I Am Pilgrim is a sweeping 700-page behemoth of a novel that spans multiple decades and continents and I cou...morethis review will go live on the blog05/27
I Am Pilgrim is a sweeping 700-page behemoth of a novel that spans multiple decades and continents and I could have easily read another 700 pages. I'm typically hesitant to give in to hype, I've been burned in the past, but with this novel, the hype is not only deserved, but actually doesn't do the book justice. I Am Pilgrim is greater than the hype. It's the kind of book that rocked me to my core and left me breathless. It took me over a month to finally come up with a review but even after a month's thought, nothing I say will be good enough. This book is that good.
I'm purposefully leaving the summary vague; uncovering the details is half the fun! What initially starts out as a routine - albeit rather gruesome - murder investigation in a seedy New York hotel quickly spirals into a whirlwind race across Europe and the Middle East to stop a crazed zealot from raining destruction down on America. Throw in some ultra-secret government divisions, biological warfare, and a main character with severe mommy issues, and you've got the backbone of I Am Pilgrim.
It's never fully revealed just who our main character is. He was adopted as a child and later on recruited for an agency where he was given a new name and a new past. With each case he took on a new identity. He's a ghost, living on the fringes of society, never getting close to anyone. After he left the agency, he wrote a book detailing various crimes and unique methods of killing. He becomes involved in the murder investigation after it becomes clear the killer used his book as a blueprint, a checklist of what not to do and how to get away with it. From there I Am Pilgrim takes on a life of its own and I happily buckled in for the ride.
This is a novel where there's So. Much. to say but saying it will give away the book's secrets and I refused to ruin it for anyone! I Am Pilgrim is definitely not for the queasy and makes that clear with the opening scene. Thankfully I'm the kind of person who can't resist watching horror unfold and was thoroughly ensnared in this book's web. I'm convinced Hayes is something of a genius - the way he introduced multiple stories that, on first look, appeared completely unrelated only to have everything come together at the end had me in awe. It takes a special kind of author to turn a book of this length into a frenzied page-turner, and Hayes is clearly a master of his craft.
I Am Pilgrim kept me up late, got me up early, and had me sneaking in some reading time whenever I could throughout the day. When I wasn't reading this book I was thinking about it and counting down the minutes until I was able to get back to it. I realize this review is little more than me rephrasing "I LOVE THIS BOOK" over and over again, but when it comes down to it, that's all I can say (without spoiling anything, of course). I Am Pilgrim is a highly ambition novel that fully lives up to those ambitions and I'm counting on it becoming a huge hit this summer. It appears this is going to be a series, and if that's truly the case, I desperately need the next!(less)
The House at the End of Hope Street is that rare kind of story that initially comes across as wholly unassuming and it isn't until you look up and see it's going on 3am that you realize this book has completely enchanted you. There are few books I'll read in a single sitting and even fewer that I'll sacrifice sleep for, but with this book I happily ignored the rapidly-approaching dawn. For 280 gorgeous pages I lived and breathed this story. When I finally finished I wanted to hold the book close, somehow make it a part of me. I seriously considered starting over again, turning back to the very first page - and I have never reread a book immediately after finishing.
At 19, Alba Ashby is well on her way to a bright future. She was Cambridge University's youngest student (15) and is now the youngest PhD student. Her world collapses in an Unspeakable Moment - throughout the novel the truth is hinted at, though never fully detailed until later on - and she sees herself with no option but to leave school. Not wanting to return to a home where her siblings hate her (Lord Ashby's children prefer the latest and greatest, not understanding their youngest sister's passion for books and history) and finds herself at the door of 11 Hope Street.
As if she fully expected to see Alba on her doorstep, an older woman introduces herself as Peggy and invites the girl in. She invites Alba to stay in the house for ninety-nine days while she gets her life back on track. Once inside, Alba notices the photographs lining the walls. Hundreds on photos of famous women, all of whom had taken up residence in the house at one point or another. Beatrix Potter, Florence Nightingale, and Sylvia Plath had found the house in their time of need and now it's their turn to offer advice to Alba - literally. The house on Hope Street isn't an ordinary home, it's a living, breathing place ready to provide inspiration and assistance to any woman who finds herself at the door.
The characters in The House at the End of Hope Street are just as magical as the house itself. Along with Peggy and Alba, there are two other women who have taken up residence in the house. Greer, a starlet pushing forty, recently discovered her fiance entertaining a woman young enough to be her daughter and Carmen, a beautiful Portuguese woman who fell in love with a musician and is now holding onto a dark secret. The story's narrative alternates between these four women and nothing - nothing - makes me happier than some multiple narratives! There's Stella, a ghost only Alba can see, who has filled the role of friend and confidant that was missing from Alba's life. There's also Mog, a cat who has been in the house for decades - and let's not forget the photographs! The entire time I was reading this book I kept imagining Harry Potter-esque photos. The women in the frames are fully capable of interaction and, whether Alba wants it or not, are quick to offer advice. At the very end of the book there are a few pages devoted to these women which give mini-bios. There are suffragists (Millicent Garrett Fawcett, Emmeline Pankhurst), writers (Daphne du Maurier, George Eliot), actresses (Elizabeth Taylor, Vivien Leigh), scientists (Caroline Herschel, Mary Somerville) and so many, many other remarkable women and let it be noted that my interest is definitely piqued. Don't be at all surprised if future reviews include a biography or two!
The House at the End of Hope Street is a book I could keep talking about for AGES. For such a tiny novel, there's so much to be said about this story! It's also one of those books I loved so much that I fear anything I say could never do it justice. There are novels that I enjoy enough to declare a top pick for the year. This one, however, has gone above and beyond. It's achieved that special status: a favorite not just for the year, but overall. Some books I like enough to reread - at some point. This time I know I'll be revisiting these characters.
Whether you're a Young Adult reader who's looking to dip your feet into the Adult genre or a reader who's looking to get lost in a beautiful world, I cannot recommend this book enough. It had everything I didn't know I had been looking for and Menna van Praag is an author I'll now be keeping my eye on.(less)
Close your eyes. Picturesque. Charming. Quaint. What do you see? Offbeat. Unconventional. Quirky. This is exa...morethis review will go live on the blog7/11
Close your eyes. Picturesque. Charming. Quaint. What do you see? Offbeat. Unconventional. Quirky. This is exactly what you're getting from The Awakening of Miss Prim. There's something decidedly old-fashioned about this story - and that's certainly high praise! One part The Village (bear with me here), one part The Sound of Music, this novel was just plain good and this is a review that scares me. Despite sitting on my thoughts, I'm still unable to come up with the right words to say (apart, of course from I LOVE IT).
Prudencia Prim has more degrees to her name than I have fingers on my hand. With a blatant disregard for a firm "graduates and postgraduates need not apply" and ignoring the "preferably without work experience," Miss Prim marched up the hydrangea-lined path to inquire about a posting for a librarian position. The Man in the Wingchair (a man never named throughout the duration of the novel) decides to hire her on and Miss Prim quickly comes to realize San Ireneo is a town unlike any other.
The tiny village was founded as a refuge of sorts for those seeking to get away from the intensity of city life. In San Ireneo, values are sacred, gardens are perfectly tended, any goods are produced locally, education is prized (the Man in the Wingchair's nieces and nephews - all under the age of 11 - are able to recite ancient Greek and Latin works and hold their own in philosophical debates). What makes this town different is that the school teacher? The bookseller? None of these positions are filled by professionals. Shops open simply because the town lacks a particular ware. Miss Prim comes to learn this way of thinking came largely out of the want for the town's children to have an unbiased education, they learn the basics from the school teacher, but the bulk of their education is learned at various homes, largely the Main in the Wingchair's private library (which Miss Prim has recently taken to organizing).
The Awakening of Miss Prim is such a delightfully sleepy tale, exactly the kind of story I adore. There wasn't much in the way of action; instead, there's a wealth of character development and depth. A variety of topics are explored - religion, philosophy, there's even a debate on the merits of Mr. Darcy. While I'm relatively unfamiliar with the main bulk of 18th-Century British Literature (sorry, Janites!), The Awakening of Miss Prim felt right at home with those works. The Man in the Wingchair is a gentleman in every aspect of the word, San Ireneo itself had an old, primitive feel, the characters are all exceedingly formal. I loved every minute.
In addition to the story, the storytelling was beautiful too. Entire passages gave me pause and there were pages I read and reread because the language was so breathtaking. What boggles my mind is not only that this is a debut, but it's also a translation. That a translation could be this gorgeous is nothing short of amazing! It pains me to say that I feel The Awakening of Miss Prim will go unnoticed by the majority, but those of you who actively seek out under-the-radar novels will find a true gem. Fiercely character-driven, intensely thought-provoking, and with an ending that left me wanting more (I need to know!!), The Awakening of Miss Prim is a fantastic debut that I eagarly look forward to revisiting again. If you like your characters prim and proper (Prudencia Prim is a most apt name) with more than a hint of quirk, do yourself a favor and read this book.(less)
And if you feel that your decision was the right one, know this at least: that somewhere in this world is a man who loves you, who understands how precious and clever and kind you are. A man who has always loved you and, to his detriment, suspects he always will.
I am not a sappy girl. I don't get mushy or go all starry-eyed over forbidden romance. That said, I truly believe Jojo Moyes is on a one-woman mission to utterly destroy me. The Last Letter from Your Love ripped out my heart and stomped all over it...and I loved every second.
Much like The Girl You Left Behind, The Last Letter from Your Lover follows two stories over two different eras. In the 1960s, Jennifer Stirling had it all: a fabulously wealthy husband, a beautiful house, all the finest dresses, and her parties were renowned. A devastating car accident left her with memory loss and as she slowly pieces her life back together, she uncovers letters. Passionate letters from a man who certainly is not her husband. Times were different then - a woman was expected to maintain the house and children while the husband worked and divorce could ruin her reputation. Despite this, Jenny wants, needs to find this man she loved so fiercely.
In 2003 Ellie Haworth isn't where she envisioned herself to be at 32: a year into an affair with a man who has no interest in permanently leaving his wife and trapped in a newspaper office constantly searching for the next big story. With the building undergoing massive renovations, Ellie's tasked with searching through the archives and writing a feature on life in a previous era. While going through decades-old files, Ellie discovers letters - not just any letters, but love letters. The more she reads the more she becomes attached to these two strangers and their forbidden romance that so clearly mirrors her own. She decides then and there to track down these two people and see what came of their romance: did the woman accept his offer and leave her husband? Did she decide it was a mistake and has spent the past forty years trying to put it behind her?
With two Moyes novels now under my belt, I feel confident in saying she's a favorite author. Even before this book, when I had only read The Girl You Left Behind, I knew there was something special about her and I was left wanting more. Moyes has a way of making me completely incoherent and I absolutely love that her books have such an effect on me.
I will say though, that as much as I love her novels, Jojo Moyes has a slightly jarring way of switching eras. The novel opens in 1960 and although there were a few small skips to 1964, the story followed Jenny and Anthony for so long that I began wondering if perhaps I read the summary wrong and 2003 had been left out completely. It wasn't until page 231 that the second story line appeared and by then I was so invested in the previous story that I struggled a bit to get into it. Roughly 150 pages were left to not only wrap up the first story, but also introduce and complete the second, and I felt Ellie's story suffered because of this. My other minor (minor! This is Jojo we're talking about and she can do no wrong in my eyes!) issue is with the letters. While Anthony's words were breathtakingly beautiful and heartfelt, they are read and reread so many times by so many different characters that it felt like overkill - especially since each instance features the letter in its entirety.
With only two small distractions, I'd say The Last Letter from Your Lover is about as close to a perfect novel as you can get. My heart ached for Anthony and Jennifer and I fell in love with their story. In hindsight, several plot twists are obvious, but while I was reading I was shocked and surprised - definitely the sign of a great writer! Also, Moyes threw in a Doctor Who reference and that alone is enough to warrant five stars! I loved this book and I adore Moyes: do yourself a favor and read The Last Letter from Your Lover. It's sweet and sad and beautiful and heartbreaking.(less)
In a sentence:All the Light We Cannot See is a haunting, lyrical novel that broke my heart a hundred times over - and I would gladly allow it another...moreIn a sentence:All the Light We Cannot See is a haunting, lyrical novel that broke my heart a hundred times over - and I would gladly allow it another hundred shots.
Calling it now: All the Light We Cannot See is going to be the book to read this summer and it will definitely appear on numerous Best Of lists at the end of the year. I knew going into it that it wouldn't be a happy-go-lucky tale (wartime fiction rarely is), but I hadn't expected to be so thoroughly enchanted by the characters Doerr created.
In Germany, orphans Werner and his sister Jutta are living in a house with several other children and a sweet caretaker, Frau Elena. Though Elena originally came from France, these days she takes care with her words, no longer singing the lullabies from her youth and hiding what remains of her accent the best she can. While Werner was always a bright child full of wonder and questions, it's during this time that he discovers a penchant for repairing radios. Word of his skills quickly spread and soon he's recruited for a military academy where his brain will be put to good use.
When she was six Marie-Laure lost her eyesight. Since then, her ever-patient Papa has been building a miniature of their town, helping her memorize the streets and intersections. Soon Marie is able to get about, knowing just how many steps she needs to take to get to where she's going. When rumors begin circulating about the threat of war, Papa thinks nothing of it. His job at the museum will keep them safe. As the months wear on, however, it's clear those rumors have become fact. The two head to Saint-Malo, Papa carrying a special package and Marie-Laure with her favorite book, and seek refuge at Uncle Etienne's house.
You know those novels that are so beautiful and have such an effect on you that nothing you say could ever do it justice? All the Light We Cannot See is one of those books. I cheered when Marie realized she knew her way around town. I panicked when two boys in the orphanage joined the Hitler Youth. I teared up countless times. This novel elicited such a range of emotion and I truly loved every minute.
It's not just the main characters I came to care for. Frederick, a boy at the military academy, had such a fascination with birds. He could hear a bird and know exactly what kind it was. Frederick was just about the closest thing you could get to a wholly good person during the war and I still can't give too much thought to his story without becoming misty-eyed. While Etienne becomes far more prominent in the latter half of the book, his past was something I couldn't forget. Etienne's brother, Marie-Laure's grandfather, fought in the First World War and never came home. Since then, Etienne has refused to leave the house, bunkering down in his bedroom, sometimes not even leaving his bed. He has an array of radios and when they were younger, he and his brother would broadcast science programs for children. It's one of these broadcasts that Werner hears all the way in Germany.
While its 500+ pages might seem daunting and intimidating, this book is actually a quick read. The chapters are ridiculously short, the majority clocking in at under three pages. Some chapters aren't more than a few paragraphs. In an interview he did with Powells, Doerr explains his reasoning:
My prose can be dense. I love to pile on detail. I love to describe. I'm much more reluctant to give the reader entrance into a character's feeling than describe what's around him or her and have the reader intuit the internal life of a character. I know that's demanding, so this was a gesture of friendliness, maybe. It's like I'm saying to the reader, "I know this is going to be more lyrical than maybe 70 percent of American readers want to see, but here's a bunch of white space for you to recover from that lyricism."
I, for one, would gladly read another 500 pages of his lyricism.
I'm not entirely sure why I was under the impression that this would be a love story (perhaps cliches and tropes have become so ingrained in my mind that I automatically think every story will be romance - this one's all on you, YA), but Marie and Werner don't meet until the very end. And even then it's for such a short time. All the Light We Cannot See didn't need romance to keep it afloat.
There's also a side plot involving a legendary jewel that's said to come with a curse. The gemstone had been in the museum, but when the pieces were moved to the countryside, the stone went with it. Three replicas were made, and the four men who are transporting the stone have no idea whether they have the real one or an imitation. Daniel LeBlanc, Marie's Papa, is one of those men. There was a fairy tale-like quality to this story that I think blended beautifully with the horrors of war.
I could honestly go on and on about this gorgeous book. All the Light We Cannot See is not just a book that needs to be read, but one that needs to be bought - and after finishing I immediately ordered a copy of my own. I'm not familiar with any of Doerr's other works - I hadn't even heard of him until this book - but if they're anything like this book, I need to get my hands on them, stat.(less)
A few months ago I discussed imprints and I mentioned one of my go-to imprints (according to my ratings) is Viking. Steal the North is one of Viking's latest releases and, once again, proves just how well that imprint knows me.
Steal the North is not a happy story by any means. Instead it's a story of a family brought together by lies and tragedy and shows how they cope with the past and, ultimately, struggle to move on. Sixteen-year-old Emmy thought her only family was her mother. Her world shatters when she finds out that, not only is her father alive and well, but she also has an aunt and uncle living in Washington. Even more shocking is when Emmy's mother tells her she'll be spending the summer with her new-found family. Kate was just barely out of her teens when she became pregnant. Having been raised in a fundamentalist church, Kate's pregnancy cast her out of the only thing she knew. Her father disowned her, the church disowned her, the boy she planned on marrying took off. In order to support herself and Emmy, Kate did unspeakable things and, when she couldn't take it anymore, left Washington for California in order to start a new life. It's been sixteen years since she last spoke to her sister and now her family needs her help.
When Kate left, Bethany lost a huge part of herself. Her older sister was her rock and the year she was able to spend with Emmy was the happiest she'd ever been. Since she was a child Bethany's dream was to have children of her own, but she's suffered miscarriage after miscarriage and realizes she has one more chance. While Matt can't convince her to see a doctor, Bethany has started looking into alternative medicine - herbs, plants, but not to the extent that her fellow worshipers would become suspicious. The new pastor has agreed to do a healing and Bethany's niece is needed for a vital role. Next door to the Millers lives a Native American family. Life on the reservation might provide them with family, but the trailer court holds far more stability and a life away from gangs and poverty. Theresa supports her kids as best as she can and her younger brother Reuben helps out whenever she needs him. The summer Emmy spends in Washington brings together two wildly different families and she discovers what it truly means to be home.
Steal the North is beautiful. It's heartbreaking. It's emotional, raw, real. The story is set in the late '90s and, in the easiest way to get to my heart, features numerous points of view. I don't want to say Emmy is the standout character, though the story is very much about her. Bethany, Reuben, and Kate are every bit as important to the story and each chapter shows a side to the story that wasn't there before. Bethany, with her homemade dresses and long hair. Kate's bitterness and regret. Reuben's desire to hold onto his Colville traditions. I was pleasantly surprised that even minor characters were given a chapter or two: Jamie, Emmy's father, isn't quite the deadbeat he's originally made out to be. Spencer, Kate's boyfriend, loves her and Emmy more than anything and is determined to become a family. Every single character, big or small, was beautifully written and felt like people I could easily pass on the street or stand behind in line at the grocery store.
Be warned, though: this isn't a lazy day read. It's not a novel to be devoured in an afternoon. I spent well over a week with this book and I feel that truly helped me get a real feel for the place and the characters that I would have missed had I raced through it. I also feel that my slow reading pace subconsciously mirrored the slow story-telling - and I don't mean that in a bad way! Steal the North was not a novel that dragged its feet or one that bored me. Instead, it was a story that simply wasn't ready to give up its secrets; instead I had to earn them and when I finally discovered the truth it hit me hard. My heart broke a hundred times over for these characters and while my life isn't anything like theirs, by the end of the book I wanted to reach out to my family. That is the sign of good story-telling, ladies and gentlemen.
My only - only! - complaint about the novel has nothing to do with the story itself, but with the cover. Personally I find the cover stunning, but what you can't see on the screen is that, because of the camera angle, there's a clear view down the model's dress. It would have been so easy to fix: a different angle, different lighting, a different dress.
It floors me that Steal the North is Bergstrom's first novel. With a debut like this there's no telling what the future holds - but I look forward to it! Steal the North was filled to the brim with emotion: heavy subjects like loss and race were handled with grace and the love coursing through these pages hit home. This is definitely a novel I'll be talking about for a long, long time and certainly one I'll be recommending to friends, family, and customers. Pick up a copy of this novel - trust me.(less)
Jaycee's life was idyllic. She had a best friend, a boy who liked her, and a nice house in a quiet town. After what is...moreLink goes live on the blog9/17.
Jaycee's life was idyllic. She had a best friend, a boy who liked her, and a nice house in a quiet town. After what is declared a gang-related murder shakes things up, suddenly life isn't so perfect. Jaycee's best friend becomes more and more distant, hanging out with the wrong crowd and piercing nearly every inch of her body. As the two grow further apart, the texts become less frequent. Until the night of Rachel's death. The night where Jaycee chose to spend her time with Skyler instead of answering her phone.
Rachel's death turns the town upside down. Suddenly Rachel's Mexican heritage comes into play - despite the fact that Rachel spent her entire life with these people. Soon the mothers at church are whispering about Rachel and drugs and gangs and Jaycee doesn't know what to believe. She does know one thing though - she and Rachel broke into an old house and Rachel saw something. Something that changed her forever and Jaycee is determined to find out just what went on that night and who is really responsible for her best friend's death.
Okay, calling it right now: Dead Girls Don't Lie is one of my TOP READS OF 2013. It's that good, y'all. It had a distinct Pretty Little Liars vibe that I ADORED and a blindingly fast pace that kept me turning the page.
In order to solve the mystery behind Rachel's death, Jaycee first needs to come to terms with it. Naturally she's hesitant to visit Rachel's mother - especially as part of the clean-up crew the church organized (the drive-by left the porch and Rachel's bedroom in ruin). She's also unsure whether or not she should tell her secret: the night they were in the old house, Rachel left with blood on her hands.
When a video from Rachel gets sent to her phone, Jaycee decides something needs to be done. Under Rachel's instructions she teams up with Eduardo, much to the dismay of Skyler. With Eduardo - and occasionally Skyler - Jaycee pieces together the events leading up to Rachel's death and what she uncovers is shocking.
Dead Girls Don't Lie is one of those books I loved so much I can't fully put into words. Plot twists I genuinely didn't see coming and a constant parental presence were added bonuses to an already fantastic story. If you like smart - and delightfully creepy - mysteries, do yourself a favor and check out Dead Girls Don't Lie.(less)
BEWARE: this review amounts to little more than an incoherent, rambly love letter.
You know that one review that you sit on until you come up with the right words to say, only to wind up writing - and rewriting - the entire thing? That's how I was with My Basmati Bat Mitzvah. This is the novel I want to hand to Middle Grade/Young Adult naysayers who claim kids' books can't be thought-provoking and powerful. Even now I want to scrap this review and simply have a giant 72-pt blinking font that just reads "GO BUY THIS NOW."
Tara Feinstein is just like every other 12-year-old: she loves having Movie Nights with her best friend Ben-o (who just might like-like her), she has to deal with all the hurt and jealousy that comes with her other best friend Rebecca becoming friendly with Tara's sworn enemy, and the best thing about the new school year is getting to be in robotics class.
Unlike the majority of the kids in Tara's class however, Tara comes from a multi-cultural home. While both her parents are Jewish, her mother practiced Hinduism before converting. Apart from Tara's aunt and cousin, the rest of her mother's side of the family still lives in India. Even though she attends Hebrew School, Tara strongly identifies with her Indian side and a classmate's nasty comments raise some doubts about whether or not she wants to go through with her Bat Mitzvah. Will she have to abandon her Indian heritage in order to truly be Jewish?
When I first started reading this book I sat down on my couch and didn't move until I had finished. My Basmati Bat Mitzvah is such an incredibly lovely book that had it all: diverse characters (!!!), humor, a beautiful message. Tara came across as a real person, someone I could pass on the street. Her jealousy over playing third wheel to her bestie's new friend, panic over accidentally ruining a precious heirloom, all the confusion that comes with her best boy friend kinda-sorta-maybe wanting to be a boyfriend. It was all beautifully done. Tara had such wonderful character development throughout the novel - and she wasn't the only one! Other characters had an amazing amount of depth, particularly Mean Girl Sheila. & get this: not only were Tara's parents ever-present, but her grandmother, aunt, and even her friends' parents played key roles!
Perhaps what really won me over was that I could relate to Tara. I come from a Jewish-Catholic family and while I was raised Catholic, my family still observes certain Jewish traditions and holidays. I understood Tara's conflicting emotions. If she had her Bat Mitzvah, would she have to forget all about her beloved grandparents, her Nana and Nanaji? Would she be unable to enjoy her favorite Bollywood movies? Tara's personal journey to discovering herself was beautiful and I was cheering her on every step of the way. And if I didn't already love her to pieces, the fact that she wanted to wear a sari and serve traditional Indian food at her Bat Mitzvah totally would have won me over.
As an added bonus, at the very end of the book there's a multi-page glossary that covers a variety of Yiddish/Hebrew/Punjabi terms and of course I thought that was awesome! Seriously, I could prattle on about My Basmati Bat Mitzvah for days. It was a delightful, beautiful story about a girl discovering who she is and I loved it. I strongly recommend buying a copy!(less)
They come out of the sky and take you. Everyone knows that.
Six years ago, life in Riley's town changed. Without warning, the angels appeared and began taking people. That first year was the worst; no one knew what had happened or what was going on. Where did these people go? They weren't dead, they simply vanished after being taken into the sky. The second year, however, the town was ready. They knew what to expect, yet there was no way to stop it.
With each Taking, more and more friends and family vanished and the town viewed it as their own awful curse. It wasn't until Pastor Warren's arrival that things began to change. With his sermons and flashy way of preaching, he was able to convince the townsfolk that, no this wasn't a curse, this was a blessing. The Taking is actually the Glory and is something to be worshiped and desired. Soon the entire town - whether voluntary or involuntary - are under his spell and go along with his word.
One of the few members of the town not to accept the pastor's message is Riley Carver. Sixteen and a bit of an outsider, she'd all but shut down after losing her best friend in the previous year's Taking. When one of the angels shows up outside her bedroom window, she's ready to take action and in the process, shoots it. Unfortunately for Riley, the angel is no longer an angel. He's a boy, naked and confused and thinks he's still in the 1950s.
We all know to beware the hype machine, right? I know I've certainly given in multiple times, only to realize I actually HATE the book. Guys, Outcast is worth it. It deserves all the hype and then some! I'm typically not a big fan of paranormal, but this one was fantastic. Ms. Kress took these angels, turned them around, and made it believable. I know it's a little hard to picture a novel about angels stealing people as believable, but the novel does it in such a way that the paranormal elements aren't overdone and that is what makes it so great.
What really made the novel for me, though, were the characters. They were beautifully fleshed out and spot-on. Riley is still hurting over the loss of Chris and she battles with her newfound emotions for Gabe. Her internal struggle was incredible and made her shine as a character. Gabe had been one of those creatures until Riley shot him. Now he's a super hot Greaser who believes he's still in his present - 1956. Gabe was great and their friendship was wonderful. He's a total playboy, but doesn't hide his intentions. His sheer terror of the Internet was beyond adorable. Lacy, a stereotypical cheerleader; Father Peter, Hartwich's largely ignored Catholic priest; Pastor Warren, the slimy and oh-so-charming man who hovers during his weekly Commune. Each character was remarkably well-done.
An added bonus was the inclusion of Riley's parents. Both are featured heavily in the novel and even call Riley out on letting a boy come before schoolwork. Way to go, Mr. & Mrs. Carver!
The novel's only downfall was the ending. Well, endings. Plural. The first was absolutely heartbreaking and I kept hoping it wasn't going to happen. Sadly, it did, and I was left in pieces. That wasn't the end, however. There was still another chapter and another ending. It would have been more of an emotional impact if there had only been the first ending, but even with the second, I still had that punched-in-the-gut feeling.
An original plot, beautifully crafted characters, and emotions galore made Outcast a quick favorite. It's short and can easily be read during a bright and sunny weekend and I know it's one I'll be revisiting again soon.(less)
Mere words cannot defeat a true hero. Unless they happen to be the words to some sort of Instant Death spell. Magic is scary.
Last year, The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom took the Middle Grade world by storm (read my 5-star review here!). The sequel, The Hero's Guide to Storming the Castle was one of my most highly-anticipated 2013 releases and - spoiler! - Christopher Healy didn't let me down!
With one adventure under their belt, the four Princes Charming - Liam, Gustav, Duncan, and Frederic - are back home and starting to feel a little restless. Prince Liam is dreading his upcoming wedding day; despite being all muscle, Gustav is once again the runt of his family; Frederic is suspicious of his wife's friendship with Liam; Duncan is happy as can be and it's driving the dwarves insane.
After Liam is kidnapped (by none other than his fiancee!), a messenger is sent to round up the remaining princes: it's time for the League of Princes to join forces once more. This time they're aided by Ella and Lila, Liam's younger sister. Unfortunately, their rescue attempt doesn't quite go according to plan and suddenly they've got an even bigger mission: retrieve an ancient heirloom that gives its wielder immense power. While the sword once belonged to Liam's family, the pre-teen Bandit King Deeb Rauber now has it and he's not giving it up that easily.
"I admire your ability to insult your friends while you defend them. It's a rare talent."
Unlike other sequels, going into this one I had no worries whatsoever. I couldn't wait to jump back into this world and Storming the Castle is everything a sequel should be! All of my favorite characters are back, as well as a few new ones, and the humor is seriously top-notch. This is the perfect book to read aloud to a classroom - especially with the AMAZING ILLUSTRATIONS!
Although this is a truly funny book, it does have a more serious side. Liam's going through a pretty huge identity crisis after discovering a secret. He doesn't feel as though he's a real hero and that he's been living a lie. I loved reading his worries and fears - though there were moments when I wanted to shake him silly.
"Who brings a giant on a stealth mission?"
For a league of Princes, it's the ladies that steal this show. Ella, Lila, and Briar Rose are fantastic. Ella and Lila are totally kickass and Briar Rose is the embodiment of a spoiled brat. I also loved seeing more of the bounty hunter, Ruffian the Blue (or Mr. the Blue, as Snow White calls him). Seeing Papa Scoots Jr. and Mr. Troll once more made my heart happy. ♥
Okay, confession time: I hate writing reviews for books I love. It's SO. HARD. trying to convey my feelings (all the feelings) in any sort of coherent manner. The Hero's Guide to Storming the Castle is every bit as fantastic as the first book - if not better! It boasts a pretty decent page count - just shy of 500 pages! - but reading was a breeze. Whether you're just starting the series or are eager to revisit this world, definitely check this one out. I see HUGE things happening in the third - including new romances??? - and I can't wait!(less)
Bellman and Black is that rare kind of novel that enchants and haunts and refuses to relinquish its hold on the reader - even well after the book is over. This was my introduction to Ms. Setterfield's work but let me say, if The Thirteenth Tale is anywhere near as amazing as this book, I'll be picking up a copy ASAP.
When Will Bellman was a boy he killed a rook. He didn't actually think he could hit it from where he stood, but he wanted to prove himself to the group of boys he played with and boasted that with his slingshot and the perfect stone he could hit anything. When the rook fell William Bellman became something of a legend to those boys and his life was never the same.
As he grew he came to inherit Bellman Mill and it was clear to everyone Will had the touch. Even at 19 he was an incredible businessman, fully able to predict and chart and know what to do and when to do it. The mill quickly expanded and grew and soon Will held quite a pretty penny. When he came to the age where it was expected he start a family, Will married a sweet girl and together they raised four children. All the while, the rooks were ever present.
With the arrival of a deadly illness, Will sought the aid of the only man who could help him and a bargain was struck. The sole survivor of the sickness, Will's eldest daughter, miraculously pulled through and Will's newly launched business made him a very rich man. Just as it always had, things seemed to mold themselves to Will's wishes. Time fixed itself in a way to where he could always get through whatever paperwork needed done, any business decision Will made was a profitable one. Unbeknownst to Will, the other constant in his life - the rooks - was there as well.
It's not a stretch to say the climax is Will's slow descent into madness. Mr. Black makes himself known and Will comes to the realization that he had never been in charge at all. Bellman and Black is the kind of novel I loved so much I'm actually afraid to discuss it; I don't want to say the wrong thing that could turn away a potential reader. I'm also aware that anything I say won't do it justice - it's that good.
I wish this had a late-September or an October release date rather than November. Bellman and Black's gothic atmosphere is absolutely perfect for fall and put me in the Halloween spirit. There was just the right amount of creepiness and the gorgeous language made me yearn for crunchy leaves, ghost stories, and pumpkin-flavored everything.
Bellman and Black is a book I will be forcing upon family and customers alike and I highly recommend it. Don't be surprised if this one shows up again on my Top Reads of 2013 list!(less)
this review will go live 01/28. for this review and more, head over to the blog
"Are you aware that when people dump their problems on you, you don't a
...morethis review will go live 01/28. for this review and more, head over to the blog
"Are you aware that when people dump their problems on you, you don't actually have to solve them by yourself?"
Elemental is a series I read on a whim - I hadn't been interested in it at all, but saw a copy of Storm at work and wanted to see what all the fuss was about - and it turned out to be one of the best reading decisions I've ever made. Isn't it funny how things like that work out? A series I had originally ignored wound up becoming one of my all-time favorites. Brigid Kemmerer is a master at what she does: the action and quick pace make these books one-sitting reads despite their length. Not to mention there are five - now SIX (seven??) - boys to go all swoony over! Since seeing the error of my ways I have gone to recommend these books to multiple friends, coworkers, and customers and I've heard nothing but good things in return!
(view spoiler)[While Secret is very much Nick's story, Quinn is also featured heavily. I have to admit I've never been a big fan of Quinn's character, but getting her full story completely changed my tune. An absolutely terrible home life (abusive, alcoholic mother and a junkie brother) has left her a damaged shell of a girl. She runs to any boy who gives her the time of day - only to be expected to give in return. Quinn accepts this as normal, that this is how her life is and what love is. Nick was the first boy to care about her and when she discovers he's gay, she can't handle it. Of course the one good thing she has is all a lie. She clings to their pretend relationship (to keep his secret from his brothers, Nick asked Quinn to keep up appearances), blindly believing Nick's kisses mean something they don't.
Everything changes when Tyler enters the picture. Suddenly there's a boy who allows her to crash in his apartment and doesn't expect anything in return. Not even when she all but throws herself at him. This is an entirely new concept for Quinn and she has no idea how to react. Tyler seems to genuinely care about her. He listens to her worries and fears. He eats Mexican food with her on the roof. The only problem? He's the Merricks' sworn enemy.
Throughout Secret Nick battles with himself. He wants to finally come out to his brothers, but he's terrified. This isn't a sitcom - everything isn't sunshine and roses. Nick's fear and confusion seems 100% real and I would love to see more of this in YA. Nick's leading a double life: he's hiding his evenings and outings with Adam while continuing to put on a show with Quinn for the rest of the world. Nick and Gabriel have a reputation for being playboys - Nick can't possibly admit he likes guys. He also can't hold onto this secret any longer. It's tearing him up inside that he's hiding such a huge part of himself from his brothers (especially his twin) and he becomes slightly paranoid. Suddenly everything they say can be mistaken - do they know? I mean, of course they know, right? Hunter is currently rooming with Nick; will he be disgusted at the thought of his roommate being into guys? How much longer until Michael finally has had enough and kicks him out of the house? My heart broke multiple times for Nick and my love for this family grew ten times over.
Although there is plenty of action in Secret, it's far more character-driven. Secret is all about coming to terms - not only with who you are, but also your past, present, and future. Your lot in life doesn't have to define you. Sometimes the only way to live in the present is to move on from the past - Tyler in particular gets a heavy dose of this. These characters have been through a lot, but they've managed to pull through only to discover their battle isn't over just yet. Now Quinn knows about Elementals and has witnessed firsthand what these boys (and Becca) are capable of.
Since day one Michael Merrick has been my favorite. The next book is his story and while I'm ridiculously excited, the fifth book is also the last and I'm nowhere near ready to say goodbye. Things are falling into place and a war is on the horizon. Nick's relationship with Gabriel has certainly been tested and is still on the mend. How will Quinn's new knowledge come into play? There's SO MUCH that's at stake and so many things that are about to happen. If you still haven't read these books, don't be like me. Don't ignore this series. Do yourself a favor and head to your library. Head to your bookstore and buy the whole set. There's truly something in this series for everyone: romance, action, paranormal elements, and - my favorite - a massive amount of character depth. Brigid Kemmerer seriously does a number on these boys (and girls!) and they definitely aren't the same characters they were in the first book.
I honestly cannot recommend these books enough. I love them. I absolutely love them and I'm going to be so sad when the series ends this summer. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Nora was just like any other woman in her late 20s. Okay, so her dissertation was slowly snowballing into an utter disaster and her boyfriend abruptly dumped her to marry another woman - and had the nerve to send Nora an invite! - but apart from that, she led a normal, happy life. That is until a weekend trip found Nora is a much different world, one where magic ruled and faeries were not the sweet little sprites from storybooks.
Unaware she has crossed over to a new land, Nora meets to glamorous and gorgeous Ilissa. Ilissa quickly takes Nora under her wing and soon Nora is attending party after party with breathtakingly beautiful people. Over time, Nora is delighted to discover that she even looks more beautiful. After meeting the charming and devilishly handsome Raclin, Nora finds herself falling for the man. She learns he is Ilissa's son and the two are quickly engaged. There's a part of Nora that knows this is ridiculous, that wants to say no, but she's just so happy.
Nora soon finds out Ilissa, Raclin, and their friends are not who they seem. They're Faitoren - fairy folk - and have used their magic to not only lure Nora in (Prince Raclin needs an heir), but also to glamour their entire landscape. The large house, the land, even the Faitoren themselves are enchanted to look beautiful. A chance meeting with a magician leads to Nora's escape and it's at Aruendiel's estate that she begins to learn about magic and what chance she has of returning home. All the while Ilissa is eager to get her revenge.
The Thinking Woman's Guide to Magic is NOT a lazy weekend read. No, no, no. This is a big, thick book (563 pages) with a pace that's in no hurry to reach its destination. I spent two weeks with this story and by the time I finished I was shocked by how upset I was. Not because of the way the book ended, but that it did end. I came to deeply care for these characters and this world and I simply wasn't ready to leave it behind.
While the book is largely told from Nora's perspective, there is the occasional glimpse into Aruendiel's thoughts and I loved these scenes. No longer did I see him as a stiff old magician. He felt real and by the time he told his story to Nora he was one of my favorite characters. He has a past, people, and it's not at all a pleasant one.
The secondary characters - Mrs. Toristel and Hirizjahkinis especially - were all so expertly drawn that I knew them, whether they were around the entire book or just a few chapters. It also doesn't hurt that throughout the novel there were many references to Jane Austen and poetry.
This is the kind of novel where I don't want to talk about it too much (for fear of saying the wrong thing), but I simply can't stop rambling. Really, it's that good. After finishing, I realized that little details in the beginning made sense; everything came full circle.
The ending might not appeal to many readers - the open-endedness of it forces the reader to reach her own conclusion - but rest assured I'll be highly recommending this one any chance I get. Don't let the length put you off - The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic is so worth it. The story was stunning and the world-building was fantastic. Ms. Barker announced on twitter there will be a sequel and let's just say there was much rejoicing on my end. The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic exceeded all expectations and you can bet I'll be awaiting the sequel with grabby hands!(less)
"Mortals. I envy you. You think you can change things. Stop the universe. Undo what was done long before you came along. You are such beautiful creatures."
There are very few things that can compel me to move a book - especially one clocking in at nearly 600 pages - to the top of my To Read list, but I'm a total sucker for Jeremy Irons. Naturally I had heard of this series and even went so far as to include it in my list of series to read in 2013. A few months ago I saw the movie trailer and thought it looked interesting and a few days ago saw it again while Matt & I saw The Hobbit. A second dose of Mr. Irons was more than I could handle and I promptly went to my library and checked out the first book.
Going into this series I knew nothing about the story. Zip. Nada. Nothing. Imagine my surprise when it relies heavily on a Civil War-era plot! (The Civil War was my area of focus in school and any book about the War - fiction or non-fiction - is a must-read for me). Add in multiple references to To Kill a Mockingbird and you've got yourself a triple whammy.
There wasn't much we wanted to know about any town but our own, and if your granddaddy or great-granddaddy couldn't tell you, chances were you didn't need to know.
Beautiful Creatures was a delight to read for the simple fact that the narrator was a boy. Ethan Ware, sixteen, one of the star players on his high school basketball team. I was overjoyed at a male perspective, although the more I read, the more I realized that the only things separating his POV from the countless female protagonists in YA were the pronouns. Once the action started and especially once the romance began developing, Ethan could have easily been any female MC. He just didn't sound like a 16-year old boy. That said, I liked him.
Ethan lives in the tiny town of Gatlin, famous for its buttermilk pie and a Civil War battle. The previous year his mother died in a car accident and since then his father has been shut inside his study, still too hurt to return to his old life. Amma, Ethan's nanny? housekeeper? practically raised him and I enjoyed her immensely.
"Harlon James's been injured, and I'm not convinced he ain't about ta pass over." She whispered the last two words like God Himself might be listening, and she was afraid to give Him any ideas. Harlon James was Aunt Prudence's Yorkshire terrier, named after her most recent late husband.
Gatlin is a town very set in its ways. It's a town where everyone knows everyone and has for generations. There is a DAR group as well as the Sisters of the Confederacy and the famed Southern hospitality is alive and well.
One day a new girl arrives to the town and immediately her name is on everyone's lips. Lena Duchannes. Macon Ravenwood's niece. Despite the Ravenwood being the founding family of Gatlin, the residents still treat Lena as a complete outsider and her taste in black clothing doesn't help matters.
Of course Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and the two discover they can communicate telepathically, which instantly brought to mind Kami and Jared's relationship in Unspoken. What Ethan doesn't know is that Lena is a Caster - a witch - and on her sixteenth birthday she'll be forced to take part in a Claiming ceremony where her future will either be one filled with Light or Dark.
Macon Melchizedek Ravenwood was the town shut-in. Let's just say, I remembered enough of To Kill a Mockingbird to know Old Man Ravenwood made Boo Radley look like a social butterfly.
Other reviewers make mention of the abundance of Southern stereotypes, but I didn't see Beautiful Creatures that way. I was thoroughly sucked in and tore through this massive book in just a few days, which is really saying something, considering the time it usually takes me to read and factoring in the holidays. I absolutely enjoyed this book and can't believe it took me this long to read it.
I'll admit that toward the end the plot lost a bit of its steam and started throwing in plot twist after plot twist, ultimately leaving me with more questions than answers (so what really did happen to Ethan's mom?). I'm hoping these loose ends will be tied up in the following books.
As you all know by now, I'm a BIG fan of dual narratives. Ethan and Lena's story was intertwined with the story of a Confederate soldier and the Caster girl he loved and although theirs was only told through flashbacks I adored it.
I had spent so many hours in it as a kid, I'd inherited my mother's belief that a library was sort of a temple.
While Beautiful Creatures did have its flaws (hello, super-insta-love!), I wholeheartedly, absolutely, utterly loved it. It got to the point where I stayed up well past a reasonable hour just to keep reading. I'd reward myself after doing housework by reading a chapter or two.
Its enormous size could definitely have been shed a couple hundred pages and the deus ex machina ending made me roll my eyes, but I savored every moment and there's no doubt in my mind I'll be continuing the series.(less)
They had triumphed over death this night. Sylvie wondered when death would seek his revenge.
Unbeknownst to Sylvie, death already has sought his revenge - had already claimed his prize long before she was born and long after her children have gone. On a cold, snowy February night in 1910, Sylvie gave birth to a baby girl. The snow had closed the roads and the midwife couldn't reach Fox Corner in time so Sylvie had to make do with the help of the 14-year old maid. The baby had been strangled by her umbilical cord, swiftly ending a life that had barely begun.
On a cold, snowy February night in 1910, Sylvie gave birth to a baby girl. The snow had closed the roads and the midwife couldn't reach Fox Corner in time so Sylvie had to make do with the help of the 14-year old maid. This time, however, the baby lived. The doctor was able to reach the house and Ursula Todd made her way into the world.
Growing up, Ursula knew she was different. She'd occasionally get glimpses of memories or feelings of dread, sparks of recognition that would leave her confused and cautious. Over time, she accepted these moments and it was through the help of Dr. Kellet that Ursula learned her déjà vu might be something more.
Throughout her lives Ursula saw multiple wars, married, remained single, took on various lovers, became a mother, died childless, drowned at the beach when she was 4, joined a team of ARP wardens during the Blitz when she was 30, became friends with Eva Braun and hatched a plan to become close to Hitler.
On a cold, snow February night in 1910, a baby girl was born.
It's time, she thought. A clock struck somewhere in sympathy. She thought of Teddy and Miss Woolf, of Roland and little Angela, of Nancy and Sylvie. She thought of Dr. Kellet and Pindar. Become such as you are, having learned what that is. She knew what that was now. She was Ursula Beresford Todd and she was a witness.
Life After Life is like a onion with its numerous layers, many of which aren't clear until halfway (or more) through the novel. Prior to this book, I had never read Kate Atkinson but had always heard wonderful things. As soon as I heard about this book, I was intrigued: going around again and again through a life? Who hasn't wished to revisit a past experience, thought 'if only I would have...' Ursula's lives aren't always picture-perfect and more than once I felt a sense of dread when her path crossed with a man who - in one life - became her abusive husband or one of her brother's friends who brought shame upon the family after Ursula wound up pregnant at 16. Although she was unsure as to why, Ursula's instincts kicked in and she altered the course of her (current) life.
The majority of Life After Life deals with both World Wars: Ursula was born just before the first and did her part, along with the rest of England, during the second. While I've read many books set during these wars, Ms. Atkinson's writing really hit home for me. Not once did she gloss over the gruesome and horrifying details. As an Air Raid Warden, Ursula had to enforce the Blackout and after bombings, she would go through the rubble in an attempt to uncover survivors.
War isn't pretty and Ms. Atkinson captured it perfectly. Soldiers weren't the only ones to see death and Ursula saw her fair share: burns, blood, scattered limbs, and bodies blown in half were, sadly, her norm.
Teddy had faith in poetry. As if merely quoting from Shakespeare would mollify a situation.
Life After Life isn't completely bleak. Ursula grew up in an extremely loving family and I came to care for her siblings just as much as I cared for Ursula. Her older sister Pamela was a joy - funny and no-nonsense. While he wasn't the youngest, Teddy always remained the baby of the family, always the favorite. Ursula's Aunt Izzie was wonderful; she was undeniably selfish and crass with extremely loose morals: she was rarely without a lover (usually a man in a position of power - especially during Blitz) and had quite the affinity for wine.
One day, of course, all this would be consigned to that same history, even the mountains - sand, after all, was the future of rocks. Most people muddled through events and only in retrospect realized their significance. The Führer was different, he was consciously making history for the future. Only a true narcissist could do that. And Speer was designing buildings for Berlin so that they would look good when they were in ruins a thousand years from now, his gift to the Führer.
Life After Life is not a lazy Sunday read. Though there are many witty and humorous scenes, this is not a fluffy, easy-going novel. After closing the book, I sat still, very much overwhelmed, and let the full weight of the story wash over me. As I watched each layer slowly unfold I was hit by the realization of just how deep this novel reached. Every little detail has a purpose, every single decision was made for a reason and carried a particular consequence.
Life After Life is a novel that will stick with me long after I've moved on to other books and I wouldn't be surprised if it winds up on multiple bestsellers lists. If you're looking for a lighthearted, quick read, head elsewhere. However, if you're interested in a book that will enchant and ensnare you - and, ultimately, make you think - look no further.(less)
On a seemingly ordinary day, a Hello Kitty lunchbox is washed ashore on Ruth's small island in Canada. Inside she discovers old letters and a diary written in Japanese along with a few other mismatched items. At the prompting of her husband Oliver, Ruth begins to translate the diary and soon both husband and wife find themselves deeply invested in the life of a sixteen-year old suicidal Japanese girl.
Nao used to have a good life. Her father was a hotshot programmer and provided a wonderful childhood for Nao in Sunnyvale, California. Unfortunately, when the dot-com bubble burst, Haruki Yasutani was let go and the family moved back to Japan. Because she had been so young when the family took off for America, Nao never fully considered herself Japanese and to say her classmates treated her horribly would be putting it lightly. It started out small: pinches and hurled insults. Things quickly escalated and Nao found herself dealing not only with her fellow students, but also with her teacher. Even when they pretended she wasn't there they were still cruel, going so far as to stage a funeral for her. One particularly heartless attack led to Nao nearly being raped. With each attack videos were posted online and Nao's parents had no idea just how harsh the bullying became.
I don't mind thinking of the world without me because I'm unexceptional, but I hate the idea of the world without old Jiko. She's totally unique and special, like the last Galapagos tortoise or some other ancient animal hobbling around on the scorched earth, who is the only one left of its kind.
She decides her best course of action would be to commit suicide (and get it right, unlike her father's multiple failed attempts), but before she does, she wants to share her great-grandmother's story. Now old Jiko spends her days living the life of any other 104-year old: she's a nun and maintains her temple. However, before she took her vows, she was a novelist, an anarchist, an independent New Woman. She outlived her children and her son's death hit her especially hard. Haruki Yasutani #1 (Nao's father had been named after him and dubbed #2) was a brilliant student studying philosophy and reading French literature while the second World War played out around him. He was eventually drafted and quickly learned he would be a Sky Soldier - a kamikaze pilot with a guarantee to never return home alive. Despite his certain death, Haruki continued with his studies and, as Ruth and Oliver learned through his letters, he remained a gentle, peaceful man to the very end.
"I got confused," she said. "In my mind, she's still sixteen. She'll always be sixteen." Oliver sat down on the edge of the mattress and put his hand on her forehead. "The eternal now," he said. "She wanted to catch it, remember? To pin it down. That was the point." "Of writing?" "Of suicide." "I've always thought of writing as the opposite of suicide," she said. "That writing was about immortality. Defeating death, or at least forestalling it."
As Ruth and Oliver learn more and more about Nao, they begin to care deeply for her and her well-being. They anguish with each new bullying attack, become angry with her parents' blindness. Through it all, the question remains: how did that Hello Kitty lunchbox reach their shore? Oliver's theory is that it's the first in a wave of debris from the 2011 tsunami that is heading toward Canada. In the end, they never find an answer, and I like that. Normally I prefer concrete answers - no open endings for me. But A Tale for the Time Being and Nao's story can only have an open ending. What eventually became of Nao? Did she go through with her plans to commit suicide? Is she still alive? What about her father? It works and I can't imagine any other way for the story to be told (although I'm sure Oliver would kindly remind me of Schrödinger's cat and that, in fact, there are numerous other outcomes).
Print is predictable and impersonal, conveying information in a mechanical transaction with the reader's eye. Handwriting, by contrast, resists the eye, reveals its meaning slowly, and is as intimate as skin.
I usually finish a book in a day or two. With A Tale for the Time Being I wanted to keep reading, but I also wanted to spend as much time with these characters as possible. I learned so much from old Jiko, I wanted to hug Nao and take her away from the awful children in her school, I wanted to sit down and have a conversation with Haruki Yasutani #1. When I finished the book, I held it close as though by doing so I could hold on to the story inside.
Normally with dual-narratives I tend to favor one narrator over the other. That definitely was not the case with A Tale for the Time Being. I yearned for Nao's chapters just as much as I craved Ruth's and devoured every single one. Just like Ruth and Oliver, I soon found myself emotionally invested in Nao's life and - again, like Ruth and Oliver - can't picture her as anything other than a sixteen-year old girl.
Just a few chapters into the novel I started singing its praises and didn't let up for a moment - especially now that I've finished. A Tale for the Time Being is a book I've already forced upon others and will continue to do so for many, many years to come. Ruth Ozeki created a tale that's absolutely gorgeous, both inside and out (I will never get enough of that cover! Breathtakingly beautiful and velvety soft) and I feel honored to have read it. With one single story, Ms. Ozeki has earned a coveted spot on my extremely tiny Auto-Buy Authors list and rightfully so. A Tale for the Time Being is so much better than I'm able to express and I know it'll stay with me long after I move on to other books.(less)
Goodreads' Awards broke me. I have NO discipline whatsoever when it comes to the library - I can usually tel...morethis review will go live on the blog11/25
Goodreads' Awards broke me. I have NO discipline whatsoever when it comes to the library - I can usually tell ahead of time what my reading schedule looks like for the week and what reviews need to be written, so I tend to know what wiggle room I have for library books. More often than not, I grab ALL THE BOOKS and wind up taking the majority back unread because I borrowed too many. When the voting was open, I basically used to nominees as my own personal recommendations: there were so many wonderful books I had missed out on this year! I immediately requested a handful from my library and The House Girl was at the top of my stack.
Have you ever come across a book that felt as though the author wrote it with you in mind? That this book was written for you? The House Girl was that book for me. It featured so many of my favorite things in novels: dual narratives, different eras, ART!
Alternating between the present day (2004) and the 1850s, The House Girl tells the tale of Josephine Bell, a slave whose artwork had been credited to her mistress, Lu Anne Bell. Lina Sparrow is a young lawyer hoping to work her way up through the ranks. Long hours and a good track record have won her the approval of her boss, but she's looking for that one case that'll make her career. That case comes in the form of a lawsuits seeking reparations for descendants of slaves. Lina's tasked with finding the 'perfect plaintiff,' one person who will able to represent the millions.
As she's working the case, her research brings her to Josephine's story and she soon finds herself immersed in this young woman's life - and the night she made the decision to run.
I absolutely loved The House Girl. While reading I couldn't help but compare it to two other books I equally adored: The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes (while the stories were different, both books dealt with dual narratives/timelines and art) and The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro (for the art obvs). Both books rank among my favorites - The Art Forger was one of my top reads of 2012! - and have been recommended multiple times over. I can easily see The House Girl following suit. Already I've told numerous people about it and can't wait for more people to read this wonderful book.
While I am a huge fan of dual narratives, I tend to prefer one storyline over the other and that holds true with The House Girl. I was so caught up in Josephine's story that I found myself quickly reading Lina's chapters in order to get back to the 1800s. That's not to say Lina was any less interesting! I enjoyed her story, but I never found myself as invested in her relationship with her father/dealing with her mother's absence as I was in Josephine's life. My favorite parts of Lina's chapters were the scenes that dealt with the case - and therefore, Josephine.
The insight into Josephine's world: her ache for freedom, the whippings that were just another part of life, the realization that her son was alive, were heartbreaking and I couldn't tear myself away. The House Girl is a dangerous book in that I could only read it at home when I was able to devote large blocks of time to reading. This definitely is not the type of novel that can be read in small doses, a chapter here and there. The moment I finished one chapter I needed to keep reading.
The ending played out different than I had hoped - particularly Lina's story - but it didn't detract from the rest of the novel. Don't be surprised if The House Girl makes an appearance on my Top Reads of 2013 list!(less)
It's always unnerving to see how an author follows a wildly successful debut. Ms. Howe's first novel, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane was massively popular and I had mixed emotions going into her sophomore novel. On the one hand, YES ANOTHER BOOK!! However, on the other, there was that tiny wave of trepidation, that little voice wondering whether she could possibly top her first release.
Turns out, yes. Yes she most certainly can.
The House of Velvet and Glass takes place during 1915. World War I has yet to reach America, though coverage is on the front page of all the papers. Just three years earlier, Titanic - a legend even during her existence - sank on that fateful night in April, 1912.
Sybil Allston lost both her mother and her younger sister when the ocean liner sank. Being the oldest, Sybil was the first to make her debut, spending hours upon hours attending parties and mingling with the best of Boston's society. She was the talk of town and everyone was certain it was only a matter of time before Benton Derby would propose. Unfortunately, he suddenly married a frail woman named Lydia, took off for Italy, and Sybil was destined for spinsterhood. Her mother, Helen, wasted no time in turning her attentions on Eulah, Sybil's younger sister.
Eulah was everything Sybil wasn't: outgoing, funny, flirty, headstrong. She fiercely defended her position on suffrage and insisted women be given the right to vote. She was a girl ahead of her time and Helen was determined to see her daughter married off to one of Boston's finest. So determined in fact, that she had her husband, Captain Lan Allston, purchase two tickets for the famed Titanic, in order to take Eulah around Europe. (In the afterword, there's a really interesting tidbit: in 1912, a first-class ticket for Titanic cost $4,350. Today, that same amount would be over $90,000!!)
Naturally, Sybil harbors anger and resentment at being cast aside. She's barely in her mid-twenties, yet at that period in time, girls were expected to already be married and raising a family at her age. After hearing about the sinking, she feels a sick sense of relief that she wasn't brought along, and the thought overwhelms her with guilt.
One year later, a spiritualist gathers a group of surviving relatives and holds a seance. Each year Sybil returns in an attempt to make contact with her mother and sister and winds up receiving a small glass ball. A scrying glass, the medium calls it. It is with this glass (along with a little help from opium) that Sybil begins having visions.
The House of Velvet and Glass is told in three parts: flashbacks aboard Titanic, flashbacks during Lan Allston's time spent in China as a young sailor, and from Sybil's perspective in 1915. While I adored the novel as a whole, it was those brief moments on Titanic that I especially loved. With each new scene I held my breath, anxious to find out if that was the moment the liner hit the iceberg.
The entire cast of characters were beautifully fleshed out. Harlan, Sybil's younger brother; Lan; Dovie, Harlan's girlfriend; Professor Derby. Even the minor character were wonderful and I felt a connection to every single one of them.
I was particularly pleased with the romance. Perfect. I was never a fan of instalove and the slow pace of the romance in this novel was a delight.
I could truly go on and on for days about this novel. Haunting and richly detailed, The House of Velvet and Glass is an absolute joy. Not a lot of action takes place, but there was never any need and at no point did I find its quiet pace to be lacking. Looking back, there was never a dull moment or any scene where I felt bored or wanted to set the book down. Quite the opposite, in fact. I didn't want to set it down at all. It was all I could do to keep myself from calling in to work sick just so I could continue reading - and that's really saying something.
The House of Velvet and Glass's release comes at a perfect time: this week will be the 100th anniversary of Titanic's sinking. This novel went above and beyond all of my expectations and I highly recommend it. ♥
An interesting note: it seems the e-book will include an essay by Howe, a Q&A, and the original article from the Boston Daily Globe of Titanic's sinking from April 15, 1912!
Of course, it was rather a hard lot, to be cherished. The beloved can so easily disappoint when the inevitable prove to be human.
Lannie felt himself to have come from an old place. Salem was a long-memoried town, its streets stalked by ghosts. As a boy his mother told him of witches who liked to fillet disobedient children, and even though he knew she was spinning fairy stories he nevertheless grew up with the weight of past generations on his shoulders. He carried the burden of tradition with a mixture of pride and disquiet, or even resentment. Every choice bore the implied judgment of these ancestors he never knew, whose memory must not be sullied, whose expectations for him must not be let down.
Her breathe escaped her mouth and nose in a cloud of warmth, and she grinned, imagining that it was her soul that she could see, moving in and out of her body, instead of her breath.
When I finished The Age of Miracles I had to sit there for a few minutes to be alone with my thoughts. This book is GOOD. Really good.
On the sixth of October, the experts went public. This, of course, is the day we all remember. There'd be a change, they said, a slowing, and that's what we called it from then on, the slowing.
Julia is 12 when the slowing happens. At first no one notices anything has changed; people go about their day like normal. It's not until scientists and news anchors start taking over the television that anyone realizes something is wrong.
The experts on the television screen break the news to the world that the earth's rotation has slowed. At first it was just a few minutes, the days have barely grown longer. By the end of the book the days have grown to 50+ hours. Over two full days of light and dark account for a single day for Julia. Naturally a panic arises and people (such as Julia's mother) begin hoarding canned goods, batteries, bottles of water.
There was no footage to show on television, no burning buildings or broken bridges, no twisted metal or scorched earth, no houses sliding off slabs. No one was wounded. No one was dead. It was, at the beginning, a quite invisible catastrophe.
Despite this momentous event, The Age of Miracles is such a quiet book. I've seen it classified as YA (I suppose since Julia is in her teens throughout the book? Or perhaps because dystopia is such a huge trend at the moment), but I feel this quiet - almost sleepy, in a way - feel of the novel solidifies its place among adult fiction. Even labeling it sci-fi somehow feels wrong. Sci-fi to me is much louder, much more action-packed. You'd think a book about 50-hour days would be filled to the brim with action, but it's so much more than that. This is a coming-of-age novel. Julia takes center stage against a backdrop of disaster. Her best friend doesn't want to hang out with her anymore, she buys her first bra, she has a crush on a boy, she takes piano lessons.
All the colors of the spectrum had collapsed to a few dusky grays. There was a paleness in the classroom. That light was the light of the last small moments of a day, the thin wedge of time just after the sun has set but just before you reach for a lamp. A sudden sunset at high speed. It was 1:23 in the afternoon.
In the beginning, the slowing doesn't seem to pose much of a problem. So what if the day became longer by a mere six minutes. As the days continue to lengthen, problems arise and I actually felt a swell of terror as Julia recounted the repercussions of the slowing: first the birds die off. They simply aren't able to fly anymore; this new pull of gravity has altered their flight. The crops slowly die off as well. Makeshift greenhouses soak up all the electricity and become horrible expensive. Tides change. Temperatures rise to 135° on the days that sunlight lasts over 24 hours; California is assaulted with snow the days darkness holds dominion.
We were Californians and thus accustomed to the motions of the earth. We understood that the ground could shift and shudder. We kept batteries in our flashlights and gallons of water in our closest. We accepted that fissures might appear in our sidewalks. Swimming pools sometimes sloshed like bowls of water. We were well practiced at crawling beneath tabletops, and we knew to beware of flying glass. At the start of every school year, we each packed a large ziplock bag full of non-perishables in case The Big One stranded us at school. But we Californians were no more prepared for the particular calamity than those who had built their homes on more stable ground.
Eventually the government decides to simply ignore the definitions of day and night by declaring America will continue running on a 24-hour clock. Because of the slowing, however, Julia sometimes wakes up when it's still dark out and heads into bed with the sun high overhead. Society slowly breaks into two groups: clock-timers (those adhering to the 24-hour clock) and real-timers (people who continue to go about their day when the sun is out & sleep when it's dark, regardless of the 'actual' time). With each passing day, the real-timers fall further and further behind those on clock-time.
The story takes place over the course of a year (I believe) and what a year it is. It's frightening to see just how quickly the world could collapse. At one point Julia discusses a team of astronauts who are stranded aboard a space station and can't come home; because of the slowing, new calculations are made everyday and NASA just isn't able to take that big of a risk to try to bring them home. That's terrifying.
The Age of Miracles is an absolutely gorgeous novel. It sneaks up on you and once it grabs you it refuses to relinquish its hold. This is, without a doubt, a favorite book of mine. Not just for 2012, but a favorite book of all time. It's seriously that good. I know this is a novel I'll continue thinking about for months to come.
I wished my father were home. I tried to picture him at the hospital. Maybe babies were being born into his hands right at that moment. I wondered what it might mean to come into the world on this of all nights.
To die in childbirth seemed to me a frontier woman's death, as impossible now as polio or the plague, made extinct by our ingenious monitors and machines, our clean hands and strong soaps, our drugs and our cures and our vast stores of knowledge.
We were, on that day, no different from the ancients, terrified of our own big sky.
Sometimes I need a push to read a book. Whether it's because I've had an iffy experience with the author/similar novels in the past or I simply have too much on my plate already, there have been numerous books widely loved that I just haven't managed to get to yet. Shadow and Bone is one of those novels. For over a year I've been hearing absolutely GLOWING reviews and the current buzz over the third (and final?! I HOPE NOT!) installment coming in the spring has brought this series to my attention once again.
Earlier in December, I posted about Epic Recs, a book club of sorts founded by Judith and Amber. What makes this book club different is that you have a partner and you recommend books to each other. You can read more about it in my post - including what book I recommended to Lillian! As for Lillian, she wasted no time in recommending Shadow and Bone and I immediately grabbed a copy from my library. Russia (or, in this case, Russia-inspired), high fantasy, mythology - these are things that IMMEDIATELY appeal to me. I dove right in and, much to my delight, was not disappointed one bit!
Shadow and Bone tells the story of Alina and Mal, two orphans who were taken in by a Duke and raised together. When they were children they were visited by Grisha, people who possess magical abilities. Every child in Ravka undergoes testing to determine Grisha talents, but neither Alina nor Mal presented abilities and that was it. Ten years later, however, things have changed. Mal is a tracker in the First Army and Alina is a passable mapmaker. On an expedition to the Shadow Fold, a darkness home to creatures seemingly plucked from nightmares, Alina risks her life to save Mal's and soon the entire kingdom hails the coming of their Sun Summoner.
Suddenly Alina is thrown into the world of the Grisha, a world with magic, fine clothes, and people so utterly breathtaking they can't possibly be real (and I won't say anything further on that!). As a Sun Summoner Alina ranks among the most powerful Grisha - comparable to the Darkling, a man who has taken quite an interest in this once-ordinary girl.
Alina's put to the test - physically, mentally, and emotionally. She's desperate for a friendly face, she misses the bond she shared with Mal, and struggles to perform her magic. The pressure of being Ravka's savior weighs heavy on her shoulders and the complete lack of word from Mal cuts deep. Could this pale, scrawny, lonely orphan really be the answer to Ravka's prayers? Could Alina truly be the person to banish the Fold?
Just like with The Raven Boys, I dreaded the thought of writing a review for Shadow and Bone. I loved this book, absolutely ADORED it, and nothing I could possibly type could ever do it justice. Leigh Bardugo thoroughly won me over, not just with the Russian-esque setting, but with her gorgeous writing, fantastic characters, and beautiful story. I was completely enchanted and had to make the hard decision of reading the entire book in one go (I definitely didn't want to stop!) or take my time to live and breathe this world. Ultimately the latter choice won - though it was certainly a hard decision to make! - and I spent four glorious days immersed in the world of Grisha.
It's extremely rare for me to jump right into the next book in a series, but my library currently has a copy of Siege and Storm and, well, I've never been very good at controlling temptation..(less)
Prince Charming has no idea how to use a sword; Prince Charming has no patience for dwarfs; Prince Charming has an irrational hatred of capes.
Every once in a while you'll come across a book so magical, so wonderful that you think about it long after you've reached the end. The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom is that book. Part of me wants to end the review here and now and force all of you to go out and buy a copy. It was that good.
The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom tells the real story of the Princes Charming - yes, the Prince Charming we all know and love wasn't one guy. In fact, it turns out there were four. And their names definitely weren't Charming. Nope. Frederic, Duncan, Liam, and Gustav saved the day and got the girl only to have their identities forgotten.
Cinderella's Charming, Prince Frederic, isn't your typical hero. He would much rather have a nice picnic or look at art than face down hoards of monsters (it would ruin his clothes!). Prince Liam plays the hero to a fault. Unfortunately, his kingdom only praises him because his parents arranged a marriage with Sleeping Beauty and her kingdom is beyond rich. Snow White grew a little tired of Prince Duncan's...quirks. Any animal he sees he decides to name (dwarfs included - Flik, Frak, and Frank - and dubbed his horse Papa Scoots) and is convinced he has magical powers. Lastly, Prince Gustav. He set out to rescue Rapunzel from her tower only to meet a particularly nasty witch and his sixteen older brothers have yet to let him live it down.
"Oh, give me a break," Liam yelled, and stomped his foot in anger. "Why is there a dragon here? Nobody mentioned a dragon!"
When word gets out that the kingdoms' bards have been kidnapped, the princes decide that now is their chance to prove they really are heroes (and, you know, the bards will be so overjoyed they'll write new songs that make the princes look MUCH better). If only it were that simple. Along the way they have to face goblins, trolls, the Bandit King (who is actually only 10, so oh so very terrible), a very well-spoken giant, and even a dragon.
I could seriously go on and on about this book. At 430+ pages, it's definitely a meaty book - especially for MG! - but it could have been 1,000 pages and I would have loved every second. The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom had absolutely everything I wanted in a book - including pictures and a map! Christopher Healy is now on my autobuy list. Do yourself a favor and pick this book up. You'll be happy you did.(less)
I've stopped and started writing this review so many times since finishing the book. I've paced back and forth all over the room and have burnt my tongue on countless cups of tea all the while staring at a blank screen and trying to think of the right words to say. This definitely is not a "meh, sure, it was pretty good" book. Not by a long shot. This book was, in a word, phenomenal.
I will admit that, before beginning the book, I was slightly biased. I have a huge interest in the Romanovs & Tsarist Russia, and given the period this book takes place, I knew I'd enjoy it at least somewhat. I didn't realize just how much I'd enjoy it, however.
Our family tree has roots and branches reaching all across Europe, from France to Russia, from Denmark to Greece, and in several transient and minute kingdoms and principalities in between. This tree is tangled with all the rest of Europe's royalty, and like many in that forest, my family tree is poisoned with a dark evil.
From the very first paragraph I was sucked in. I love the imagery those two sentences bring. And you know some shit is about to go down.
It was Friday afternoon and our lessons had been canceled at the Smolny Institute so everyone could prepare for the ball. Because dressing up like a doll was much more important than studying literature or learning arithmetic.
I. Loved. Katerina. Despite being born into a life of endless balls and socializing with royalty, she is determined to become a doctor. No, she doesn't want a hospital built in her honor, she wants to be the one discovering cures and healing wounds. She's so unlike the horde of overly cliche YA heroines we see today: she's funny and sarcastic and is so determined to reach her goals (women doctors were virtually unheard of in the world at that time - and were even outlawed in Russia - yet she still sent out multiple applications to universities to study medicine). The relationship she shared with her family (her father in particular) was a joy to read and such a breath of fresh air. She's extremely close with her cousin Dariya and I loved the scenes they shared.
Why must ghosts always be so ambiguous?
Katerina has a deep, dark secret. She has the ability to raise the dead. Russia at this point in history was all about the occult and mysticism (oh, hello, Rasputin). In high society, holding seances and consulting tarot cards was a popular hobby (even Katerina's mother took to reading her cards). Even though the paranormal was in vogue, Katerina despises her "gift" and made a promise to herself to never use her abilities.
However. And there's always a however. Katerina winds up reviving a moth at a ball one night in order to save a member of the imperial family. Immediately certain characters realize what she truly is: a necromancer.
There was secret knowledge to uncover in science. All romances ended exactly the same way: a girl realized the surly boy she had hated all along was the only person in the universe who could complete her soul. I did not believe for a minute that my soul could be completed by some surly boy.
Another aspect of The Gathering Storm that sets it apart from other YA series is the romance. You won't find any instalove here! And while the romance is given its time in the spotlight, the overall plot is more important. ♥ And I loved that. This is potentially spoiler-y, but there isn't a love triangle (YAY!). The buildup is perfect. There's certainly that spark of attraction when the two first meet, but they don't hit it off. At all. Overtime, however... so wonderful. & I was so, so, so conflicted at the end! They acknowledge their feelings for one another, share a single kiss (♥♥ oh how I squealed like a schoolgirl), and that's it for now.
Especially if she had seen the way Nicholas Alexandrovich looked at Princess Alix.
Oh my gosh, I LOVED all the cutesy cuteness that was Nicholas & Alix. The Gathering Storm shows the beginning of their romance and ♥~ Even though royal marriages were held mainly as a way of securing power or land, these two really loved and adored one another and I think that is so wonderful. (There's a book coming out on the 17th that I'm pretty excited about: Alix and Nicky: The Passion of the Last Tsar and Tsarina)
I highly suggest reading The Gathering Storm either with notebook in hand or with Wikipedia open. There are so many buildings, people, and events mentioned that I felt compelled to research.
The Gathering Storm was a fantastic debut and I absolutely cannot wait for more!
Xenia believed in love. George was old enough to understand that tsarevitchs were not allowed to marry for love. And neither were most grand dukes.
"Katerina, I am sure you handled the bandages expertly, buy you cannot practice medicine on the tsar's son!"
An afternoon spent solving quadratic equations would have been infinitely more pleasant. I smelled like a salad.
Guys. GUYS. This book. I initially planned on writing an open love letter to it in celebration of Valentines Day, but I couldn't get my thoughts together in any coherent manner and, quite frankly, I still have my doubts now.
Everyone has heard of The False Prince by now, the book that took the MG/YA world by storm last year. AND FOR GOOD REASON! I tend to shy away from hype; in the past I've caved in and read books that were hailed as the Second Coming only to be horribly and utterly let down (Divergent, I'm looking at you, dear). So, naturally, when so many bloggers started gushing over The False Prince, I took note and backed away.
A few weeks ago I received an ARC of The Runaway King, the second book in the trilogy, and decided to put all reservations aside and finally (FINALLY!) read everyone's favorite book of 2012.
I wish someone would have forced this book upon me sooner.
Conner said he would let the devils have his soul if it meant succeeding with his plan. I had the feeling that when he did, the souls of all the rest of us would go to the devils too.
Sage is a sharp-witted, thieving 14-year old orphan. Life doesn't get much worse for children of his status, but he makes the best of it. One day a nobleman by the name of Conner arrives at the orphanage and pays a generous - overly generous as far as he's concerned - sum for Sage and soon the boy finds himself in the back of a wagon along with three other boys his age.
Conner is secretive and strict with his rules, but eventually he announces his plans to the boys: The royal family has been murdered, but for now, word hasn't gotten out. Certain members of the court are very eager to take the throne for themselves, including Conner. The boys will have two weeks to go from orphan to gentleman and the boy he chooses will be presented to the court as Prince Jaron, long thought to have been slain by a band of pirates. The other boys... Well, they're orphans with no family or friends to miss them and Conner wouldn't want to risk the secret slipping.
The boys are taken to Conner's manor and for the first time have a real bed with nice thick blankets, warm clothes, and a hot meal. Not to mention a bath. Sage's first wasn't deemed sufficient and his servant had to scrub him down a second time. Ha! Over the next few weeks the boys will be taught manners - including how not to hold a spoon like a shovel, swordsmanship, horseback riding skills, and reading. They'll also be constantly drilled on the court and key members.
Over time, strengths and weaknesses appear in each boy and the desire - and need - to win takes precedence over all.
"You have a clever tongue and an arrogant tilt to your head. I'm surprised Mrs. Tutbeldy hasn't beaten it out of you." "You mustn't blame her. She beat me the best she could."
Let's pause for a moment and discuss Sage. I. Loved. Him. Not only was he the best character I've read all year, but he's hands-down one of the best-written characters I've ever read (and I certainly don't hand out praise like that lightly!). For once there's a character who is as far away from cardboard cut-out as you can get! He's so lovable and funny and arrogant and stubborn and scared and worried. He has his flaws and he knows it.
As sad as it is, it's become apparent to me that not a lot of YA authors these days care about character growth. Instead they rely on stock personalities and assign traits: there's a Mean Girl, the Boy Who Has Always Been The Best Friend But Secretly Wants More, the Hot Mysterious New Boy. That's not the case with The False Prince. Sure you've got your good guys and villains, but they have reasons for being who they are.
He whispered something under his breath. I'm sure some sort of curse aimed at me. That wasn't a problem. The devils were used to receiving curses with my name on them.
There were numerous plot twists sprinkled throughout this novel, some I had anticipated and some I didn't see coming at all. The False Prince surprised me and enchanted me and the only reason I didn't finish this book in a sitting was because I wanted to spend as much time with it as I could. Also, it's only because I'm a kindhearted, sweet girl that I dragged myself to the library and begrudgingly handed it back when it was due. Since working in a used bookstore where I get an INCREDIBLE discount I haven't been going to bookstores like B&N to shell out $35 for a new hardback when I could be patient and get one for a few dollars. But with The False Prince I'm more than willing.
This is a novel I want to read again and again and save for my future children to love.
In short, Ms. Nielsen, I apologize for being as stubborn as Sage and refusing to read this book until nearly a year later. I loved everything about it and have forced it upon countless people already.(less)
Drop what you're doing and read this now! I've been raving about this book for the past week and am finally able to sit down and put all my flailing into words.
"For heaven's sake, boy, put your mask on," Mr. Socrates snapped. "No one should see your face."
Mr. Alan Socrates hears about an odd little child and buys him. It sounds remarkably cruel - and it is - but it's as simple as that. He takes Modo (a terribly sweet but horribly deformed boy) to his estate, Ravenscroft, and there the child is raised.
While Modo views Mr. Socrates as his father figure, the man is hardly around. He's always off traveling and on the rare occasions that he does decide to drop by, he quizzes Modo in order to see how his studies are going.
Modo is raised by a wonderful woman, the caretaker of the estate. Whereas Mr. Socrates only allows Modo to read "approved" material (certain articles from the newspaper, for example), Mrs. Finchley will go out of her way to sneak in a picture book or two, something fun and light-hearted. She was the first person to truly care about Modo and it broke my heart when Modo had to leave Ravenscroft.
Modo undid the knots and removed the mask, setting it on a table. He felt naked. This was not a face for the world to see, Mr. Socrates had told him so.
The masks are vital. Until Mr. Socrates decided Modo was to leave to estate, Modo had no idea what he looked like. All of the mirrors and anything remotely reflective were to be removed. I wanted to rush to Modo's side the day Mr. Socrates forced him to see himself for the first time.
Modo has a wonderful gift: shape-shifting. He's able to see a portrait or merely use his imagination and his entire body will change and take on the features of another person. Mr. Socrates is determined to use Modo's ability to his advantage.
Mr. Socrates is the head of a secret organization that employs agents to do various tasks. From the time he was bought, Modo had been trained to become Mr. Socrates' ultimate agent.
When Modo is 14, Mr. Socrates takes him to London - the very first time Modo has ever been outside - and leaves him there. ...just leaves him. He tells Modo he'll check back soon and that Modo should put his training to use and fend for himself.
At various times throughout the book I wanted to throttle Mr. Socrates. This scene was one of those times. Here was Modo, a terrified boy who has never been outside before, suddenly dropped off in the middle of London and told to have a nice life. Throughout it all, Modo was such a sweetheart, I wanted to reach into the book and give him a huge hug. :( Don't let the jerks get you down, Modo. ♥
Modo only nodded, but smiled idiotically under his handkerchief.
Oh man. Modo's crush on Octavia (another agent employed by Mr. Socrates) is so, so, so insanely adorable. They were just too cute. I was really hoping their romance storyline would have been given a bit more attention, but there are other books, so yay! So cute.
Dr. Hyde is a mad scientist who took orphaned children (and Prince Albert), surgically enhanced them by placing large bolts into their shoulders, and fed them all a tincture, rendering them fully conscious, yet completely unable to control their bodies. There was a fascinating chapter where a character was under the influence of the tincture. He was aware, yet could not move a limb. Instead, his body moved on its own with its own purpose.
The action was fantastic! The Iron Giant-type machine was so cool and the fact that a prince and little children were all connected to it - literally - and forced to pilot it was neat.
Mr. Socrates gathered up the paper. "As a rule, I prefer no descriptions of my agents to appear in print." "It won't happen again, sir," Modo said. "Next time I'll just let myself burn up in the blaze."
I adored watching Modo grow. In the beginning, he was a tiny, timid boy who had no idea what the real world was like. After Mr. Socrates comes back into Modo's life, Modo is different - but in a good way. He's no longer scared and naive. He's a character you get to know and come to care about and multiple times I was honestly worried for him. I wanted things to work out for him, I was rooting for Modo the entire journey. When his transformations began to wear off or his masks slipped, I was scared for him. When he started having flutter feelings whenever he was around Octavia, I squealed in delight.
"Marvelously boring. Though there is a good sword fight at the end."
♥ One of my favorite scenes in the book was an Octavia/Modo scene. Modo is reading Hamlet and Octavia walks in on him. She immediately begins to mock Modo for reading not just Hamlet, but Shakespeare in general. Modo unsuccessfully attempts to defend himself, but Octavia isn't having it, although in the end she gives in and mentions the one part of the play she enjoyed.
This book was so, so, SO wonderful! I can't wait to tear into the next!(less)
Everything about this book was perfect. Love, love, love. Easily one of my top reads of the year. & to think it's been on my to read list for ages! I'm so glad I finally hunkered down and gave it a shot.
Once upon a time - for that is how all stories should begin - there was a boy who lost his mother.
The Book of Lost Things takes place in war-torn England. German planes have destroyed a large portion of cities, but the threat of bombs means little to David: his mother is dying. She gets progressively sicker and sicker until one day when David is excused from class for the day. He immediately knew the reason for his early dismissal and blames himself for not being able to save his mother.
Life continues for David and his father and a few months later David is introduced to Rose, his father's new girlfriend (ultimately, wife). They move to the country - the country is safer than the city his father claims - into a large old house that Rose's family owns.
Rose's presence in David's life only serves to remind him of the realization that his mother is gone and he hates her for it. The arrival of David's half-brother Georgie only solidifies that hatred and he turns to his books for comfort.
Stories wanted to be read, David's mother would whisper. They needed it. It was the reason they forced themselves from their world into ours. They wanted us to give them life.
I loved that this book didn't take long at all to get right to the story. One of my biggest peeves is when a book is unbelievably slow, only to finally get to the action two chapters from the end of the book.
The Book of Lost Things wasn't like that one bit. As much as I enjoyed reading about David's homelife - particularly his interactions with his stepmother, Rose - I couldn't contain my excitement when the story delved into the "fairy tale" world. A few times I've talked about how fairy tales and retellings are very much in vogue right now and I loooove that. Matt & I are huge fans of Once Upon a Time and in the show, Mr. Gold/Rumpelstiltskin is a main character. He's by far our favorite in the show and we always go into fangirl mode during his scenes. This book was no different.
And the Crooked Man heard her dreams, because that was where he wandered. His place was the land of the imagination, the world where stories began. The stories were always looking for a way to be told, to be brought to life through books and reading. That was how they crossed over from their world into ours. But with them came the Crooked Man, prowling between his world and ours, looking for stories of his own to create, hunting for children who dreamed bad dreams, who were jealous and angry and proud. And he made kings and queens of them, cursing them with a kind of power, even if the real power lay always in his hands. And in return they betrayed the objects of their jealousy to him, and he took them into his lair deep beneath the castle...
♥ Oh, Rumpelstiltskin. I eagerly anticipated any scene the Crooked Man was in. So, so fantastic. A bit of a confession: during his scenes, I always pictured the Rumpelstiltskin from Once Upon a Time. Robert Carlyle does an incredible job with that role and imagining him as the Crooked Man only made the story that much more creepy and fantastic.
David touched his fingers to the wood, pressing and knocking hoping to find some way of reopening the portal back to his old life, but nothing happened. He almost cried, but he knew that if he began crying, all would be lost. He would just be a small boy, powerless and afraid, far from home.
After a German bomber crashes into his yard, David discovers himself in another world. There are a number of magical and mythical beasts he encounters along the way (trolls, harpies, the seven dwarves), the worst of which were the Loups: human/wolf hybrids. The pack is out to gain control of the kingdom and sees this strange little boy as both a threat and food.
The Woodsman was one of my favorite characters. :) He was such a lovely man and aided David on his quest to the castle after telling him that the king has a book that could potentially help David return to England.
"You mean...they killed her?" asked David. "They ate her," said Brother Number One. "With porridge. That's what 'ran away and was never seen again' means in these parts. It means 'eaten.'" "Um, and what about 'happily ever after?'" asked David, a little uncertainly. "What does that mean?" "Eaten quickly," said Brother Number One.
You won't find a Doc or Dopey here. Instead, the dwarves are numbered and for the brief scene they're in, they definitely made quite an impression. It turns out Snow White is a horrid, horrid girl and the dwarves felt oppressed. It's only natural they would seek revenge... :)
They walked like prisoners who had just been told that the executioner had a little extra time on his hands and could fit in a few more beheadings before he went home for his tea.
The Book of Lost Things had the whole package: great characters, wonderful storytelling, and absolutely beautiful language. The imagery was remarkable and there were so many passages that were simply a pleasure to read.
"I have walked through your dreams," he said. "I know everything that you think, everything that you feel, everything that you fear."
Apart from being an awesome villain, the Crooked Man is downright intriguing. He did and said things that made me think one way, then on the next page he did something that made me feel completely the opposite. I could read an entire book solely about him and would love every minute of it.
It wasn't like this in the stories. Soldiers and knights slew dragons and monsters. They weren't afraid, and they didn't run away from the threat of death.
I loved watching David grow throughout the story. In the beginning he was a lost little boy mourning the loss of his mother, and by the end of the book he's a young man. I've read books where the growing up seems forced and winds up being unbelievable, but that wasn't the case here.
There were so many wonderful things about this book. The twist-that-wasn't-really-a-twist, the supporting characters, the setting, everything about The Book of Lost Things was fantastic. Definitely one of my favorite books I've read this year!(less)
I could simply say drop whatever you're doing and read this book. Now. That wouldn't do it justice, though. This is the kind of story that needs to be discussed, demands to be gushed over, and ultimately stays with you long after you've finished those last words.
It is traditional to end with the Last Girl, the sole survivor, a young woman in a blood-spattered tank top. She drops her chain saw, her sawed-off shotgun, her crowbar - these details differ - and stumbles out of the ramshackle house and into the light. Perhaps the house is burning. Dawn glows on the horizon, and the ghouls have been defeated (for now, for now - all happy endings being temporary). Perhaps she's found by her fellow survivors and taken to an enclave, a fortress teeming with heavily armed government troops, or at the very least gun-toting civilians, who will provide shelter until the sequel. Perhaps this enclave is located in Easterly, Iowa, about sixty miles northwest of the ruins of Des Moines. Perhaps the girl's name is Ruby.
So begins our story. To say this is a zombie story would feel like a lie. Yes, the main character is a zombie and, yes, there was a zombie outbreak. However, Raising Stony Mayhall is so much more than a horror novel. There is an unassuming elegance in Mr. Gregory's writing and it's clear he carefully deliberated over each word. There were countless passages where I lost myself in the imagery and forgot I was reading what was being put forth as a run-of-the-mill zombie tale.
There are few gorey scenes. There really is nothing in-your-face about Raising Stony Mayhall. It’s so much more than yet another book cashing in on a popular trend: it’s a story about family and to what lengths we go to protect those we cherish. Don’t expect a Lifetime movie though. Thankfully, it’s not quite that sappy.
Are you sleeping, Are you sleeping, Brother John?
The story opens in Easterly, Iowa in the winter of 1968. (The prologue was set in the present day, 2011.) On both coasts there has been a zombie outbreak and what's left of civilization is trying to pick up the pieces and attempt to return to some sense of normalcy.
Wanda Mayhall is a widowed mother of three girls: Alice, Chelsea, and Junie. One night while heading back to their farm, they come across the body of a young woman barely out of her teens. There's no hope of saving the woman, but Wanda is unable to leave behind of body of the newborn discovered in the woman's arms.
"We should call him Gray," Chelsea said. "He's not a cat," Alice said. "We shouldn't name him anything." "We'll call him John," Wanda said, surprising herself again. "That's it?" Alice said. "John?" "Brother John," Chelsea said. The boy looked up at them. Then he blinked. He hadn't blinked before. "A boy like this," Wanda said, "is going to need a normal name."
Despite all evidence that the boy is dead - no pulse, he's not breathing, his skin is grey & cold - he soon begins to move. At first it's just a twitch of an arm. Then his eyes open. His chest heaves.
They just rescued an undead. An undead baby, at that.
The Mayhalls live on a fairly secluded piece of land with only one other house in viewing range. The Chos are a Korean family who had moved out west with dreams of farming, only to fall back on a mechanic business. The Chos have a 5-year old son, Kwang, and shortly after meeting John, the two become inseparable. Stony - the name given to him by Kwang - grows as Kwang grows. He ages he Kwang ages.
Despite being taken into a loving family, a series of extremely strict rules have been set in place for Stony. He's never allowed outside, he is never to walk past the windows, any friends (and as they grow, boyfriends) of his sisters are never allowed over, and school is completely out of the question. Instead, Mrs. Cho homeschools Stony and later he educates himself with the aid of his sisters' textbooks.
For the first time in his life, Stony felt it. It ran like a hot wire, up from his spine, to the base of his skull. His mouth opened on its own. He wanted to bite. He wanted to bite hard.
With each page, I grew to care more and more for Stony. He's not the quintessential zombie that everyone immediately thinks of: moaning, shambling along oh-so-slowly, viciously attacking any living being. However, in a sense, he is: super-human strength, no pain whatsoever, he requires no sleep or food, physical exercise doesn't tire him. He is virtually indestructible.
Seeing things through Stony's eyes, knowing his thoughts and feelings, it's easy to forget that, technically, he is a monster. Mr. Gregory is wonderful at allowing the reader to settle into a period of comfort, only to bring to light the horror of the situation. And what a quiet horror it is. It silently sneaks up on you, greeting you around the corner. The climax was so eloquently written I felt as though I was in the middle of a zombie outbreak. I panicked when the zombies were in the stairwell. A flash of terror ripped through me with the lone zombie calmly ambling down the road while the policemen stood waiting.
Stony looked up. Calhoun was staring at him, hollow-eyed. His skin was glossy, his teeth perfectly white, but his eyes were ancient and terrified. Calhoun was more afraid of death than anyone he'd ever met. While so many LDs were becoming sleepers, throwing themselves into the abyss, Calhoun was doing everything in his power to pave over it, seal it up. He was going to the stars, damn it. He was going to be immortal.
I loved how the book progressed through the decades. The novel occurs between 1968 and 2011. When Stony is a teenager, something happens that changes his life forever. He lives the majority of his adult life on the run (what part isn't spent in hiding).
It was this part of the book that didn't grip me as the beginning did. There are new characters involved (one still rubs me the wrong way) along with some sub-plots that weren't entirely clear. I longed for Stony to return to being a 5-year old on the farm.
The mailman reached the fence, planted two hands, and vaulted over without breaking stride. The move looked so practiced that Stony wondered if he'd learned it in postal school. Advanced Canine Escape Techniques.
Mr. Gregory has a deliciously wicked sense of humor. I'd never hail Raising Stony Mayhall as a comedy or as a wacky, zany story because it certainly isn't. That said, there are plenty of great one-liners and witty quips that brought a smile to my face and made me giggle.
Thanks to Romero's endlessly replayed documentary of the outbreak, everyone thought the living dead shuffled around like geriatric patients. But those were the fevered dead, brain-damaged and confused, at the mercy of recalcitrant limbs jerking to their own rhythm. After the fever passed, a sane LD only had to tell the muscles to move, and they moved. Jump, and they jumped. Free will, or its compelling illusion, was restored.
No zombie tale is complete without a shout-out to Night of the Living Dead. I wonder if Raising Stony Mayhall wasn't supposed to be a sequel or a spin-off of some sort. NofLD premiered October 1, 1968...which was when the original outbreak occurred in Raising Stony Mayhall. Also, NotLD takes place in Pennsylvania (in the area where I live, which is pretty awesome), and Stony discovers his birth mother was from Evans City, PA.
The more I think about this, the more I wonder if this wasn't the case. And if so, this book just became all the more incredible.
All LDs were going to hell in an inescapable handbasket. The graveborn said they understood more because they'd gotten closer to the other side than anyone - they had a better idea of what was spiritually at stake. The bitten LDs argued that they'd all died, and the graveborn were putting on airs.
I could ramble on and on about how much I loved this book. June seemed like an odd time for release, but I suppose since Raising Stony Mayhall isn't your typical zombie novel, it wouldn't receive an expected Halloween publication date.
Prior to writing this review I had a massive list of quotes and lines and entire paragraphs I loved enough to write down. Mr. Gregory's style is so effortless and beautiful. I will definitely be hunting down his other works.
I highly, highly recommend Raising Stony Mayhall, even for those of you who aren't normally into zombie books (I know I'm not). You won't be disappointed!
The fevered dead didn't attack animals, or invade butcher shops. They craved human meat, human and nothing but, as if taking revenge for being kicked out of their former species. The Payback Diet.
To say Rainbow Rowell is something of a rock star in the literary world would be putting it lightly. Her work has expl...moreLink goes live on the blog9/26!
To say Rainbow Rowell is something of a rock star in the literary world would be putting it lightly. Her work has exploded and I can't recall any new releases in the past few years that have received as much excitement as Rainbow's. Just watching all the buzz is intense and being a part of it is nothing short of magical.
It's a little embarrassing it's taken me two years to (finally!) read her debut, Attachments. I remember when it came out and I waited and waited for it to come in to my bookstore. Sadly it only came in once (ONCE, PEOPLE!) and was immediately snatched by someone who wasn't me. A few weeks ago I decided enough was enough and tracked down a copy at my library.
Attachments takes place in 1999, that frantic year of the Y2K scare when everyone was terrified that computers would have a huge meltdown come 2000 (sidenote: a classmate of mine + his friend cut off power at his house just as the ball was dropping and completely freaked out his parents and family. To this day I still giggle like crazy and wish I had thought of that). Beth and Jennifer work for the local newspaper and are close friends. Lincoln is still living at home with his mother - much to the dismay of his older sister - and works a nightshift doing e-mail security. Office e-mail had only recently been implemented and the word filter isn't foolproof; it's Lincoln's job to double-check any flagged e-mails.
With Beth and Jennifer's e-mails chock full of filter word goodness, Lincoln has a lot of reading material. Initially it was all business, but overtime he develops a fondness for the pair and feels a close connection to them despite never actually having seen either woman. The more he reads the more he realizes he's in love with Beth Fremont. The only problem? He has no idea how to tell her in a way that doesn't make him sound like a massive creep.
A little-known fact about me: I love office settings. LOVE them. If a book takes place in an office there's a good chance I either have already read it or have my eye on it. Douglas Coupland's JPod was my introduction to this awesome niche and I keep returning to this genre anytime I need a feel-good read. I knew from the start I'd be all over Attachments and it didn't let me down!
Told mostly through e-mails, Attachments lays claim to being the only epistolary novel I've read that I've enjoyed. There's simply something about the format that doesn't work for me, though I love it in theory. Here, however, it was fun and engaging. Rainbow's talent shines in her characterization. Even though I only came to know Beth and Jennifer through their e-mails, I felt as though I really knew them. There was never a moment where I felt a disconnect or that they were nothing more than stock personalities. Even the minor characters were all beautifully unique. Rainbow knows what she's doing and she does it well.
The only time my enjoyment faltered was a brief scene where Lincoln's ex-girlfriend came back to town. The two began dating in high school and went to college together. Unfortunately, while there, Lincoln caught her with another man and has been haunted by that moment ever since. Her sudden arrival struck me as unnecessary and confusing, though it was quickly over and done with by the next chapter.
Attachments is the kind of novel I could gush over for hours. Apart from being an epistolary novel I liked, it was also one of the only books to actually keep me awake. It's been far too long since I've ignored sleep for a novel, but I can proudly say Attachments was worth it. It made me heart swell, it made my heart break, and it made me think back - fondly! - on the end of the 90s. Do yourself a favor and read this one.(less)