A copy of The Cats of Tanglewood Forest was provided to me by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for review purposes.
"Everything is a lesson if you...moreA copy of The Cats of Tanglewood Forest was provided to me by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for review purposes.
"Everything is a lesson if you're willing to learn something from it."
Twelve year old Lillian is an adventurous little girl who traverses the Tanglewood forest searching for fairies that she's convinced exist. After she's tragically bitten by a snake and dies, she hovers above her body long enough to witness the ring of cats that has surrounded her. Next thing she knows, she's awake again and is now furry with paws. Seeking to find a way to rectify the situation, she seeks to change the past but in turn ends up living an even worse existence after her Aunt dies after being bitten by the snake instead.
"Maybe there's a reason why the snake bit you, the cats changed you, and you're no longer a girl. Maybe there's something you can learn from being a cat instead of a girl."
Tanglewood's main lesson centers around how small choices can lead to surprisingly large consequences that you may not realize until it's too late. Despite it's fantasy elements, it still manages to be a lesson that can be understood and appreciated. Charles de Lint has crafted a perfectly charming folktale story and in addition to the enchanting art of Charles Vess this is one that children and adults both are sure to enjoy.(less)
A copy of Life After Life was provided to me by Reagan Arthur Books/Netgalley for review purposes.
"What if you had the chance to do it again and again...moreA copy of Life After Life was provided to me by Reagan Arthur Books/Netgalley for review purposes.
"What if you had the chance to do it again and again, until you got it right? Would you do it?" -Edward Beresford Todd
This is the story of Ursula Todd's live(s), and of her death(s), and of how she lives when given a second chance. Each time she dies (and returns) she obtains a sense of deja vu from her past lives. She uses these bits of knowledge from these previous scenes of life to "get it right" and to change the outcome of her life now. Practice makes perfect after all.
The writing was flawless, albeit a tad hard to grasp at first. There's a constant flipping back and forth between time and it was supremely difficult to determine which story went with which one, however it all comes together in the end. I found it best to simply read, absorb, and watch the story unfold without putting too much thought into it or keeping notes regarding what is happening with each date (speaking from personal experience, it's completely unnecessary).
"No point in thinking, you just have to get on with life. We only have one after all, we should try and do our best. We can never get it right, but we must try."
Despite her multiple chances to "get it right", Ursula did not always succeed. She may have avoided one obstacle she encountered in a previous life only to run into another. As Ursula said, "We can never get it right, but we must try." Life isn't perfect, and even if you had multiple chances to go back and change things it still won't be perfect. I think it also meant that sometimes we need to experience these imperfections in order to truly know how to "get it right".
It was amazing to watch each scene transpire and be able to witness how one single act not only resulted in evading death (the second time around of course) but how drastically different her life often was. But what was even more amazing was finishing the story and fully grasping all the story lines that had been going on and having them all come together harmoniously. There truly aren't enough adjectives in existence for me to properly describe how truly amazing I found this book to be. Life After Life was genius, superbly written, intricately detailed, and capable of an emotional resonance you won't see coming.
A copy of Me Before You was provided to me by PENGUIN GROUP Viking and Netgalley for review purposes.
My heart was not prepared for those kind of feels...moreA copy of Me Before You was provided to me by PENGUIN GROUP Viking and Netgalley for review purposes.
My heart was not prepared for those kind of feels... *sigh*
'The thing about being catapulted into a whole new life - or at least shoved up so hard against someone else's life that you might as well have your face pressed against their window - is that it forces you to rethink your idea of who you are. Or how you might seem to other people.'
Louisa's life is lackluster and she's completely content with 'playing it safe' at life. Not that she's ever allowed herself to contemplate how different things could possibly be. She goes to her job at the tea shop, she goes home to her windowless room at her parents house, and she occasionally spends time with her boyfriend Patrick who is far more concerned with his exercise regiment than he is with her. But when she loses her job at the tea shop she accepts a temporary 6 month position as a caregiver to a quadriplegic, Will Traynor.
Louisa and Will are complete opposites and the first few weeks of them knowing each other the quite truly hated each other. Will was oftentimes irrationally difficult and Louisa was ready to quit, but she stuck it out and slowly they developed an extremely touching friendship.
All I can say is that you make me...you make me into someone I couldn't even imagine. You make me happy, even when you're awful.I would rather be with you- even the you that you seem to think is diminished- than with anyone else in the world.'
Their blossoming romance was one of the most convincing I've read in a long time and was truly uplifting. They changed each other in massive ways in such a short period of time. Louisa gave Will happiness that he hadn't experienced for a very long time and Will gave Louisa the determination to do something with her life and not let it go to waste.
Calling this book chick-lit isn't doing this book any sort of justice; the subject matter is simply far too thought-provoking for that kind of label. The real meat of the story focuses on Will's decision to end his life by assisted suicide, which is the reason behind Louisa's 'temporary' position as he promised his parents he would give them another 6 months but no more. Convinced that he just needs something to live for, his parents hire Louisa who is bright, fun and talkative in hopes that she can convince him that he still has something to live for.
“You only get one life. It's actually your duty to live it as fully as possible.”
It was certainly a tough subject matter to read but was so well written and managed to actually make me laugh out loud at several parts. I loved Louisa and Will's wittiness and constant banter, it was the perfect addition to this poignant story. It was hard not to picture what it would be like if you were put into a situation such as Louisa and Will's. What you would do, if you would actually do anything different. All I know is that they both had an incredibly difficult decision to make and either way was bound to lead to heartache.
This was an incredible story that was so painful (in that crazy heart hurting kind of way) to read but I simply could not put it down. Me Before You is a heartbreaking story about finding what makes life worth living and making the decision whether it's truly enough. Definitely a new favorite and one that my heart won't be forgetting any time soon.
'Everything happens for a reason. He should be grateful. It's because he is forced to leave that he finds the House. It is because he took the coat th...more'Everything happens for a reason. He should be grateful. It's because he is forced to leave that he finds the House. It is because he took the coat that he has the key.'
Harper stalks his Shining Girls through time and the House helps him. He visits the girls when they are children, takes mementos from them and tells them he'll be back for them when it's time. When that time comes, he leaves their bodies with a new memento, one taken from a different Shining Girl. His goal is to kill them all, all who Shine, and his mission is complete. Except one survived. And now she's the one looking for him.
The writing style is extremely explicit. The murders are terribly graphic and incredibly detailed so if you can't stomach 'Dexter' you're definitely not going to be able to manage this one. I have quite the stomach for gruesome tales but even this one came close to pushing my boundaries. Added to the gruesome details is the heartbreaking bits. There's this one scene in particular where one of the women is trying to stop the killer and in the process is telling him about her kids and how she has to be there for them because they're going to be waking up soon... I'm not much of a softie for sad times but even that got to me pretty bad. Plus, I think it should be mentioned there's also a gruesome scene involving a dog that may or may not have caused a tear or two.
'He only has to think of a time and it will open onto it, although he can't always tell if his thoughts are his own or if the House is deciding for him.'
Much like what karen says in her review of The Shining Girls, this book reminds me very much of Life After Life despite it's obvious differences. Life After Life isn't technically time-travel but the transitions through time are quite similar, also both novels lack the scientific backing to support the time-traveling, it's either believable or it's not. Both novels had similar writing styles with bouncing back and forth to different times. It shouldn't make sense and it should be terribly confusing and hard to follow but somehow it manages to make complete and utter sense. Lauren Beukes writes with such confidence though that it really leaves no room for questioning. I never had a doubt.
'It's the same tug in his stomach that brought him to the House. That jolt of recognition when he walks into someplace he's meant to be. He knows it when he sees the tokens that match the ones in the room. It is a game. It's a destiny he's writing for them. Inevitably, they're waiting for him.'
This book blew my mind. I finished it late one night and ended up unable to fall asleep because I simply could not stop thinking about it. There were a few questions that went unanswered that I wish had been but my overall opinion of the book remained bright and shiny. (ha, pun intended) The two things I had issue with her major spoilers but I had to include them. Please do not click if you have any intention of reading this! (view spoiler)[Kirby spent years investigating, trying to find the man who tried to murder her. In the end, he ended up coming back to her after discovering that he didn't finish the job. The fact that all her researching seemingly amounted to nothing was bothersome. It made me wonder if his other crimes went unsolved or if after being introduced to the House if it made Kirby re-question everything. She saw the Room and saw the names of the other girls so in my mind I'd like to think that even though it wouldn't have been easily proven at the very least she figured it out in the end. Considering the ending was slightly left open to interpretation, that's just my interpretation. :) (hide spoiler)] (view spoiler)[Also, we're given back-story on a lot, like regarding Bartek and the money bag and even a short glimpse of who Harper was in his younger years, but the one scene I kept waiting for was how the Room came to be. Each girls name was in Harper's handwriting on the walls, it just made me wonder if the Room came together all at once or if it was pieced together over time as he found each of his Shining Girls. (hide spoiler)]
The Shining Girls is a horrid and nightmarish tale but so completely intense and unforgettable that it's certain to leave a lasting impression. It's a story possessing such vehemence you practically need a good, strong drink to aid you through it. In honor of the drink the House never failed to provide I recommend a whisky straight-up, no ice.(less)
A copy of The Death of Bees was provided to me by Harper for review purposes.
"Today is Christmas Eve. Today is my birthday. Today I am 15. Today I bur...moreA copy of The Death of Bees was provided to me by Harper for review purposes.
"Today is Christmas Eve. Today is my birthday. Today I am 15. Today I buried my parents in the backyard. Neither of them were beloved."
Launching right into the heart of the story, Marnie and Nelly bury their parents in the backyard after their father suffocates and their mothers hangs herself. With both parents gone the girls are left completely alone. Living in the slums of Glasgow, Scotland, Marnie makes a hasty decision to bury them both in the garden in order to avoid being placed into foster care. When Marnie turns 16 she can legally care for her sister so they just need to stay under the radar for one year. But between their curious but concerned neighbor and his inquisitive dog with a penchant for digging in their garden, a drug dealer their father owes money to, and a grandfather that wants to find his daughter their carefully constructed web of lies slowly begins to deteriorate.
Having lived with their parents misconduct their entire lives, finding their dead bodies didn't have the emotional impact that would be typical for most people. Marnie had already been taking care of her and her sister for years so not having their parents there really wasn't new. Except they were still there. Kind of. They were just in the garden now, buried under the lavender bushes.
It wasn't until later that I connected the dots and the references to the sexual abuse from their father. The author manages to indirectly reference the abuse both girls received from their father without going into unnecessary detail but I almost missed it entirely. The only indication given of this abuse was the lasting impacts both girls exhibit (i.e. Marnie's drinking and drug problems and lack of disregard for sleeping with married men and Nelly's ongoing night terrors.) Their experiences nevertheless created an unbreakable bond between the girls.
Throughout the story, the reference to people being 'monsters' for actions in their life that have inevitably gone on to define them. The elderly gay neighbor Lennie who takes it upon himself to care for the girls when they so desperately needed someone. But due to a past transgression that labeled him a sex offender he becomes identified as a monster. Marnie and Nelly's parents are more deserving of the label 'monster' because of the serious neglect of their children. The girls were forced to grow up at an extremely young age due to their parents terminal absence. Neither girl had anything close to a childhood and it was always a guessing game whether they would come home with groceries or drugs and booze. The children's grandfather that appears and suddenly wants to be a part of their life to make amends for past wrongs is also deserving of the title. But that's where the grey area develops: Do the girls actions make them monsters as well? Or is their behavior excusable because of everything they had already been through and what they were trying to avoid? The author doesn't provide any clear cut answer in determining who is right and who is wrong but it's safe to say that all characters are at fault in some way.
The style of writing and changes in point of view were brilliant. Each character had their own distinctive voice and their own important story. All points of view were told in first person but Lennie's was written almost as a letter or diary entries to his deceased lover, Joseph. Nelly is quite the eccentric 12 year-old that is a violin prodigy, has a fondness for old classic movies, and speaks as if, as Lennie put it, "like she swallowed a dictionary". Marnie, an extremely direct and to the point individual that carries a massive burden which she manages to somewhat hide. It's obvious that both girls lack necessary help, they just simply don't know where to look for it.
"What on earth is happening to the bees? They say it is an ecological disaster, an environment holocaust. Every day I wonder what the blazes can be causing this abuse of our ecosystem." -Nelly
The meaning behind the title eluded me for quite some time and I actually spent several hours pondering its significance. So this is what I came up with, but I could be completely off the mark, I have no idea but it really does seem to have a simple and straight forward meaning. As Nelly stated above, the death of bees is an ecological disaster and an environmental holocaust as bees play a major role and their deaths have a lasting effect. Even though their parents didn't play a major role in the girls lives, their deaths still managed to make a lasting impact on them.
'I fear death, I have always feared death. It comes like a gale and never with permission. I would meet it again today.'
'The Death of Bees' is gloomy, somber, and brutally realistic but darkly comedic as well. Enthralling and thought-provoking, you'll find yourselves racing to finish to find out these unforgettable girls' fate.(less)