her own mother, and everyone in the family loves and accepts her. After Sam and Claudia's marriage, however, things head downhill. Eleanor is falling deeper and deeper into her illness, and when her own husband dies, she goes to live with her son and daughter-in-law. Eleanor’s mind, and the quality of life of those who care for her, only degrades until she finally passes away. Claudia is accused of murder, and it seems that this family will never be allowed to rest, to heal.
The story is in three parts: The first is Claudia's perspective. Immediately, you notice the writing style is not at all conventional. Parts of it are a conversation between herself and her therapist. The rest is her relating her experiences. She shifts suddenly between stories, and from one point in time to the next. There is no smooth transition, it just happens.This works for the character, though. This style choice seems to give the impression that Claudia’s thoughts are fractured and jumbled, that she herself is still trying to sort it all out.
Next is Eleanor. The writing style reflects her mental state very well. She, too, shift from one point in time to another very abruptly. She is in the throes of her Alzheimer's, and then, at stark contrast, a her old self again. She, with a stunted vocabulary and a poor understanding of what is happening around her, puts us right in the head of an Alzheimer's sufferer. It’s quite incredible to see Alzheimer's depicted this way. It make Eleanors illness feel very real to the reader.
Last is Sam. He covers the trial, events Claudia spoke of, and his own thoughts. He jumps between stories as well, but it seems pointless for him, like theres no reason for it. That aside, his part really threw me for a loop. He makes you realize that just like in real life, there are three sides to every story, and only one is the truth. There is no omniscient narrator, however, and we must sort it out for ourselves. I hadn’t even considered the possibility of an unreliable narrator prior to him going over his own version of events. These conflicting stories strike me as more true to life, as everyone remembers the past differently. The novel is staggeringly real in this way.
This book is beautifully written and very touching. It depicts the harsh reality of Alzheimer’s, as well as the darker side of human nature. There is loss and tragedy, but at the end of it, hope. It’s an unconventional read to be sure, but I recommend to anyone looking for something more out of the ordinary in a book.(less)
Sight, by Sol Smith, is billed as the story of a psychic struggling with her future. The psychic in question is Tydomin White, who has the rare gift o...moreSight, by Sol Smith, is billed as the story of a psychic struggling with her future. The psychic in question is Tydomin White, who has the rare gift of both seeing the future and feeling the past. Things go ary, however, when she decides to see if she can go against her visions.
The story is told in a non-linear fashion and in various character perspectives. I’ve not nothing against a non-linear narration but with this perspective-shifting, I never feel very close to any character. I never care about them. They’re just never there long enough for anything more than impressions: Tydomin lacking in personality, Derek the puppy, Martin a self righteous prick, Abigail the forgettable. Red, I feel, had the most promise. I wish more time was spent on him and his dealings and less on that Brian mess. (Really, what is that even included for? Abigail and Brain could have been cut out of the story entirely or, at the very least, had less limelight. The book would have been better for it.) Vic’s post-death input was interesting, though perhaps didn’t leave enough to reader interpretation as he spelled so much out for us.
So far it sounds like I’m being harsh, I know, but there are some aspects I liked. The whole concept of cause and effect explored in this book is quite interesting. Do the psychics do things because they really want to, or because they saw themselves doing it? Can they stop an accident, or will their intervention mean they never saw an accident in the first place? What then? Visions within visions within visions and telepaths rummaging through the mind. It’s pretty cool stuff.
Really, that’s who I’d recommend this book for: those interested in stories about psychics. If that’s your cup of tea, then Sight will be a good addition to your shelf. There are typos, but not very many. The writing overall is solid, it’s just the story that didn’t do much for me.
[Full disclosure: I won this book from Goodreads’ First Reads.](less)
Letters to Mom, by Sharon Raines, is short and sweet yet steeped in a touch of sadness. It is written as a...moreI won this book from Goodreads’ First Reads.
Letters to Mom, by Sharon Raines, is short and sweet yet steeped in a touch of sadness. It is written as a series of letters from daughter to mother. Since the book is written this way, it feels very conversational. This lends to the overall relatability. Sharon shares her thoughts and troubles, her pain and her triumphs. She writes about what the family is going through and how the loss of her mother is dealt with. There’s everything from pregnancy to camping trips, and these things are well described. The descriptions of the southern heat were particularly fun to read (as a northerner, I just don’t get to hear those kinds of things). At worst, Sharons thoughts and reflections get a bit tedious, but for the most part they are amusing and entertaining. The book also has letters from other daughters to their mothers. Some had wonderful mothers, others...not so much. They were heartfelt, sure, but I didn’t connect very deeply with them. Probably because they were so short compared to all we get from Sharon. Christianity comes into play as well, but I wouldn’t call this book preachy. Faith merely helps the people along.
Overall, this was a simple, well written book dealing with the trials and tribulations of mother/daughter relationships. (less)
I won this book through Goodreads and I must say I quite enjoy it.
Blue Flute’s One Hundred Leaves starts with a brief introduction to Japanese poetry...moreI won this book through Goodreads and I must say I quite enjoy it.
Blue Flute’s One Hundred Leaves starts with a brief introduction to Japanese poetry and explains how this volume came to be. This introduction, though sparse, is informative and prepares you to better understand Japanese poetry. Next come the actual poems. Each one is presented first in English, then we get the Japanese Kanji and a transliteration. It is interesting to see where the poems came from and I find the characters beautiful as well. Lastly, there are literary notes that help with the interpretation of the poem. These literary notes come in very handy. They provide better understanding of the circumstances surrounding the poem really help in appreciating them.
Each poem has an accompanying piece of artwork that depicts its theme. They are wonderfully matched, some combinations seeming as though one was made for the other. Unfortunately, the artwork is also where we hit the first real drawback: the art is not named, the artist is not mentioned. The book is not in color, and I would like to look up full color versions. That’s made very hard, though, when I don’t have a name to search with. The fact that the book is in black and white in the first place is unfortunate, but I knew that it would be and I can forgive that.
As for the actual poetry, I can flip to any page and find an interesting poem. Some I contemplate more than others. There are those that I like instantly, and those that take a bit longer to appeal to me. Others never really leave much of an impression. There’s bound to be something for everyone though. Recommended for anyone interested in Japanese culture and fans of poetry in general.(less)
I wanted to read The Uninvited Guests from the moment I heard about the book. Imagine my joy, then, when I won an...more[Originally posted on Futuresfading.]
I wanted to read The Uninvited Guests from the moment I heard about the book. Imagine my joy, then, when I won an advance reader copy on Goodreads!
Sadie Jones’ The Uninvited Guests introduces us to the eccentric, dysfunctional Torrington-Swift family. There is the self-centered Charlotte Torrington-Swift, her doting second husband Edward Swift, and the three children of her previous marriage: Clovis, Emerald, and Imogen (aka Smudge). They live at Stern, a stately manor in the English countryside, but financial issues could mean them losing it. Edward is off to secure funds to save the home while those left behind celebrate Emeralds twentieth birthday. Then, disaster. A train accident sends some restless uninvited guests their way, including one Charles Traversham-Beechers. He claims to know of Charlotte's past, and he may just be wicked enough to reveal it.
Of all the characters, the most likeable may be Emerald, the capable yet resigned-to-her-fate birthday girl, followed closely by her odd and neglected sister Smudge. Clovis is quite the snob, and Charlotte an absent and vain mother. We also meet the Swift-Torrington housekeepers Myrtle and Florence, and the guests invited to Emeralds soiree: John Buchanan, Ernest and Patience Sutton, and, of course, Charles Traversham-Beechers. They range from the bland to the vicious, though some change their tune by the books end.
The story itself is very entertaining and well written. Told in third-persons, the narration is funny, witty, and just a bit quirky. I found myself laughing on quite a few occassions. Many that books that claim to be humorous satire rarely hit their mark for me, but this book had its true laugh-out-loud moments. Though a satire, a comedy of manners, the bigger message of the novel is not lost. We see the worst brought out in these society folk, both in how they treat each other and how they treat those they believe are beneath them. But we also see them grow and learn. Some, as I’ve mentioned, mature greatly through the novel and are changed for the better by the experience.
This book is clever, funny, and thoroughly entertaining. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys satirical novels, and anyone who wants a good look at human nature at its best and worst. Or just anyone looking for a wildly adventurous and truly bizarre tale.(less)
Welcome to the scheming world of Jeffrey Zygmonts creation, where the best laid plans of dogs and men often go awry.
I Am Bill Gates’ Dog introduces us...moreWelcome to the scheming world of Jeffrey Zygmonts creation, where the best laid plans of dogs and men often go awry.
I Am Bill Gates’ Dog introduces us to the canines enlisted to make Bill Gates look good. And, boy, does he need it! We start with Bill Gates meeting with his image consultants and learn that the public sees him as both ruthless and philanthropic, but not relatable, not your ordinary Joe. It’s quite clear why: the Gates of this story comes across as a uncaring jerk. In fact, none of the humans are all that likeable. They are all either schemers or mere bit players. The consultants feel a dog will give Gates that humanizing touch he so desperately needs. Melinda, also attending the meeting, decides that she want to breed a batch of her own dogs with superior intelligence. And so the the plotting begins.
Next, we meet the dogs. They are instantly more interesting and likeable. Among them are the nobel Rin, naive Amanda, talkative Blake, and Dremmel the cautious pessimist. The all make their mark and get you to care about what happens to them. Even the sneaky Georgie captures our interest. But the dogs also have their underhanded plans. The guys want Amanda...and they all want to stay with Gates.
All plots move forward... until a wrench in the form of an organization—with plots of their own, of course—is thrown in and wrecks it all for humans and hounds alike.
I Am Bill Gates’ Dog is a fun bit of satire. Not terribly serious, but not a bore either. A well-paced read, it takes a jab our ambitious side.(less)
[Posted on futuresfading. This review is of an advance reader copy won from Goodreads.]
Strindberg's Star by Jan Wallentin features two mythical object...more[Posted on futuresfading. This review is of an advance reader copy won from Goodreads.]
Strindberg's Star by Jan Wallentin features two mythical objects and tells of the lengths a secret society will go to in order to seize ownership of them.
Amateur diver Erik Hall finds one of the artifacts in a abandoned mine shaft. Lost for a century, the ankh has resurfaced and immediately draws the attention of the shady organization that has been looking for it. Erik quickly falls victim to those who seek the ankh. Thrown into the mix is Don Titelman, an unlikely hero who spends most of his days in a drug-induced haze. Together with his would-be lawyer, he flees Sweden to get to the bottom of the mystery of these objects that now plague him.
The novel moves between characters quite a bit. In part one, we visit Erik, Don, an intern, a photographer, and a few others. It is all written well enough for the reader to be able to hold them separately and not get confused, though. This character shuffling tones down a bit in parts two and three and the novel is the better for it. Don is perhaps the most well drawn character. His confusion and curiosity come through nicely. Everyone else seems to play a bit part, even Eva. She features in a greater part of the story, and yet it’s hard to feel very close to her.
This book also incorporates a lot of historical events into the story, showing the muddled past through a focused lense. It adds a new layer of meaning to the atrocities of the past, from the trenches of World War One to the concentration camps of World War Two. The novel is very well researched. All the events mesh seamlessly and real as the actual events.
Overall, this book was quite a ride. Well paced, it grabbed my interest from the start and held on. Much like Don, I needed to see the mystery through to the end. And the end of this novel is indeed very satisfying.(less)