Book Review

The Little Paris Bookshop: A Novel, Nina George

The Little Paris BookshopThe Little Paris Bookshop: A Novel
Nina George
Kindle eBook
(image links to Goodreads)

From Goodreads: Monsieur Perdu calls himself a literary apothecary. From his floating bookstore in a barge on the Seine, he prescribes novels for the hardships of life. Using his intuitive feel for the exact book a reader needs, Perdu mends broken hearts and souls. The only person he can’t seem to heal through literature is himself; he’s still haunted by heartbreak after his great love disappeared. She left him with only a letter, which he has never opened.
After Perdu is finally tempted to read the letter, he hauls anchor and departs on a mission to the south of France, hoping to make peace with his loss and discover the end of the story. Joined by a bestselling but blocked author and a lovelorn Italian chef, Perdu travels along the country’s rivers, dispensing his wisdom and his books, showing that the literary world can take the human soul on a journey to heal itself.

I enjoyed this book. It was a pretty fast-paced story but the characters were well-developed, and we continued to learn more about them as they continued their journey along the Seine. Perdu’s ability to really listen to people and “prescribe” the right book is fascinating, as is the encyclopedia he decides to create. Some of the sailing terminology was over my head (when they were talking about docking and pulling up at various ports), so that was a bit confusing. There was a bit of back and forth between past and present, but it was clear when that was happening. Perdu is a character that really blossoms throughout the story and I enjoyed seeing it. I liked seeing how the relationships between the characters developed; being in close quarters for an extended period of time really allowed them to become intimate (in the sense of learning about each other and each other’s histories).

Essentially, this is a story of how grief can transform a person, but also shows how new beginnings can do the same. I highly recommend it.

Book Review

The Moonlit Garden, Corina Bomann

The Moonlit GardenThe Moonlit Garden
Corina Bomann
Translated by Alison Layland
Kindle edition, 430 pages
Kindle First (expected publication date is February 1, 2016)

Book image linked to Goodreads page.

An old man brings a beautiful violin to Lilly Kaiser at her antiques shop in Germany. He says it belongs to her and dashes out the door. Lilly calls on her best friend Ellen Morris, an instrument restorer in England, to help her discover the mystery behind this instrument. Along the way she meets Gabriel Thornton, a musicologist in England, who also helps in the search for the history of the violin. In a quest that takes Lilly to England, Cremona, and Sumatra, she discovers stories of 2 famous female violinists, Rose Gallway and Helen Carter, who played this special violin over 100 years ago and with the help of Ellen, Gabriel, and a few others, Lilly tries to find out the stories of Rose & Helen, if/how they were connected to each other, and how they could possibly be connected to her.

This was a good book. Some parts were pretty predictable and I think the ending was a little too perfect of a happy ending (the chances would be slim to nothing in real life, at least for some of it), but overall it was a good read.

The story goes back and forth between past and present, so we not only get Lilly’s point of view, but also that of Rose and Helen. So we as the readers get a fuller story and in the beginning know more than Lilly, but as she delves deeper into the mystery, she catches up to what the readers know and then we’re following the rest of her search and learning the rest of the story through her eyes. War and tragedy made some things impossible for Rose and Helen, including the happiness of Rose Gallway. There were definitely some tragic parts to the story and when I found out about one of the loose ends of Rose’s story, I was surprised at what had happened (I had been wondering if we were going to find out anything more about that particular character. Sorry for being vague but I don’t want to give anything away in case you choose to read it.

I got this book through the Kindle First program, available to Amazon Prime members. Each month, you can pick one free book from a short list (usually 4-6 titles) scheduled to be published the following month. If you’ve not heard of it, check it out!

Book Review

Still Alice, Lisa Genova

Still AliceStill Alice
Lisa Genova
eBook borrowed from the library
(image links to Goodreads page)

I’ve been meaning to write/post this review for a long time. As mentioned in my monthly wrap up, I wanted to dedicate a full post to this book as it was then (and still is now) my favorite book that I’ve read all year. It’s such a beautiful, well-written, heartbreaking story.

As many of you may be aware (whether from reading the book or hearing about/seeing the movie starring Julianne Moore and Alec Baldwin), this story is about Alice, a brilliant Harvard University linguistics professor, who, after a series of strange incidences is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s Disease. The story is told from Alice’s point of view and Lisa Genova does an amazing job of putting us in Alice’s shoes. Her writing is brilliant and one can’t help but feel the anger, resentment, fear, and despair that Alice feels. To see and almost experience how AD affects her life is heart-wrenching. I assure you that I cried while reading this book (and will likely never watch the movie because of how emotional I am — unless I really need a good cry at some point!). But not only do we see how this affects her but also her husband and their children.

One thing I learned from this book is that there is a genetic test that children can take to determine if they have the gene for AD. So this could easily be a topic for deep discussion: would you want to know if you have the gene? If you do have it, how would you act/live your life knowing that eventually you’d develop AD? This is a decision Alice’s children face. Also, there is a procedure that can be done to ensure the gene is removed in any future offspring (I don’t remember the specifics of this, however).

I highly recommend that everyone reads this book. It’s so moving and really speaks to the reader. I also found it informative without being dry. Truly a wonderful story to bring awareness to the seriousness of this disease that affects millions of people.

The biotech company I work for is working on a drug for AD. While there are still a few years before it would be approved by the FDA and on the market for patients, there have been some positive, promising preliminary results. Do you know that there are currently over 5 million Americans with AD and that figure is expected to almost triple to over 13 million by 2050 (that is, if no new medications come into the market)?  Yes, you read that right: Americans. That’s not even counting the rest of the world! And those figures are mainly regarding patients aged 65 and older; there are currently around 200,000 Americans under the age of 65 who have been diagnosed with early onset AD. The AD population has such an urgent need for a medication and I am proud to work for a company that is working tirelessly to meet that need. Here’s a link to the Alzheimer’s Association website to learn more about this horrifying disease.

Book Review · Monthly Wrap-Up

July Reads

Well I definitely got my reading mojo back in July, completing 11 books! (That’s only 3 less than what I read January through June combined!) It’s really surprising since this was a really busy month for us (more on that later). I think part of it was because I read a “boxed set” on my Kindle (a 4 book bundle for the Spellmans series so it was kind of like reading one long book as opposed to 4 separate ones).

But since I read so many books, this is likely going to be a lengthy post, so feel free to skim/skip to books you’re interested — or read the whole thing if you really want to! 🙂

15. Still Alice, Lisa Genova
This has been my favorite book so far this year (and the first book I’ve given 5 stars since December!). I’ll be posting a separate review for it.

16. Waistcoats & Weaponry (Finishing School #3), Gail Carriger
The next installment in the Finishing School series. Light reads, some plot points typically predictable for sure, but still enjoyable. I read the first two last year but never posted about them. The story is from the steampunk era and I’m kind of fascinated by it just because of how the mechanicals are described and used. Imagine if things like these actually had been available back in that time, how much different would technology be today?

Sophronia is a 16-year-old girl attending finishing school, but it’s actually a school to teach girls how to be intelligencers. Some of it can be kind of funny (talking about how letter openers and fans can be used as weapons, and how to use seduction techniques to control a man to get the information you need, etc.) She is gifted at learning the various aspects of the “finishing school” and always seems to get mixed up in bigger issues, along with her group of friends, and helps solve them.

Oh did I mention that vampires and werewolves are also in the books and considered legal species? (some of them are teachers at the finishing school). It just throws in a supernatural aspect into the mix.

They’re light reads that you can get through quickly. The next book is expected some time this year.

17. The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner’s Dilemma (The Mysterious Benedict Society #3), Trenton Lee Stewart
I didn’t realize this was a trilogy, thought it was a series, but as far as I can tell, there are only 3 (plus a couple of short stories that fit in between the main books). Like the Finishing School series above, I read the first two Mysterious Benedict Society books back in 2013 but never wrote about them.

This is a story about 4 extremely intelligent and gifted children who help a benevolent Mr. Benedict thwart a bad guy (who happens to be Mr. Benedict’s twin brother) from trying to control the world. Definitely a kids/young adult series. What’s great about the series is that it shows kids that it’s OK to be smart and there is always a chance for happy endings (3 of the 4 kids are orphans).

18-21. The Spellmans 1-4
A fun, witty series about a family-owned detective agency. I’m pretty sure I read the first one ages ago at the beginning of college, but am not 100% sure, as I didn’t really remember the content (but had remembered the title).
Izzy Spellman is the main character, in her mid-20s at the start of the series. They family is definitely neurotic and some of the stuff they do/get away with is amazing; I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t happen in real life!

The series follows the family over a few years and all the shenanigans and jobs they take on. Light, fun reads for the most part. I flew through reading these 4, mainly because it was a “boxed set” on my Kindle.

I recommend it if you’re looking for something quick, easy, and fun.

22. Emerald Green (Ruby Red #3), Kerstin Gier
This is the last book in the Ruby Red trilogy. We meet Gwen again, who only has a limited knowledge of the time-traveling group that she was born into. As noted in the first book, it was her cousin everyone thought would get the traveling powers, but it ended up being Gwen instead. The three books cover a very short period of time, each picking up exactly where the other left off.

Gwen knows something is up and has a feeling the head of the time traveling group is up to no good, but can she expose him and thwart his plans?

Another book/series on the lighter side and quick to read. (maybe that’s why I was able to get through so many books this month — they’re mostly “light” reads)

23. The Tea Rose (The Tea Rose #1), Jennifer Donnelly
I really enjoyed this book and was delighted to hear that it was part of a series. The cast of characters is really well-developed. There were definitely twists and turns and the “I can’t believe they just missed each other!” moments (more than a couple) that spans a number of years and 2 continents. There were also some sad, heart-wrenching moments that made you wonder how so many bad things can happen to one good person/family. But the story was a testament to following your dreams and not letting things hold you back (though sometimes you wanted to smack them upside the head for being so stubborn!), despite the fear.

24. The American Lady (The Glassblower Trilogy #2), Petra Durst-Benning
I stumbled upon the second book in this series. The last time I looked it up, it wasn’t available on the Kindle through either library that I’m a member of. So imagine my delight when I discovered I could get it!

I really enjoyed the first book and so was happy to continue the story of the glassblowing family. I think this was better than the first. Well-written and great characters. It picks up about 15 or so years after the first book ended. It was an interesting location change from Germany to New York and Italy. However, I was so upset with the way the story ended. I was not expecting it at all (sign of a good writer, I think). I definitely shed a tear or two (and probably can’t even blame it on pregnancy hormones since I’m generally an emotional person and tend to cry at books all the time). I got so wrapped up in the story and the characters and it broke my heart to read the ending.

I am looking forward to reading the last installment of this trilogy, I’m just waiting for it to become available at the library in Kindle format.

Book Review · Monthly Wrap-Up

June Reads

Another 2 books in June…

13. A Dance with Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire #5), George R R Martin
As mentioned in my May reading post, I read this back to back with book 4. This was another re-read for me. I read book 5 when it came out in 2011. So it’s been a few years since I last read it. And again as mentioned in the May post, there was a lot I had forgotten but I wanted to refresh my memory so I could keep up with the show.

Now that the show has basically caught up with the books, I really can’t wait for Winds of Winter (#6) to be published. And I really hope it comes out before the show does; I don’t want to find out major plot points via the TV show, but as it was originally intended through the books. However, I’m not saying that they show is bad by any means. I think the producers have done a great job with the show and with the resources they have available. But I just want to be able to get the new parts of the story from the books.

This is really such a great and well-written series and you really get attached to characters (which is dangerous in the world of Westeros!). But the depth of the characters and the details really make it stand out from other stories.

I highly recommend you read this if you haven’t yet!
14. The Book of Life (All Souls Trilogy #3), Deborah Harkness
It’s been some time since I read the 2nd book (back in 2013 when it came out), so my memory was a bit rusty at first when picking this up. But I was able to remember enough to keep up with the story and not feel lost. Despite the length (500+ pages), it was a quick read.

This is the last in the trilogy starring Diana Bishop and Matthew Clairmont and the rest of their family and friends. (I did write a review on the first book back in 2013, but never got around to writing one about the second book). This installment did provide a fitting ending to the story. As with the other two books, there was a bit of action, more science and discovery included in the story. It was nice to see the aunts’ house again too. As I noted with the first book’s review, it was definitely refreshing and interesting to see a science spin on the supernatural.

Book Review · Monthly Wrap-Up

May Reads

As you can see in my reading list for this year, it’s been slow going and I didn’t even finish any books in April. I found that for a chunk of time early in my pregnancy, I didn’t feel like doing much, even reading. I watched a lot of TV, actually.

I started picking up the reading again in May, though there were only 2 books completed.

11. Titanic: Voices of the Disaster, Deborah Hopkinson
This was a really good book looking into the Titanic from the point of view of her passengers. My dad is a huge Titanic buff so growing up I learned a lot about the Titanic. So from time to time I still catch myself reading a book about it or watching one of the TV specials on History Channel, Discovery Channel, etc.

It was also a sad look into the tragedy, reading the hope and excitement from letters of the passengers and knowing what was coming. Definitely eye-opening though to see what people were like at the time and on the ship. (and I must say that Bruce Ismay was quite a coward!)

A sad fact of the Titanic is that it’s really only famous for its sinking. Had it gone smoothly, it would have only gone down in history as the largest and grandest ship of her time.


12. A Feast for Crows (A Song of Ice and Fire #4), George R R Martin
This is a re-read for me. I only read it once when I bought the first 4 books back around 2006, and though the 5th book didn’t come out until 2011, I did not re-read book  before reading book 5 (I should have). It was definitely a good refresher as there were some details I definitely didn’t remember. I also wanted to re-read this one because it was being reflected in the newest season on HBO. And to be honest, I really wanted to re-read it more to see where the books and TV show diverged (and there were many places!). A couple of my friends watch the show but do not read the books and we’d do recaps within a day or 2 of the episodes and more often than not when they’d ask a question I found myself saying “well it’s different in the books so I’m not sure how they’ll play it out in the show” or “that doesn’t happen in the books so I have no idea where they’re going with it.”

It’ll be hard for me to separate this from book 5 since I read them back to back (finished it n June, so I’ll write a little more in that post). But there was so much that happened and like I said above, a good amount of stuff that I didn’t remember well. It definitely got me back on track and hoping for book 6 even more now!

Book Review · Monthly Wrap-Up

March Reads

Turns out March was a month for reading odd books. These were all books on my To Read list on Goodreads and I was able to get them all from the library on my Kindle around the same time, I guess.

Anyway, I am writing these mini reviews quite sometime after reading them, so bear with me as I struggle to remember specific details!

8. Cinema Lumiere, Hattie Holden Edmonds
I’d say this was probably the one I enjoyed the most of the 3 I read this month. The cast of characters was good, they were well-developed. I enjoyed the main character, Hannah, as well as her shy new office assistant Ian. Their interactions were really good and helped pull Ian out of his shell. The other main character to enjoy was Victor, the elderly gentleman that Hannah had befriended but lost connection with prior to the start of the novel. The novel bounced back and forth between past and present which I thought was a nice build up to the end of the story (albeit, slightly predictable by a certain point). However, it was a story to make you think about your life and make sure that you learn to trust, let go of past disappointments, go for what will make you happy, and keep the ones you love close.

9. The Museum of Extraordinary Things, Alice Hoffman
This one was harder to enjoy. Coralie is one of the main attractions in her father’s freak show on Coney Island set in the early 1900s. She has webbed fingers and so her father makes her play the part of a mermaid. She had to endure spending time underwater to improve her lung capacity so she could sit in a tank of water. As the freak show popularity dwindles, Coralie’s father insists he needs to find something that will bring everyone’s attention back, and has a horrible plan to do this.
The story flips between 2 characters’ points of view, Coralie and Eddie Cohen, a young photographer who photographs death and destruction for the newspapers. After a tragic factory fire, he is pulled into the mysterious disappearance of one of the factory workers. As he searches, he and Coralie cross paths and eventually connect in this search.
It is difficult to read some of the passages, such as the description of the factory fire, and how Coralie’s father treats her and his employees (the “freaks”, a cast I liked) and what he makes them do (especially Coralie). He is a strict, harsh man.
In the end it was an OK book.

10. The Miniaturist, Jessie Burton
Another one that had a few harsh characters. Nella has just joined her new husband whom she doesn’t even know. His severe and serious sister acts as his housekeeper. He works a lot and so to keep Nella occupied he buys her a miniature cabinet, which is their house in miniature form. She finds a miniaturist’s ad and reaches out to get small items made for the house. In addition to the ones she requests, she also gets some odd ones (like actual miniature versions of the people in the household and her husband’s dogs). Then strange things begin to happen and she starts to wonder if the miniaturist is predicting or causing what’s happening. She’s afraid to tell anyone what she’s receiving. Some bits of the story were predictable but it was still a decent read. (It’s now July when I’m writing this one, so I can only really do a very light synopsis…)

Book Review

February Book Reviews

5. Sharp Objectsby Gillian Flynn
Wow. It took me a couple days to fully process my reaction to this book. Words that immediately came to mind were: dark, twisted, sad, psychological. What a cast of complex characters, each with his or her own issues and secrets. I flip-flopped between 2 characters as the suspects for who committed the crimes in the book and was correct — at least that they were both involved, though in different ways and unbeknownst to each other (how’s that for a cryptic comment?)
It was really well written and it was definitely a page turner (I read it on my Kindle, so a page tapper?). I read it over 2-3 days (technically finished it around midnight/1am on February 1).

6. The Fourth Bear (Nursery Crimes #2), Jasper Fforde
Another clever romp by Jasper Fforde. I love the way he takes the typical nursery rhymes and morphs them into these stories. His writing style is very clever and witty, and has a dry humor to it. Lots of puns, too, which are funny. The characters are really well developed and each have their own distinct personalities. Definitely interested in continuing to read the series.

7. Landline, Rainbow Rowell
I read Rowell’s Eleanor & Park last year so thought I’d give another one of her books a shot. It was definitely a good look into Georgie’s (the main character) mindset. Using her landline telephone to talk to her husband in the past was an interesting concept and I understand that it was a device to help her realize what she needed to do. However, I felt like it took her way too long to do it. It wasn’t rocket science and something that most people would have realized way sooner. Not a favorite book and not sure if I’ll read any of her others.

Book Review

January Book Reviews

I’m going to do something a little different this year in regards to book reviews. I’ve decided that I’ll do a monthly post with a mini book review for each book I completed within that month. On my book list tracker (2015), I’m breaking them down into months and the month will be linked to the review post, instead of the individual books.

So, without further ado, I give you the January book posts (imagine flourishing arm waving as a curtain parts on the stage…just kidding)

#1. Mansfield Park, Jane Austen
This is only the 3rd Jane Austen book I’ve read (the other 2 are Sense & Sensibility and Pride & Prejudice).

It was a lot harder to get into than the others. I felt like the writing was harder to follow (though maybe the others were easier for me to read because I also knew the stories fairly well having seen the movies too). As I was reading some of it, it sounded vaguely familiar… I think I may have watched some of the movie before…

Anyway, the story started out so slowly (I think that’s probably why I struggled to stick with it). But the characters were probably what bugged me the most in this story. I had a lot more written about specific characters when I started my draft review (before I decided to do my reviews per month instead of by book), so to condense that I’ll pull out some comments:

  • Fanny – so timid/meek and naïve. She rarely seems to have energy. So much different than Austen’s other leading ladies that I’ve read. I got frustrated when she wouldn’t speak up or stand up for herself (especially in the scene with her uncle where she wouldn’t actually say why she couldn’t/wouldn’t marry Henry). I understand that this is probably more due to the people who “raised” her (including the abuse from her Aunt Norris and the way her cousins – except Edmund – looked down on her), but still. It was hard to think of her as a leading character when she never stood up for herself and took everything they dished out.
  • Lady Bertram – boy, what was the purpose of her at all? Such a lazy woman who can’t think for herself and needs her husband (or her sister) to make her decisions.
  • Aunt Norris – ugh, what a horrid woman. So obnoxious and self-serving. She’s one I would have liked to slap multiple times.

The plot is decent, but it was difficult for me to really get into the story. I actually first started reading this book back in June (2014) and after a couple of days put it down. I didn’t pick it up again until December 27/28ish, and then finished it on January 3.

If this had been my first Austen experience, I’m not sure I would have continued with her other books, so I’m happy that I had read some others first, and I will still read her others. (I read a website that said that Mansfield Park is rather different from the rest of her novels, especially where the leading female character is concerned. I was happy to hear that there is hope for the remaining novels I have yet to read, because I will read them!)

#2. The 39 Clues #4: Beyond the Grave, Jude Watson
The fourth installment in a race for clues around the world. It is a collaborative effort among a number of authors (each book is written by a different author). The story is a little out there, as I highly doubt an 11-year-old, a 14-year-old, and their au pair would be able to do most of the things they do around the world, but I guess that’s the adventure of it all.

I originally read the first one to see if it would be something my niece would enjoy and didn’t really have the intention of continuing on, but then saw that the next books were available through my library ebook catalog, so just kept reading them.

The books tend to focus on one country, person, theme, etc. per book. For example, one book was focused on music, Mozart, and his history. So it’s still educational for kids, which I think is great.

And now I kind of have to admit that I’m curious to get to the end of the series and see what awaits the kids…

#3.  The Girl with the Windup Heart (Steampunk Chronicles #4), Kady Cross
Since this is the last in the series, I don’t want to get into the details and will rather talk generally about the series as a whole. I hadn’t really read much steampunk before this series, and for the most part I enjoy it. Sometimes it’s hard for me to fathom that young characters (mid-teens to 20/21) do what they do, but like mentioned for the series above, it’s part of the story’s adventure. But the ideas, machines, and inventions, are pretty cool. It’d be pretty amazing to see what our world would look like today if some of the things described in these books existed back in the 1800s…we’d certainly be more advanced!

The series is typical in that, at the highest level, it’s a story of good vs. evil. However, it’s not just the good guys vs. the bad guys (though there is definitely plenty of that). Some characters have the internal struggle, too (some are more apparent than others).

I liked the cast of characters, it was rather a motley bunch which made it fun.

#4. The Big Over Easy (Nursery Crimes #1), Jasper Fforde
Oh Jasper Fforde. I really enjoy his books. The Thursday Next series was my introduction to Jasper Fforde when I was in college. And though I enjoyed the earlier books in the series more than the last, I still enjoyed. So a high bar was set for this series, and it was met.

Fforde crafts such quick-witted and funny characters. The dialog between characters has me chuckle out loud from time to time. To take kids’ stories, like nursery rhymes, and turn them into adult crime stories cracks me up (no pun intended with this book, where Humpty Dumpty has his great fall…).

I would love to see this series (and the Thursday Next series) as TV shows or something; I think it would be quite funny to watch.

He is a very clever author and I look forward to reading more of the series (in fact, I’m currently reading book 2).

 

So this was a rather lengthy post. I’ll definitely be mindful of that in future months!

Book Review · Net Galley

REVIEW: The Book of Strange New Things by Michael Faber

The Book of Strange New Things
Michael Faber
NetGalley ARC (e-book)

I received an electronic copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. I received no compensation for this.

I had to think about this story before I was ready to write a review. I liked the mix of faith, religion, and science fiction. At first, I was a little concerned that it might be one of those books that shoves religion in your face, but it wasn’t. In fact, it was intriguing to see how faith and religion played a role and changed throughout the story.

Let’s back up for a minute: Set in the future, The Book of Strange New Things is the story of Peter Leigh, an evangelist who gets hand-picked to go on a mission to bring the Word of God to an alien race. (However, let’s remember that Peter and the other people from Earth are the real aliens, visiting a distant planet — a distinction Peter is quick to point out after his arrival there). The idea of the space travel is a fascinating one, and even more mind-blowing is that they had developed a form of communication between this distant planet and Earth. Peter and his wife were able to email each other! As I mentioned, I was a little hesitant that this book might be too preachy, but it was not. Religion and faith were almost like other characters to the story. (In reading reviews on Goodreads, there was one post that I thought did a great job of summarizing the story without giving away too much detail. Check it out here.)

Being able to read the correspondence between Peter and his wife was good because you could see how their relationship was affected by their separate experiences, distance, and time. Their relationship and faith were put to the test. You could feel Peter’s helplessness when he heard bad news about home (home=planet Earth). You could see his struggle to be able to sympathize when he was so far away and unaffected.

Peter’s relationship with the natives, called the Oasans, is a really cool aspect of the story. I liked how the author showed symbols when they were speaking; a good reminder that though they were learning English, they were still not human. The Oasans were such a humble, gentle race and I thought they were really interesting characters.

The cast of characters was colorful, especially the natives (no pun intended — if you read it, you’ll understand why I say that).

I wish the story went on a bit longer than where it ended because I would have liked to see what happened next. I don’t want to give any spoilers, so I will not say more than that.

After taking time to think about it, I would recommend this book.

Book Review · Net Galley · What's in a Name Challenge

REVIEW: The True and Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters by Michelle Lovric

The True and Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters
Michelle Lovric
NetGalley ARC (e-book)

I received an electronic copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. I received no compensation for this.

To start, a brief summary:

Seven sisters growing up in poverty in Ireland in the late 19th century. They are fatherless and live in a small town called Harristown. Rumor flies that they all have different fathers, but their mother, Annora, sticks to her story of the same father who only visits in the night, on occasion. All of the girls have flowing locks of different shades, from blonde to black. Their hair tumbles down to their feet. The oldest sister, Darcy, decides they can make money by charging people to see them sing, dance, and let down their hair because long hair was a wonder at that time. This story follows the seven sisters over a number of years and their travel from poverty to fame and everything that surrounds that: shady businessmen, deception, envy, riches, gambling, and more.

To be honest, it took me a little while to get into this book, but I stuck with it and I’m pretty glad I did. The narrator, Manticory, seems to be the most sane of the entire clan. Darcy, the eldest, has the blackest heart and absolutely no redeeming qualities. Her rivalry with a Harristown local, “the Eileen O’Malley” made me chuckle when they were younger because of the taunts and barbs they would throw back and forth at each other. However, Darcy was much worse that the words that rolled off her tongue. Upon finding out that people, men especially, were entranced with their hair, she decides to force her sisters to sign, dance, and as their big finale, let down their hair for audiences in Harristown. They are able to make enough money to finally have regular meals and buy shoes. Not so bad, right? Well, enter the conniving businessman, Mr. Rainfleury. He ingratiates himself with most of the sisters (causing a bitter rivalry between twins Enda and Berenice, who are always at each other’s throats to begin with), but Manticory is wary of him, but no one listens to her. Darcy signs them into a binding contract that apparently has no way out.

Along the way they encounter other men trying to get rich off of them. There are many things that happen that I found so appalling, but I suppose at that time, women had little control, but when you have a person like Darcy, it’s that much harder to make things right. One thing that did bother me was how much power Darcy really had and how none of the sisters ever stood up to her. I mean, Manticory had a good head on her shoulders and knew that they were being exploited and taken advantage of, yet she felt like her hands were tied. Why did she not speak up to her other sisters to band together against Darcy?

I did enjoy the story more than I thought I would. It was well-written, and after that first bit, I wanted to continue to reading and learn more about the story. Did they really all have the same father? Who was he? Would they ever see him again? Would they get out of their contract? Would anyone stand up to Darcy? Would Darcy get her comeuppance? Would Mr. Rainfleury get his? What would happen to the sisters if they did escape the contract?  All of these questions (and more) pushed me to continue reading and were all eventually answered. Some answers weren’t as happy as others, and some were quite satisfying.

According to the author, there was a clan of seven quirky sisters in America on whom she very loosely based this story. (At the end of the book is an “author’s note” in which she explains more about them; they really aren’t all that similar, but I can see where she got the inspiration for her story.

I can see how this book may not work for all readers, but I do encourage people to give it a shot if they’re fans of historical fiction. (though the obsession with hair seems a bit crazy, but who am I to judge? Maybe it really was like that back then.)

Book Review · Monthly Wrap-Up

January Round-Up

So apparently I drafted this post in early February, but then I dropped off the blog and completely forgot about it! So, better late than never I suppose…. But I won’t be doing this to recap all the other books I’ve read since this list!

 

I’ve been really slow this year in getting the blog up and running. For January, I’d like to do short reviews of the books I read during the month (total of 8).

1. Let’s Talk Diabetes with Owls, David Sedaris
More humorous essays from hilarious David Sedaris. I got this for Christmas. It had been a while since I last read anything by him, so I was looking forward to reading this. (I own just about all of his books). I really enjoy his story-telling and voice

2. The Summoner, Layton Green
This is a book that had been on my Kindle for ages, and I finally got around to reading it. It wasn’t a terrible story, but it was kind of weird with the whole cult thing. I began the second book with this character, but have only read a couple chapters, and I wasn’t really into it so I stopped reading and read a few other books instead. I wouldn’t be surprised if I never got around to picking it up again, to be honest.

3. Someday, Someday, Maybe, Lauren Graham
Yes, this is the same Lauren Graham of Gilmore Girls and Parenthood fame. (I do enjoy both of those shows; loved the Lorelei character and her interactions with people, especially w/ Rory). Anyway, I could kind of see a similar echo of the Lorelei in the way the character talked.  It was a bit predictable, but an enjoyable enough read.

4. Rita Hayworth & Shawshank Redemption, Stephen King
I borrowed the Different Seasons collection of short stories from the library but only read Shawshank (my plan all along). This was one of the rare times I enjoyed the movie more than the book – but this could be because it’s one of my favorite movies and I’ve seen it a bazillion times. (plus I love Morgan Freeman in this). I couldn’t stop noticing all of the discrepancies between the two and I kept picturing Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, etc. Which do you prefer?

5. The Rook, Daniel O’Malley
I’ve wanted to read this for a long time, forgot about it, and then rediscovered it again (it had been on my Amazon wishlist for ages). I finally got around to borrowing it from the library. At first I wasn’t sure how I felt about it, but it grew on me quickly and I really enjoyed the dry humor and quick wit. Really liked the post-amnesia Myfanwy, though I wish we saw her in the first person, rather than third. Pre-amnesia Myfanwy was a good character that seemed to develop on her own through her letters. I guess I understand why both weren’t first person narratives, but I found it kind of distracting that post-amnesia Myfanwy was third person. It was definitely an interesting premise and there were some curious names.

I also enjoyed that O’Malley included reading suggestions at the end of the book as well as a recommended soundtrack for parts of the story — I’ve never seen the soundtrack before. I thought it was fun, especially his description of when the songs were appropriate.

I really enjoyed his writing and I’m looking forward to the sequel.

6. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, E. Lockhart
I guess I wasn’t really sure what to expect with this book. It was alright, but I wouldn’t have been disappointed if I hadn’t read it. I really don’t have much to say on, to be honest.

7. The Fault in Our Stars, John Green
I really enjoyed this book. I had a feeling it would be a tear-jerker, given the premise, but I wasn’t expecting so much humor and quick wit. I loved Gus and the conversations he and Hazel had together. It was a really great story that highlights the suckiness of terminal illness but also the ability to still live life and enjoy the time we have.

8. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, James Thurber
Definitely did not realize this book was SO short! I started it on the train on the way home and just a couple train stops later I was done. I thought I got a sample instead of the real thing! I was definitely expecting a lot more to this, a deep dive into the Walter Mitty character. I figured if I ever saw the movie, I’d recognize some of the daydreams, but now I’m wondering if any of them make it in the movie? I wonder how they made a full length movie out of such a short piece of work!

Book Review · Historical Fiction Challenge

REVIEW: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruis Zafon

The Shadow of the Wind (The Cemetery of Forgotten Books,  #1)The Shadow of the Wind
Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Translated by Lucia Graves
eBook (borrowed from library)

Goodreads synopsis: Barcelona, 1945: A city slowly heals in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, and Daniel, an antiquarian book dealer’s son who mourns the loss of his mother, finds solace in a mysterious book entitled The Shadow of the Wind, by one Julián Carax. But when he sets out to find the author’s other works, he makes a shocking discovery: someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book Carax has written. In fact, Daniel may have the last of Carax’s books in existence. Soon Daniel’s seemingly innocent quest opens a door into one of Barcelona’s darkest secrets–an epic story of murder, madness, and doomed love.

I’m not sure why it has taken me so long to write this review. Anyway, now that it’s been a while since I read this, my review isn’t going to be as thorough.

I can’t remember where I heard about this book, but it had been sitting on my Goodreads to read queue since last February (as in, 2012). I wasn’t sure what to expect by the time I got around to reading it, to be honest, but historical fiction that involves books? well, get me a copy!

I had to take some time to process this after reading it – there was a lot of detail and it was such a robust story. So many characters, so emotional… It reminded me somewhat of the Count of Monte Cristo, actually; revenge, heartbreak, murder.

The idea of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books is amazing – I would love to visit a place like that. So many books and authors that people have forgotten – what a treasure trove! The mysteries that surround the novel Daniel chooses to protect from this Cemetery are complex, heart-breaking, scary and sad. So many lives are intertwined! If it wasn’t for Daniel’s persistence in searching for more of Carax’s books, the mysteries would never have been uncovered. Some ghosts may never have been laid to rest – and others may never have been resurrected.

One of the most astonishing things for this novel was the beautiful translation. It was so well done, I would never have known it was a translation if I hadn’t seen that!  It was a very enjoyable read. I definitely recommend it.

Book Review

REVIEW: Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes & The Last Little Blue Envelope, by Maureen Johnson

13 Little Blue Envelopes (Little Blue Envelope, #1)Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes
Maureen Johnson
eBook (borrowed from library)

My synopsis: Book 1: It’s the summer before Ginny’s senior year of high school when she receives a mysterious letter from her nomadic Aunt Peg with a list of instructions and a packet of other letters that need to be read in order.  Aunt Peg always thought have a free lifestyle was a good thing and something Ginny should experience. The oddest part about it all?  Aunt Peg died months before Ginny received the first letter. So, with her letters and instructions, Ginny sets out to Europe for a summer of discovery and mystery.

This was an interesting, light read – nothing to write home about though (no pun intended).  Though it did make me wish someone had sent me a series of letters that sent me around Europe on a trip I’d never forget. I know I wouldn’t get into the same situations Ginny did (the chances of me traveling around with complete strangers isn’t likely – especially like the crazy family she ends up rooming with for almost a week).  But I love the idea of only being able to know a bit at a time and having to read the next clue to find out what comes next. The aunt really knew how to find the local places and really got into the different cultures and she certainly found/met some quirky places and people.

The Last Little Blue Envelope (Little Blue Envelope, #2)The Last Little Blue Envelope
Maureen Johnson
eBook (borrowed from library)

My synopsis: Book 2: Due to unforeseen circumstances in book 1, Ginny never gets to read the last letter.  But the following summer she receives an email from someone in England who found the last letter. So, off Ginny goes to England to retrieve her last letter from Aunt Peg and get some closure.  Once again, Ginny is involved another one of Aunt Peg’s crazy adventures.  But will her friends from last time be around and will they help her?

The guy that contacts Ginny about the last letter basically forces her to let him join in on the last task set by Aunt Peg: in exchange for the original letter, he gets half the money that will come from this last adventure.  But if Ginny doesn’t agree, she’ll never see the letter. It turns out that this letter has another task (broken into 3 parts) for Ginny to complete. Ginny’s love interest from book 1 is back but not quite who Ginny thought he was.  A strange journey ensues with Ginny, her love interest, his possible girlfriend, and the guy who found the letter traveling in a tiny cramped car.

So these books weren’t amazing by any means, but they were enjoyable reads for the most part.  Ginny could be a little annoying.  She kind of hints at the fact that her parents are pretty boring and basically, they don’t seem like the kind of parents who would let their 17-year-old daughter just up and go to Europe on her own.  Stranger things have happened, I suppose. Some of it seemed kind of far-fetched, but again, not looking for high literature here, just an enjoyable read.  I would classify it as a beach read or even something to read when flying…just something to pass the time.

Book Review · What's in a Name Challenge

REVIEW: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy, #1)A Discovery of Witches
Deborah Harkness
Hardcover edition (borrowed from my mom)

Goodreads synopsis: Deep in the stacks of Oxford’s Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell.

I’ve read mixed reviews on this, so I wasn’t sure what to expect when I finally borrowed this from my mom.  I’m pretty sure I once took it from her when she first got it, but then I never got around to it, so I gave it back.  I didn’t really know anything about it, actually – no idea who the main characters would be (male/female), what time period it would take place in, or where.  So I was pleasantly surprised to learn that it was a woman a few years older than me in present-day England (for the most part).

The characters were decent, and I liked them, including Diana’s aunts’ house – it was very fun and interesting with all its rooms, magical things and ghosts. The one thing that I felt was slightly off was the fact that Matthew kept saying that vampires are so dangerous and that Diana shouldn’t romanticize them, but I felt like they were still kind of romanticized anyway.  The whole love story was predictable, but it is what it is.

I thought the science/DNA aspect of the story was interesting – not many of these books try to give scientific explanation for why witches/vampires/daemons exist, but it seems the characters are trying to figure it out.  And I guess when you’re 1500 years old, what else have you got but time to study this stuff?

I thought the book was longer than it needed to be, especially for the first book in a trilogy. I’m sure there were some things that could have been cut (all the time in the library, eating, some of the time spent at Matthew’s house with his mother, etc.).  But I’m really just looking at the book as entertainment and not trying to dissect it.

I just got the second book from my mom a week or two ago, so I’ll get around to it.  I want to know what’s going on with Ashmole 782, the alchemical manuscript mentioned in the synopsis above.