I picked up The Sparrow Sisters with some pretty lofty expectations and I suppose I kind of set myself up for failure there. Being that I’ve ran throuI picked up The Sparrow Sisters with some pretty lofty expectations and I suppose I kind of set myself up for failure there. Being that I’ve ran through Sarah Addison Allen’s library, I’m always looking for new magical realism stories but they seem few and far between. This being compared to SAA as well as Practical Magic had me switching this to all signs point to yes. Unfortunately this was nothing but a disappointment and the magical realism tidbits just didn’t do it for me.
There are two parts to this story, but neither actually work. First, this is the story of the Sparrow sisters and how their family came to live in the town for generations upon generations. They’re known for being a little quirky but they’ve simply just become a fixture of the town and their strangeness is simply “accepted”. They keep to themselves, all living together in their family home until a new doctor comes to town who becomes instantly interested in the youngest Sparrow sister, Patience, for absolutely no reason at all. Second part of the story is the attempt at providing some semblance of a point, so there’s a bit of a pseudo-mystery, some moral conundrums, and all around pointlessness. See, Patience Sparrow is known for her herbology remedies via the use of herbs from the family nursery. She seems to have a bit of a gift that’s been seemingly passed down from her family and she’s used it to help treat the townsfolk for years on anything from morning sickness to sleeplessness. When a local tragedy occurs, all signs point to Patience’s involvement just out of sheer negligence because of a misuse of herbs.
Patience and the good doctor Henry Carlyle are first introduced and immediately butt heads. Naturally, because we’re all adults here, Henry immediately falls for her prickly nature and insists on getting to know her. The two lack any sort of emotional spark and their attraction to one another remains completely hazy especially with their differing opinions on medicines and treatments. Henry has a secure position on his high horse while he rants and raves about Patience needing to send her patients to a “real doctor”. This is where the moral conundrums are in play.
“Look, you don’t expect me to stand back and let you treat a potentially sick child without some kind of conventional” – Henry emphasized the word – “medical participation?”
High horse. I told you. Henry would go on and on about the possible dangers of what she was doing and how her herbal remedies were going to hurt people someday. His ranking on the annoyance scale was up there with Rick.
I couldn’t help it. So, the books stance is natural remedies are evil and you shouldn’t trust them and just go to a “real doctor” instead. From personal experience, I never went to a “real” doctor when I was a kid and was raised on homeopathatic (note, different than herbology) remedies. I felt that Henry’s stance on what “proper treatments” are and his constant ranting about “real doctors” was entirely unjustified and encompassed far too much of the book. What made it all the more worse was before Henry, Patience was secure in her knowledge and belief of the good she was doing. Enter Henry and suddenly she’s filled with doubt and regret for her negligence. Please. Taking all the good she did and transforming her into a “witch” was only the next logical step, of course.
‘One look at the inscription on the band shell was enough to remind everyone in Granite Point how long it had been since panic seized the town, and how fast it had nearly destroyed it. If there was to be another witch hunt, it certainly had a strong start.’
Yes, because all that was missing was a modern day witch-hunt. The story continued unraveling. In addition to the story/plot itself, the writing felt incredibly stilted. There were some beautifully described scenes and I loved the portrayal of the small New England town, however, it lacked conviction. And good news? This is NATURALLY the start of a potential series.
I received this book free from Library Thing in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review....more
‘All of this story, remember, is based on the completely unacceptable and ludicrous premise of an evil talking cat called RoMy rating: 1.5 of 5 stars
‘All of this story, remember, is based on the completely unacceptable and ludicrous premise of an evil talking cat called Roger that traveled romantically in the footsteps of Lord Byron in the 1930s and now solves cryptic crosswords torn out daily from the Telegraph.’
I’m all about dark humor (and if we’re being completely honest, anything involving cats) so when I read numerous reviews describing this novel as such, I jumped on the chance to read it. Sad to say, the ‘humor’ of this completely escaped me. Remember that horrible cheese-fest of a movie Cats & Dogs about a top secret war going on between, well, Cats & Dogs? The cats were all evil bastards trying to take over the world and man’s best friend was trying to foil their plans. So basically, just replace dogs with humans and you’ve got the plot of this story.
Our narrator, Alec, is a librarian who is mourning the sudden loss of his wife, Mary. Alec immerses himself in a collection of documents consisting of audio transcripts, e-mails and photographs describing the story of a man called “Wiggy” who has just lost his sister. His story also includes the tale of a talking cat named Roger, a member of a satanic cult of immortal cats with a blood feud against humans. Roger begins to tell his life story to Wiggy, à la Interview with the Vampire.
‘”Why are cats so pissed off all the time? They get all the best seats in the house, they have food and warmth and affection. Everything is on their terms, not ours. They come and go as they please. Why aren’t they permanently ecstatic?” Well, now it’s explained. It’s because they’re conscious of having lost their ability to do serious evil, and they feel bloody humiliated.’
The included pop culture references with Roger having a voice like Vincent Price and is described as the feline equivalent of Stephen Fry (whatever that’s supposed to mean) and Alec’s dog Watson having a voice exactly like Daniel Craig, took this story even further into ridiculous territory. The fast-paced narrative, I had assumed was done in an attempt to recreate the sense of panic the characters were dealing with, came off as lazy and sloppy rather than thrilling and frenetic. But then we get to the end and we’re even told:
‘So that’s nearly the end, and I’d like to finish my account with an apology. Reading it all back, I realise that at times I have been a tad flippant in the way I have written this, and I have also told the story with what appears to be a lamentable lack of narrative organisation.’
So basically the author realized what a hot mess she just wrote and instead of going back and fixing it had her character apologize like it’s his fault. Well, whoever you want to blame, I still can’t accept it.
Maybe I took it all too seriously. Maybe I wouldn’t have if I would have known it was like LOLCats in novel form. And maybe there’s some hidden allegory I was supposed to uncover that would have allowed me the ‘a-ha!’ moment where it all makes sense. Unfortunately, that moment never came....more
‘She was coming. She was the next thing to come, after the locks. Once she was here, everything would go wrong. Of that I feMy rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
‘She was coming. She was the next thing to come, after the locks. Once she was here, everything would go wrong. Of that I felt certain.’
Amber is an inmate at Aurora Hills Secure Juvenile Detention Center who hasn’t seen freedom since the age of thirteen when she was arrested for murder. One night, much like all the rest, something changed though and all the doors of the prison were open and the girls that resided there briefly tasted a freedom that they never thought they’d witness again. Violet is a successful ballet dancer headed to New York City to attend Juilliard. Her story involves her best friend Ori and how after one life altering afternoon, Ori was taken away to Aurora Hills Secure Juvenile Detention Center. Violet, Amber and Ori are all linked together, intricately, with isolated secrets just waiting to be revealed.
The Walls Around Us is told in alternating points of view by two unreliable narrators: Amber and Violet. Amber is a convicted murderer yet her story of how she got to where she is convinces us to see past straight black and white and to the grey that exists in-between. The amount of time she’s spent behind bars has caused her to lose her individuality, taking comfort in seeing herself as a piece of the consolidated unit of girls that share her fate. Violet is a pretentious prima donna; the narcissistic rich girl. Rather than feeling upset over the loss of her best friend three years past she only sees her flawed history with Ori as something that may pose as a deterrent on the road to her pristine future. The voices are vastly different and easy to keep separate, however, the stories of both girls seem they couldn’t possibly fit together. Keeping the facts straight as well as the intersecting timelines that occur can be trying, but the payoff is incredible. This is only my second Nova Ren Suma story and I must say that her stories are something remarkable. She writes characters with such conviction that you quickly lose yourself in classifications of ‘fiction’.
What was most incredible about this book was the realistic view of juvenile delinquency and the discrepancies in the criminal justice system. The harsh reality of discrimination was never more evident when one suspect is immediately excused of guilt while the multi-racial friend is immediately accused without much question. While it would be easy to remain focused on the horrible situation of the innocent victim, I found myself focused on the atrocious sort of person that could stand back and watch a friend be accused of a crime they weren’t responsible for. It should come as no surprise that a story as haunting as this could credibly pull off shades of the supernatural as well. The line between fantasy and reality is muddied turning this story of juvenile delinquency into an eerie story of guilt and innocence. Beautifully written, completely enthralling… I can’t seem to find the words to do this one justice. It’s definitely a must-read.
I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review....more
‘[...] I thought of him suddenly, and simply, as a boy, a child, a youth, with his whole life ahead of him, much as mine was ahead of me. I’d never d‘[...] I thought of him suddenly, and simply, as a boy, a child, a youth, with his whole life ahead of him, much as mine was ahead of me. I’d never done that before. And these images — the now and then of my father — converged, and at that moment he turned into a weird creature, wild, concurrently young and old, dying and newborn. My father became a myth.’
Edward Bloom is an enigma of a man that has always told only the most elaborate yet unbelievable tales of his life. He is a traveling businessman that rarely comes home, even though he has a wife and a son forever waiting for him. Being home so little forces his son, William, to put these tall tales together in his mind in the hope that his father might become less of a mystery to him. When Edward comes home to stay because he’s dying, William seeks to learn as much as he can about his father before it’s too late.
‘Beneath one facade there’s another facade and then another, and beneath that the aching dark place, his life, something that neither of us understands.’
The tall tales of the man named Edward Bloom are the very definition of far-fetched, yet being the only stories he has ever told has transformed them into a type of myth thus transforming him into an inspiring hero of his own making. He’s encountered a giant and a two-headed Japanese geisha. He’s rode on the back of a giant catfish and explored an underwater town. There have been river-girls and all-seeing glass eyes and even a time when he saved a little girl from certain death by ripping out the very heart of a wild dog. Each piece of his life is told episodically but not always chronologically and serves only to heighten the mystery.
‘When a man’s stories are remembered, then he is immortal.’
William’s insistence on discovering the true nature of his father never amounts to much as Edward continues to shroud himself in his stories steeped in fantasy. But it ultimately becomes unnecessary anyways. Magical realism runs rampant in this tale, yet at the heart of the story it’s simply about the unconditional love between a father and son....more
“Most people choose their futures by accident. They don’t even know they’re making choices. They don’t even know that thereMy rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
“Most people choose their futures by accident. They don’t even know they’re making choices. They don’t even know that there are forks in the road – much less forks within forks. The future no longer has to be messy. It can be tested out. It can be known.”
In an alternate yet still contemporary Baltimore, there is a flourishing market of Envisionists: doctors that are trained to show people a small glimpse of their future. A cup of pills, a virtual reality helmet and a name of a person gives you the ability to what your future would look like in a relationship with that given person. And with a discount package (Five visits for the price of three!) you can catch a glimpse of multiple futures with multiple different individuals. The Future for Curious People centers around two individuals: Evelyn and Godfrey.
Evenlyn Shriner is a librarian who is most likely addicted to envisioning (she’s had five sessions in the past two weeks). She’s just broken up with her boyfriend of almost two years after their envisioning session showed them singing Happy Birthday (in Spanish, no less) to a chihuahua and arguing about cheese. Godfrey Burkes works a deadend job at a place called The Department of Unclaimed Goods and has just proposed to his overbearing girlfriend. Her stipulation before saying yes is for them both to go to an envisionist, just to make sure they’re right for each other. At Dr. Chin, the envisionist who’s office smells like Chinese takeout and incense is where Evelyn and Godfrey meet. The two decide to envision each other on a whim and both glimpse a future close to perfection. The end result is predictable even without an envisionist but the between pages are still a delight.
This story is chock-full of witty dialogue and oh so clever characters but comes off occasionally audacious when it tries to also incorporate more serious topics. For the most part though, it still worked. The Future for Curious People is at heart nothing but a quirky romance but will have more of an affect on readers that can’t help but wonder about the present, if it’s always going to be this way and how differently the future could be. It certainly brings to light an idea to ponder: If you could have a glimpse of your future on the current path you’re on, would you want to see it?
I received this book free from Library Thing in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review....more
Memories of My Melancholy Whores opens with a most surprising statement frMy rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
‘Age isn’t how old you are but how old you feel.’
Memories of My Melancholy Whores opens with a most surprising statement from our unnamed narrator: “The year I turned 90, I wanted to give myself the gift of a night of wild love with an adolescent virgin.” While this might not inspire any sort of positive feelings towards this man, the truth is he has lived long enough to not really care because his lasciviousness is simply who this man is and has always been. Introduced to love-making at an early age in a local brothel, he boastfully states that he has never gone to bed with a woman that he didn’t pay to do so. After a statement like that it comes as no surprise that he was also the twice crowned client of the year. He stopped keeping track of his sexual escapades at age 50 when he had reached 514 tallies.
Memories of My Melancholy Whores may not feature your typical grandfatherly figure but our narrator still manages to charm us in his liveliness even at such an advanced age. While sleeping with virgins won’t likely be on my bucket list when I reach 90, being in a healthy position to do so regardless is definitely something to aim for. Our unnamed narrators story stirs up comparisons to another older fellow who was fond of a young girl, one Humbert Humbert.
‘Seeing and touching her in the flesh, she seemed less real to me than in my memory.’
The way this story was written is also similar to Lolita in that it almost feels like an attempt to explain and defend his feelings for what happened between him and the 14 year old girl he names Delgadina. Instead, his actions would indicate that he has no reason to not be truthful and that his decision to call upon Rosa Cabarcas and ask for the girl was the first step towards doing what he should have done all along: look for love. Not unexpectedly, this is not your typical love story. Our unnamed narrator is smitten with the young girl, yet even he can see the ridiculousness of the situation he has found himself in, especially when his meets with the girl are always while she’s asleep. He reads her stories and strokes her body and while away from her he fantasizes of a life spent together with her.
‘...that was the beginning of a new life at an age when most mortals have already died.’
Memories of My Melancholy Whores is more than just an unlikely story of love. It is also about when reaching the point in your life and being able to look back on how you’ve spent yours causes you to change and transform into the person you had always intended to be. For one that spent his life never truly knowing love, it finally came to him when least expected....more
‘First frost was always an unpredictable time, but this year it felt more... desperate than others. Something was about to haMy rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
‘First frost was always an unpredictable time, but this year it felt more... desperate than others. Something was about to happen.’
First Frost marks the return to the beloved town of Bascom, North Carolina where the Waverley sisters reside. Claire has left her catering business behind after creating Waverley’s Candies. The business itself is lucrative and does extremely well, but the amount of time she must dedicate to the business leaves Claire with little time for her family or anything else. Sydney now owns her own business as well in Bascom, a hair salon that is equally successful, but her apparent inability to have more children is a painful reminder every day. Sydney’s daughter Bay is now in high school and because of her gift for knowing exactly where things belong she knows that she belongs with Josh Matteson, she just needs to convince him she’s right. First frost is an unpredictable time for the Waverley’s and it also heralds the arrival of an old man that brings a story that might change everything for these women.
I really, really enjoyed Garden Spells (the second time I read it at least) but the ending didn’t leave me anticipating that there would ever be a sequel so the announcement of First Frost was quite a surprise, but an exciting one for sure. First Frost centers around the two sisters but includes more of Bay and her struggles to understand her magical gift and coming to terms with it. It was wonderful to see her all grown up and matured, no longer the six year old girl that could spend all day in the backyard staring into the branches of the mystical apple tree. The inclusion of the mysterious old man that threw everything the family knew into question was an ill-fitting piece of the story. He was manipulative and conniving and even though he was a necessary piece in order to add drama to the plot, the motivations behind his actions lacked in logic. The majority of the story was spent explaining it to an extent and I would have much preferred to see that time spent telling more of Bay’s story which was my favorite part. While I felt the multiple storylines didn’t mesh together quite as well as they did in Garden Spells, it was still wonderful to be back in Bascom.
The magic of the Waverley’s is definitely back with the characters we all know and love, and even a few new faces. First Frost is an incredibly quick and entertaining read where the pages will fly as if by magic. It’ll be hard to say goodbye this time but personally I’m now hoping for future Waverley stories to come.
I received this book free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review....more