Sassy and charming and full of wit, I had completely forgotten how hilarious Catherine and this novel were! Or maybe I didn’t get some of the humor atSassy and charming and full of wit, I had completely forgotten how hilarious Catherine and this novel were! Or maybe I didn’t get some of the humor at the time..? Either way, I’m thrilled I decided to pick this one up again after so many years and I know it’s one I’ll be revisiting time and time again.
Along the Infinite Sea is the kind of novel that emotionally wrecked me, tore me open and completely rearranged my insides, left me breathless and speAlong the Infinite Sea is the kind of novel that emotionally wrecked me, tore me open and completely rearranged my insides, left me breathless and spellbound. And it managed to do it all with a smile. These are the reviews that make me feel so inadequate as a blogger. Those okay, decent, middle-of-the-road novels are easy to critique. Novels so horrendously awful are a cinch to rip apart. But these, these elite group of oh so very, very special books have a way of attaching to my heart and leave me unable to string together a coherent sentence.
With summer just around the corner, there really isn't a better time to grab a copy of The Enchanted April. The characters are excellent and individuaWith summer just around the corner, there really isn't a better time to grab a copy of The Enchanted April. The characters are excellent and individual, the humor is phenomenal, and it's got one of the best settings imaginable. The short length certainly doesn't hurt either! Who says beach reads need to be new? The Enchanted April holds up 90 years later and is the perfect getaway while lounging at the pool! I highly, highly recommend this one (and you can bet I'll be checking out the movie!)
When I read Seraphina, I kept thinking about how it was trying so hard to be a Serious Story with its new language and constant talk of treaties and dWhen I read Seraphina, I kept thinking about how it was trying so hard to be a Serious Story with its new language and constant talk of treaties and documents and pacts that happened decades (if not centuries) ago. But, no. This series wasn't trying to be anything other than what it is: a damn good story with a wealth of secrets and hidden nooks and crannies. Check your pre-conceived notions at the door, folks, this series is about to take you on the ride of your life.
"...when thunder rolls, lions will roar back. What other creature, besides the lion, the tiger, and the whale, can answer Creation in its own language
"...when thunder rolls, lions will roar back. What other creature, besides the lion, the tiger, and the whale, can answer Creation in its own language?" - Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, The Tribe of Tiger
The Tiger is a book that completely took me by surprise - going into it I expected an interesting story, but I had no idea just what I was getting myself into. Scientific and anthropological studies, history and ecology lessons with gorgeous prose to boot, this book seriously has it all and in the two short weeks it's been in my life I haven't shut up about it. I've rambled at length to my parents and siblings - poor Matt has to live with me! He's been listening to me talk about this book non-stop! It actually reached the point where he would ask for updates (did they catch it yet?) I've talked about this book to my coworkers. I've mentioned it to complete strangers. No joke: anyone I've come across has now heard all about this book. I was absolutely terrified to write this review - nothing I say could possible do it justice and I've been sitting on my thoughts for weeks now. I've taken more notes and jotted down more quotes from this book than I ever have for a novel I've received for review! The Tiger is one of those books you just want to throw at someone, practically forcing it on them. John Vaillant has found a new fan with this book and I wholeheartedly look forward to diving into his other books!
The Accidental Empress proves Allison Pataki is not a one-hit wonder; this woman is here to stay and, my goodness, does she have stories to tell! As wThe Accidental Empress proves Allison Pataki is not a one-hit wonder; this woman is here to stay and, my goodness, does she have stories to tell! As with The Traitor’s Wife, I savored every chapter, relished over every paragraph when I normally would race to the end. Here, however, I took my time and when I finally finished (only four days later – and to be honest, I’m surprised I finished that quickly: this is a big book that demands a lot of attention) I felt hollow. I wasn’t ready to let go and give up these people I had come to care for. Pataki describes the Hapsburg court in such vivid detail it was jarring to look up and realize I was in my living room (sadly, nowhere close to being anything as grand as a palace).
Glow is the kind of novel I want to shout about, the kind of novel I want to shove into the hands of complete and total strangers. I’m floored that itGlow is the kind of novel I want to shout about, the kind of novel I want to shove into the hands of complete and total strangers. I’m floored that it’s a debut and I’m a tiny bit angry with myself for not discovering it sooner. This is a book written for me. A family deep-rooted in the South, heavy-hitting themes tackled respectfully but without sugar-coating anything, a well of faith, and just a hint of magic. Glow is a phenomenal novel that left me breathless. Not only will I be itching for whatever Tuccelli happens to write next, but you can bet I’ll be pushing this novel on whoever gets within shouting distance! Do yourself a favor, guys. Read this book.
In a note to the reader Brooke Davis discusses how Lost & Found came to be: while in her twenties, she went on a backpacking trip across Asia. AftIn a note to the reader Brooke Davis discusses how Lost & Found came to be: while in her twenties, she went on a backpacking trip across Asia. After receiving a message from her brother telling her to call home immediately, she learned her mother has unexpectedly passed away and without a moment's hesitation, she's on a plane. Her anger and hurt and confusion became Lost & Found and the novel was written for her PhD thesis on grief. I'm not sure if that note will be included in the finished copy, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed. If I hadn't read it, I'm sure I would have still loved Lost & Found, but because I was given that background info, these characters took on another meaning for me. Their fears and worries were Brooke's fears and worries and that's really what took this book to a new level and set it apart from others.
I Am Pilgrim is a sweeping 700-page behemoth of a novel that spans multiple decades and continents and I couthis 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!...more
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....more
Oh, this was lovely. Absolutely wonderful. I spent a little longer than I would have liked reading The Traitor’s Wife, but I wanted to savor it, to reOh, this was lovely. Absolutely wonderful. I spent a little longer than I would have liked reading The Traitor’s Wife, but I wanted to savor it, to really get down deep into these characters’ lives. While I liked it when reading, the more I think about it since finishing, the more I love it – and I’ve already ordered a copy to keep on my shelves! That’s certainly saying something about this book; even when I love a story, I rarely – RARELY – purchase my own copy. The Traitor’s Wife is definitely a special story.
Close your eyes. Picturesque. Charming. Quaint. What do you see? Offbeat. Unconventional. Quirky. This is exathis 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....more
If you're one of the few people who has yet to read this one, don't be put off by the blurb you'll come across. Yes, it's about domestic abuse. Yes, iIf you're one of the few people who has yet to read this one, don't be put off by the blurb you'll come across. Yes, it's about domestic abuse. Yes, it's about a young single mother and her bullied son. Yes, it's about a woman dealing with her ex-husband's new wife. But it's also SO MUCH MORE than this. Please, please don't write this one off as fluff. It's amazing and incredible and I truly can't say enough about it. READ THIS ONE. Those other novels that I own? You can bet they won't be sitting unread for much longer!
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....more
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 anotherIn 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....more
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....more
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 isLink 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....more
BEWARE: this review amounts to little more than an incoherent, rambly love letter.
You know that one review tThis review will go live on the blog10/14
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!...more
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....more
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!...more
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!...more
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
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 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"]>...more
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!...more
"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....more
While blogs are rife with the newest releases, older books are pushed aside and nearly forgotten. I absolutely love reading older books and when I heard about a YA gem from the 70s, my ears perked up. How was it that The Perilous Gard, a historical fantasy classic and Newbery winner, managed to evade my notice all these years?
After reading the reviews on goodreads (this book has a 4.14/5 rating!) and seeing nothing but glowing remarks, I knew I needed to find this book and quick. Luckily one of the libraries in my system had a copy and a few days later I was holding it in my hands.
She sat up, punching her pillow vindictively into shape. It was all very well for a hero in a romance, like Sir Launcelot, to break his heart - how did it go? - "run mad in the wilderness"; but in her opinion Sir Launcelot has behaved very foolishly. Somebody ought to have stopped him.
From the very first page The Perilous Gard had my attention. Katherine Sutton - Kate - and her sister Alicia are Princess Elizabeth's attendants. After a particularly disastrous letter of Alicia's reaches Queen Mary, Kate is the one who suffers the consequence. As part of her punishment, Kate is sent to live at Perilous Gard, an ancient castle in northern England.
Upon arriving in the village, Kate learns that something if...off. There's something strange going on, what with the villagers becoming visibly shocked and frightened by her arrival and the sudden disappearance of multiple children. The castle's inhabitants are refusing to talk and the villagers' firm belief in the Fairy Folk leave Kate confused. It's not until Christopher Heron, the younger brother of the castle's head, shares the story of what really happened the night his 4-year old niece disappeared that Kate wonders whether or not there might be some truth to the ancient beliefs.
Let's chat about Kate for a moment, okay? I. Loved. Her. She's smart and strong and level-headed, which is certainly something that can't be said about many heroines today. Her younger sister is beautiful and charming and perfect at her duties, while Kate struggles with her sewing and speech. Naturally her exile angers her, but she sees it through. After discovering Christopher has been guilt-ridden over Cecily's disappearance, Kate's determined to find her and not for an instant does she falter in her decision.
Kate soon uncovers secrets within the castle and ultimately finds herself among the Fairy Folk. Down in the depths of the caverns and caves, their world is completely black. It's enough to make any person mad, but Kate keeps her wits about her and stands her ground against the Queen.
She had always somehow, in her secret heart, never thought of him except in a world of knights and ladies, the sort of world that one read about in the old romances, where hermits knelt praying among the gray rocks and champions rode out to slay dragons from high turreted castles - not the sort of castles that could ever go to ruin because the scrub had not been cleaned out of the water meadows and there was no money for the ditching and the drainage.
Take note, YA authors: this is how romance should be done. Kate and Christopher's relationship takes the course of the book to come to fruition. They start out as strangers - stubborn Christopher barely glances at Kate - then a friendship and companionship develops, ultimately leading to romance. It was slow and quiet and absolutely perfect. Kate and Christopher each have flaws and the other not only acknowledges those flaws (no drop-dead gorgeous, perfect people here), but accepts those flaws and it's all I can do not to type a wall of exclamation points. ♥ Sheer brilliance.
Although The Perilous Gard does take place in the 1500s, apart from a single mention of the 'current' fashion and Elizabeth/Mary's reign, this book could take place at any point in history. Another thing I want to make note of is that this book is not an edge-of-your-seat, thrill-a-minute kind of book. Yes there is action, and yes it is an adventure (with human sacrifices!), but it does so in a very quiet, almost sleepy way that made the book an absolute joy. Despite never having read this book before, I felt as though I was revisiting a childhood favorite; there was something incredibly comforting about the story and the characters and even the Fairy Folk.
If The Perilous Gard is completely new to you as well, I HIGHLY urge you to get to your library or a bookstore (I'll definitely be buying my own copy) and pick this up. I'm shocked it's taken me so long to find out about it, but now that I have I know I'll be rereading it for years to come....more
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....more
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....more
Goodreads' Awards broke me. I have NO discipline whatsoever when it comes to the library - I can usually telthis 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!...more