‘There is no labyrinth as treacherous as that with neither paths nor walls.’
When seven-year-old Anna is placed in the company of a neighbor while
‘There is no labyrinth as treacherous as that with neither paths nor walls.’
When seven-year-old Anna is placed in the company of a neighbor while her father attends to some business, she never thought that would be the last she would see of him. The year is 1939 during the very beginning of World War II and the Germans are beginning their round up of scholars and Anna’s father is a professor at Jagiellonian University in Krakow. Unsure what to do, Anna turns to a mysterious stranger she names Swallow Man after he displays his proficiency with languages including the ability to speak to birds. Intrigued by this man, Anna begins to follow him and the two stay together, walking across Poland, for many years.
“A riverbank goes wherever the riverbank does. […] I’ll be the riverbank and you be the river.”
During this duo’s travels, the Swallow Man teaches Anna many lessons, cultivating her ability to survive with or without him. The two that bear repeating most: “To be found is to be gone forever,” and “One can’t be found as long as one keeps moving.” And keep hidden and moving they do. Within this short novel, years pass and it becomes more and more difficult to continue to survive in a world that has transformed around them, blanketing them in war. Throughout their time together, the Swallow Man persists in fascinating Anna with his perpetual crypticness and continues to keep the reader curious about the circumstances which brought him to this point.
‘It was very difficult for her to take her attention away from the thin man, even for a moment. Somewhere, tickling the back of her brain, she felt a certainty that if she wasn’t constantly watching this fellow, she would miss whole miracles, whole wonders – things that he let fall incidentally off himself as other men might shed dandruff.’
There was something supremely enchanting about this well-written story. It combined the heartrending historical aspects of The Book Thief with the magical realism of The Snow Child. Unfortunately, Savit built up a mesmerizing tale of survival only to lose steam and fizzle out at the end. The hazy inscrutability that is cast over this story leads to the magical feeling of mysteriousness but by the end I was expecting that haze to clear and it never did. (view spoiler)[There was one particular moment where the haze somewhat cleared and the magic dispelled: when Anna, in an attempt to obtain the medicine the Swallow Man required, agreed to remove her clothes for the pharmacist since she didn’t have any money. He didn’t physically assault her but just the act of being naked for the first time in front of a stranger was a horrifying experience for Anna and a horrible experience to have to read about. It left a terrible taste in my mouth about the whole thing and felt like a poorly placed piece attempting to shock the reader when the story has been nothing but demure up until that point. (hide spoiler)]
I received this book for 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.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
A bit too verbose for my liking. The purple prose simply got too much in the way of me actually following/enjoying the story. I usually give booksDNF
A bit too verbose for my liking. The purple prose simply got too much in the way of me actually following/enjoying the story. I usually give books a bit more of a chance to interest me but the entire first chapter was far too dull.
'But then there was Sasha's voice, whining like a porno. High and curdled.'
'I responded to her symbols, to the style of her hair and clothes and the smell of her perfume, like this was data that mattered, signs that reflected something of her inner self. I took her beauty personally.'
'I unwrapped two cloudy sticks from their silver jackets.
Yeah, she's referring to gum... in their silver jackets. For fucks sake. ...more
‘Outside the door, the world was taking shape out of the high-country mist. Blued timbers sprung of the fugitive reality of dawn, ghostlike, perfect‘Outside the door, the world was taking shape out of the high-country mist. Blued timbers sprung of the fugitive reality of dawn, ghostlike, perfect hidings for ambushing men.’
Fallen Land tells the harrowing tale about two young people that manage to fall in love in the midst of the Civil War. Callum is riding in the company of a band of Confederates being led by a dangerous man; the Colonel. He is a man both loved and feared; described as “a man of great cruelty who nevertheless protected them, led them, eclipsed any guilt of theirs with his own. At his behest they had razed and butchered, no reason but hunger and the Colonel’s orders.” When they reach a house and Callum is the first to find a woman inside, his immediate instinct is to protect her and he kills a man to do just that. While wounded in the process, he wakes to find that while he protected her from the first man, he wasn’t there to protect her from the second. This knowledge spurs him to leave his troop and set off to find her again and ensure she’s okay. Callum is subsequently accused of murder and a bounty is put on him, forcing him and now Ava to flee from certain death.
‘…the bounty of the boy’s head was only of greater import, for men such as them have little place int he world that stood scorched and remnant before them.’<.i>
The story is told primarily through Callum’s point of view, however, we are shown snippets through the eyes of the bounty hunters and their devotion to Callum’s death is ruthless. Fierce and relentless, these men have no qualms about tracking him down for the purposes of obtaining the money promised to them; even if it involves killing or maiming innocents that stand in their way of discovery. The duo are forced to endure tremendous hardship and any hope that they have of making out of this alive is seemingly improbable.
While I found the writing to be positively sumptuous, the story itself did follow a meandering pace and took me quite some time to finish. The violence is extreme, but fitting. The romance is lacking with no spark between the two to be seen, which you wouldn’t expect since Callum made some pretty life-changing decisions in order to protect this woman of mystery. I can understand his intentions to protect a woman, I just never quite understood exactly why he went to such extreme lengths to do so. Setting all that aside, this is still a notable debut that leaves me anticipating future works to come from this author. I will also be checking out his short story collection, In the Season of Blood and Gold, which is more Southern Gothic/Country Noir.
I received this book for 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
Continuing his unique theme of storytelling, Selznick takes his readers on a dual adventure told in pictures and then words. The first adventure is exContinuing his unique theme of storytelling, Selznick takes his readers on a dual adventure told in pictures and then words. The first adventure is experienced solely in pictures and begins in 1776 on a ship named the Kraken. After a massive storm, there is only a single survivor: Billy Marvel. The pictures tell of his story, how he came to be connected to the Royal Theatre in London, and how subsequent generations became well-known actors with their own story to tell. The visually impressive illustrated story continues for over 400 pages and ends with an air of mystery.
Flashing forward to the 1990s, we’re introduced to Joseph Jervis who has just ran away from boarding school to go in search of his Uncle Albert. Joseph’s parents are the absent sort and he’s hoping to find a family, a place to call home. Finding his Uncle ends up being a letdown seeing as he wants to immediately send Joseph back to where he belongs and doesn’t show any interest in getting to know each other. Joseph takes comfort in his Uncle’s old house that’s filled with history and a certain story that Joseph desperately wants to uncover. While the story of Joseph is an intriguing one, what’s more intriguing is how his story and that of Billy Marvel’s, two seemingly isolated stories, could possibly be connected. The connection slowly begins to piece together, flowering into a beautifully simplistic story about love and family.
I really adored this story; it even managed to elicit some teary-eyed feels. I loved the combination of pictures/words and was most impressed that Selznick managed to make his words-only storytelling just as mentally visual as his illustrations-only story. This charmingly simplistic story won me over completely and I definitely intend on picking up all of Selznick’s other works.
Many thanks to Wendy for gifting me this lovely story. ...more
“…our world is filled with many mysteries, things we don’t understand. Never go into the deep parts of the forest, for there are many dangers there,“…our world is filled with many mysteries, things we don’t understand. Never go into the deep parts of the forest, for there are many dangers there, both dark and bright, and they will ensnare your soul.”
Biltmore Estate is large enough to have kept a secret for over a decade: deep within its basement lives a man and his daughter, named Serafina. Serafina’s father is in charge of the buildings maintenance but he would be tossed out in a heartbeat if it were discovered he also resided there. And Serafina is a whole different matter. Curious about the world around her and of her own past, she’s no longer able to keep herself confined to the basement, especially when she witnesses the murder of a young girl. Her body was never discovered and by the following morning another child was missing. Serafina is determined to help these people find their lost children, even if it means disclosing her secret.
Beatty created a most mysterious girl with Serafina, who is described as having golden eyes and strangely enough, four toes instead of the normal five. Those differences only add to the air of mystery surrounding her and keep you wondering what it is that makes her so special. She’s a girl with a good heart and a kind soul that you can’t help but admire. Befriending the owner’s of Biltmore’s nephew, Braeden, makes this story even more charming. The two quickly hit it off, despite their obvious differences in social class, and they both team up convinced that they’re going to be able to find these children. Through her friendship, Serafina starts seeing the world through a new set of eyes, only seen before through the pages of books. She sees the good in the world but because of the man in the black cloak, she’s also uncovering the bad as well.
‘She was beginning to see how difficult it was to determine who was good and who was bad, who she could trust and who she had to watch out for. Every person was a hero in his own mind, fighting for what he thought was right, or just fighting to survive another day, but no one thought they were evil.’
Serafina possesses a definite horror, but isn’t quite as terrifying as it is charming. The unique heroine is definitely the spotlight of this tale with her most uncommon story of her life and how she came to reside in the Biltmore Estate basement. While some parts of the book did seem to creep along very slowly and some aspects weren’t left sufficiently explained, it was still ultimately a satisfying supernatural tale of mystery that will no doubt delight children and adults alike.
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
Noel, a ten year old boy, has been raised by his eccentric, ex-suffragette godmother Mattie. In addition to his normal schoolMy rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Noel, a ten year old boy, has been raised by his eccentric, ex-suffragette godmother Mattie. In addition to his normal schooling, Mattie always took the time to give what she referred to as “proper schooling” which included discussions on the obscure and essay topics that gave you more reasons to think such as “What Is Freedom?” and “All Things are Difficult Before They Are Easy”. Mattie imbued in him her particular understanding of the world causing him to develop the most intriguing personality making him an immediate addition to my favorite quirky children in literature shelf. In addition to the impending war causing the residents of London and its outskirts to be constantly on their toes, Noel is attempting to handle the seriousness of Mattie’s decline into senile dementia. Instead of evacuating London with the rest of the children, he opts to stay with Mattie to take care of her knowing that soon she’s not going to be able to take care of him much longer let alone herself. The introduction of Noel and Mattie is fantastically succinct and encompasses the Prologue alone. It set an amazing tone and heightened expectations for the rest of the story. I’m so very pleased to say that it never disappointed and only continued to impress me.
‘The day after that, all the children disappeared, as if London had shrugged and the small people had fallen off the edge.’
On a particularly typical yet cold Winter night, Mattie decides to take a walk and doesn’t come back home. Noel is now forced into evacuating and he’s rounded up with several other children hoping to find families willing to take in another mouth to feed. Noel comes across as a shy, silent child but is actually in very deep mourning for the one person on this earth he truly loved.
‘Reading felt effortful. It was odd to think that for years he had sucked up print without thinking. Since leaving Mattie’s house, he hadn’t finished a book. He couldn’t follow a plot any more, the meaning seemed to bypass his brain, or else stuck to it briefly and then fell off when he turned the page, like an inadequately licked stamp.’
He finds himself taken in by a middle-aged woman named Vee, for the sole reason of the money she’s able to collect for taking him into her care. Right off the bat, her intentions aren’t honorable, but considering Noel is never mistreated or anything of the like, she’s easily forgiven. Vee’s son Donny has a heart problem and is unable to contribute financially and her mother is unable to speak following an incident where she collapsed and hit her head after Vee first told her she was pregnant (and un-wed). Drastic times call for drastic measures and Vee begins grasping for any possible way to earn enough money to help her household survive. This is how she comes up with the idea of going door to door for donations, except there is no charity awaiting her collected coin; it’s going straight into her own pocket. Noel, wrapped in the comfort of his mourning, regains a spark of life when he recognizes Vee’s actions for what they are subsequently intriguing him enough to offer to help. He comes up with a better plan and together, the unlikeliest of duos use the War as an opportunity to survive.
I really paced myself with this one, knowing early on it was going to be hard to say goodbye to this vibrant and original cast of characters. For a book that I picked up simply because it was related to World War II, it had surprisingly little to do with the actual war. It was rather a behind the scenes type look on what you would expect to encounter during wartime but never quite earns its own story. I loved how the story delves into what’s morally right after the duo uncover a crime occurring where people’s belongings are being stolen after they are forced to evacuate. Even though they are collecting for a charity that doesn’t actually exist, these people are still giving willingly. Crooked Heart asks the question: is it better to take under false pretenses or to steal without their knowledge? Is one legally wrong and the other simply morally wrong?
Crooked Heart, while also delving into the seriousness of war without going as far as to take us to the battle lines, is also instilled with a dark humor that I feel is most appropriate for that day and age. Because even though there is sadness that is saturated into every nook and cranny and hangs over the city like a pall, there’s still some humor to be found and Evans characters use it as a coping mechanism to get through these trying times. Wonderful, wonderful novel, I’m so very glad I took the chance on this obscure little gem of a read.
I received this book free from TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review....more
“What do you do when you learn, without a doubt, that you’ve lost everyone you love and you’re trapped by time forever?”
Charlotte “Lottie” Bromley h“What do you do when you learn, without a doubt, that you’ve lost everyone you love and you’re trapped by time forever?”
Charlotte “Lottie” Bromley has been raised to believe in time travel. Her father is an illustrious scientist who has been tasked with learning the secrets of time travel in hopes of gaining a leg up in the war. The year is 1940 and ten-year-old Lottie and her best friend Kitty are kidnapped by Nazis in an effort to coerce the secret of time travel from her father. When a shimmering portal appears in front of Lottie, she takes advantage of an opportunity that might never present itself again, even though that means leaving Kitty behind. Lottie finds herself in a place called Wisconsin in the year 2013 clad only in her pajamas. Her only desire is to find some way to return to Kitty and hope that her and her father survived after she escaped.
Once Was a Time intrigued me from the very beginning with the portrayal of a war ravaged England through the perspective of a ten year-old girl. Add in a scientist researching the existence of time travel and I was more than ready for an adventurous and entertaining story. Unfortunately, that feeling was tragically short lived. I am ready and willing to read anything to do with time travel, however, in looking at the time travel books I have read and loved, there was one similarity between them all: the characters were time traveling to a fascinating time and place. Alas, Wisconsin circa 2013 does not scream fascinating to me.
The numerous genres also made this a difficult one for me. We’re introduced to this as historical fiction upon which it’s given a dash of science fiction and mystery. As soon as you’ve got comfortable with this interesting blend, the reader is then thrust into a contemporary, coming-of-age setting where Lottie is adapting to a modern age where everything is unknown. It was an interesting switch from what you typically find in time travel books, where a modern person is forced to adapt to the past but her dealing with mean girl cliques was too much. She makes friends with these girls even though she never seems to actually care for them because of she believes she doesn’t deserve to have good friends because she left her best friend behind with the Nazis. I could understand her mindset, it just ended up being far too long and drawn out for a meager 272 pages. The pacing picked up speed and seemed to be making a comeback at the end but seemed to lose control making the ending feel avoidably rushed.
I fell in love with Leila Sales’ writing after her novel This Song Will Save Your Life. Yes, that story touched on personal experiences so of course it would be special to me but it was so passionately written, personal experiences or no, it was an incredible story. Unfortunately, I think it set the bar astronomically high for any future read I picked up from her. That spark that made that such an incredible story seemed to be absent here and while I loved the concept of it all, it could have been so much more than it was.
I received this book for 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