Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten “Gateway” Books/Authors In My Reading Journey

toptentuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a fantastic meme hosted and created by The Broke and the Bookish.

This is an exciting list for me – because when I started my blogging journey I was reading two genres of books: romance and mystery/thrillers.  While there is nothing wrong with those genres, I found myself getting bored of the same sort of plot lines, over and over again.  I had shelves filled with paperback books I picked up from the grocery store thinking that each one might just be the book to break me out of a reading slump.  It wasn’t until I started checking out books on my friend Kari’s list, that I finally started to expand my reading and embraced all types of authors and styles.

1. Fantasy: Theft of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan

I read this book when it was published under the name of “The Crown Conspiracy” and it was published by Ridan Publishing. I found myself fascinated with the idea that fantasy didn’t have to be completely confusing and take (in some cases) years to figure out.  While I grew up reading some of the greats in the fantasy world (Tolkien the foremost among them), I had always considered the fantasy genre to be a genre that required an enormous time commitment on my part.  Sullivan’s writing is not only accessible and understandable to the fantasy newcomer, it’s also really quite good and this series is worth looking up.

2. Steampunk: Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

I was lucky enough to meet Ms. Priest at DragonCon one year and got my copy of Boneshaker signed.  This was the book that hooked me – I mean, I’d always been a Jules Verne fan – but those long, long passages filled with scientific jargon can get to anybody.  Priest’s writing merges science fiction with a perfect steampunk feel and the added bonus is the gorgeous typeface on the pages.  It’s sepia! I’m still tickled pink over that.

3.  Quirky Literature: The Tower, The Zoo, and The Tortoise by Julia Stuart

I’m not quite sure what genre this is technically under, but The Tower, The Zoo, and The Tortoise is filed under quirky, deliciously British humor for me.  I adored this book to pieces and regularly recommend it.

4.  Southern Literature: Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman

I adore CeeCee and I adore Beth Hoffman.  This was my first foray into contemporary Southern fiction and I loved every moment of it.  There’s something so perfect about every character in this book and it is on my books to be treasured shelf.

5. Short Stories: Nocturnes by Kazuo Ishiguro

There is something special about this collection of short stories.  It’s hard to describe, but I felt definite magic when I read through them.  Ishiguro is a powerhouse of a writer and if you are wanting to explore the short story section of your bookstore or library, it definitely does not hurt to start with him.

6. Magical Realism: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Speaking of powerhouse writers – I’m so so glad to see so much Neil Gaiman everywhere.  The man is brilliant.  The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a short, perfect story that is a great introduction not only to magical realism, but also to Gaiman in general.

7. Urban Fantasy: Magic Lost, Trouble Found by Lisa Shearin

Ignore the pretty cheesey cover – Shearin’s books are my go-to for fun, entertaining, light-hearted fantasy with some heartthrobs scattered throughout.

8. Horror: The Child Thief by Brom

I prefer my horror with a side of fairy tale.  Brom’s story twists the Peter Pan story into something nearly unrecognizable but wildly thrilling all the same.

9. Science Fiction: I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

Science Fiction is hard to get into if you aren’t scientific.  Do me a favor, don’t start with Dune.  Pick up I, Robot and let your mind be swept away by the story.

10. Graphic Books: The Arrival by Shaun Tan

Not what you’d expect to see under Graphic Books, eh?  Still, I read this book nearly six years ago and it still sticks with me.  Such a powerful story, told all in pictures.  It’s beautiful and well worth the read.

Which books in these genres lured you in?

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: The Detainee by Peter Liney

Book Review: The Detainee by Peter LineyThe Detainee by Peter Liney
Published by Jo Fletcher Books on 2014-03-04
Genres: Apocalyptic & Post-Apocalyptic, Dystopian, Fiction, Science Fiction
Pages: 352
Format: eARC
Source: Jo Fletcher Books
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four-stars
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The Island is hopelessness. The Island is death. And it is to this place that all the elderly and infirm are shipped, the scapegoats for the collapse of society. There’s no escape, not from the punishment satellites that deliver instant judgement for any crime—including trying to get off the Island—and not from the demons that come on foggy nights, when the satellites are all but blind.

But when one of the Island’s inhabitants, aging "Big Guy" Clancy, finds a network of tunnels beneath the waste, there is suddenly hope, for love, for escape . . . and for the chance to fight back.

I received this book for free from Jo Fletcher Books in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

I also recommend:

My Review:

I was really, really hooked by the premise of The Detainee.  I’ve been in the mood for a good, gritty, adult post-apocalyptic book and, having read Traci Slatton’s work in the more recent past, I really wanted to get a fix of the genre before her next book releases.  I’m impatient like that sometimes.  So The Detainee by Peter Liney looked like it just might satisfy my craving and, for the most part, it definitely did.

I will say this, however, before I get into the praise-worthy bits.  There were times that things seemed just a bit implausible.  The entire explanation for all the fear, and the subsequent complete change of atmosphere later on in the book pushed the boundaries a bit for me.  But, the good in the book was strong enough to overcome those little nagging thoughts in the back of my mind.  I pushed them aside and continued to read in gleeful pleasure.

The Detainee isn’t really a thriller or suspense novel.  It may seem like that, at the get-go, but I believe that sort of beginning is necessary and that Liney did a great job setting the mood for the book as a whole.  “Big Guy” Clancy is living a miserable excuse of a life on an island in an age where Big Brother is even more invasive then the loudest-mouthed privacy advocates today could dream of.  Imagine being completely policed, at all time, and not only policed, but arrested, tried, and potentially executed all in the space of mere minutes, or even seconds?  That’s the world that Clancy is living in throughout the story of The Detainee.

There’s also quite a bit of the survivalist feel throughout the book.  Between the tinkering of one character, the assured actions of another, and finally, the take-action attitude of Clancy, I felt myself getting caught up in the day-to-day details of living in a place, or a world, like that described in The Detainee.

I’m glad I requested to read The Detainee by Peter Liney.  It seems to be running a bit under the radar and I hope it gets more attention as time passes.  It certainly kept a grip on me and I’m looking forward to seeing what Liney comes out with next.

Check out these reviews!

  • “What you’ll find here is a compelling story about adaptability, compassion and courage. ” – The Bibliosanctum
  • ‘”The Detainee’ is a fast read, and one I certainly enjoyed, though I have some remarks about certain things.” – Draumr Kopa
  • “There are lots of things to love above this story.” – And Then I Read a Book

Book Review: The Corpse Exhibition: And Other Stories of Iraq by Hassan Blasim

Book Review: The Corpse Exhibition: And Other Stories of Iraq by Hassan BlasimThe Corpse Exhibition by Hassan Blasim
Published by Penguin on 2014-02-04
Genres: Fiction, Literary, Short Stories (single author)
Pages: 208
Format: eARC
Source: Penguin
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four-stars
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A blistering debut that does for the Iraqi perspective on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan what Phil Klay’s Redeployment does for the American perspective The first major literary work about the Iraq War from an Iraqi perspective—by an explosive new voice hailed as “perhaps the best writer of Arabic fiction alive” (The Guardian)—The Corpse Exhibition shows us the war as we have never seen it before. Here is a world not only of soldiers and assassins, hostages and car bombers, refugees and terrorists, but also of madmen and prophets, angels and djinni, sorcerers and spirits. Blending shocking realism with flights of fantasy, The Corpse Exhibition offers us a pageant of horrors, as haunting as the photos of Abu Ghraib and as difficult to look away from, but shot through with a gallows humor that yields an unflinching comedy of the macabre. Gripping and hallucinatory, this is a new kind of storytelling forged in the crucible of war.

I received this book for free from Penguin in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

I also recommend:

My Review:

I’m at a bit of a loss on where to start with the short story collection of Hassan Blasim.  It’s been my goal this week to read with intention; to explore works by authors that are not white and/or male.  That’s not to say that I’m able to fully get away from works by white men (or women), but that I wanted to broaden my worldview and start seeing things that have been in my life, sometimes in the background barely paid attention to, for some length of time.  The war in Iraq is one of those things.  So I was a bit nervous going into The Corpse Exhibition: And Other Stories of Iraq and the first story, right away, knocked me off my feet.  I felt weighed down and seriously put in my place.  I had no idea. None.  It took me some time to recover and then I picked up the next story, determined to read more.

What a rewarding experience it has been, and I don’t mean that in a way that implies that I got something great out of these books.  Don’t get me wrong – anytime I get taken to school and put in my place, I consider it to be a good thing because I need that reminder that I have it good, I have it great.  I’m living in a place considered by most of the world as paradise, I’m free to practice religion and politics without fear of repercussions.  I have a tumbler full of water sitting next to me that speaks of pride in my hometown and my iphone is charging and beeping at me, reminding it’s time to go to bed so that I can wake up tomorrow and enjoy a day in the sun, doing what I love to do.

But the people in the stories of The Corpse Exhibition: And Other Stories of Iraq are not as fortunate as I am.  They are not given the opportunity to do what they love; instead, they are given hopeless choices, choices that make me wonder how on earth a person could decide.  I was completely wrecked by the story of a son’s love for his mother and the lengths that he will go to protect her.  I was overwhelmed by the multitude of stories and symbolism in the tale of a newspaper man who thought he could make a quick buck by exploiting someone else.  But most of all, I was so incredibly grateful that I live in a country where a book like The Corpse Exhibition: And Other Stories of Iraq is ready and available for me to read and is not banned nor forbidden.  What would the world we like if we were all unable to experience, through books like this, what life is like on the other side?  And what would the world be like if more of us chose to do just that?

The Corpse Exhibition: And Other Stories of Iraq is not an easy, simple read.  It’s gruesome and horrifying and real and it will completely take control of you while you read it.  While, at times, the symbolism is a bit heavy and hard to understand (some of the endings of the story, I admit, completely went over my head), I think what I ultimately took away from this book was well worth the time taken to read it.

Check out these reviews!

  • The Corpse Exhibition is a truly unique collection of work, guaranteed to satiate anyone with a thirst for the surreal, macabre, or even those interested in seeing the conflict in Iraq from a new perspective” – Lit Reactor

Book Review: The Sun and Other Stars by Brigid Pasulka

Book Review: The Sun and Other Stars by Brigid PasulkaThe Sun and Other Stars by Brigid Pasulka
Published by Simon and Schuster on 2014-02-04
Genres: Coming of Age, Fiction, General, Literary
Pages: 336
Format: eARC
Source: Simon and Schuster
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five-stars
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Brigid Pasulka’s PEN/Hemingway award-winning debut novel was compared to the works of Jonathan Safran Foer by the New York Times and hailed by Elle as “storytelling that gets under your skin and forces you to press copies into your best friends’ hands.” Now The Sun and Other Stars, Pasulka’s extraordinary second novel, is all that and more: a profound, compelling, and big-hearted masterpiece that showcases an exquisite writer at the joyful height of her talents.

In the seaside village of San Benedetto, a resort town on the Italian Riviera, twenty-twoyear- old Etto finds himself adrift. Within the past year, Etto has not only lost both his twin brother and his mother, but in his grief has become estranged from his father, the local butcher. While his father passes the time with the men of the town in the fine tradition of Italian men everywhere—a reverential obsession with soccer—Etto retreats ever further from his day-to-day life, seeking solace in the hills above the town.

But then a Ukrainian soccer star, the great Yuri Fil, sweeps into San Benedetto, taking refuge himself from an international scandal. Soon Yuri and his captivating tomboy sister Zhuki invite Etto into their world of sport, celebrity, loyalty, and humor. Under their influence, Etto begins to reconstruct his relationship with his father and, slowly, open himself back up to the world. Who knows: perhaps the game of soccer isn’t just a waste of time, and perhaps San Benedetto, his father, love, and life itself might have more to offer him than he ever believed possible. The Sun and Other Stars is a gorgeous, celebratory tale about families, compromise, and community, and about how losses can be transformed into hope. Irresistible and unforgettable, it is a shimmering miracle of a book.

I received this book for free from Simon and Schuster in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

I also recommend:

My Review:

I’ve been stewing on this review for quite some time now.  You see, I read The Sun and Other Stars by Brigid Pasulka in early December.  I couldn’t wait, because it was in my hands, I loved her previous (and debut) novel, A Long, Long Time Ago & Essentially True, and the cover..it just taunted me every time I opened my e-reader.  So I read it.  And it was completely unlike anything I expected.  You see, I went into The Sun and Other Stars thinking it would be similar to Pasulka’s previous novel, but it was so very different – or so I thought.

But now, as I sit here months later, thinking back on the story, on the parts that really stuck with me, I realize that in spite of having a completely different setting, the magic was still there for me.  I know absolutely nothing about football (or, as we call it here, soccer), yet I was completely sucked in by the story that Pasulka told in this book.  The reason that the story has stuck with me for so long in such an intense way is because, in spite of the sport involved and all of the jargon that’s part of writing and reading about that sport, and in spite of my lack of interest in it at all, I still absolutely loved every element of The Sun and Other Stars.

What Pasulka does best is write romantic love stories.  I’m not talking sparks flying, instant love between two gorgeous people who have no flaws, love stories.  I’m not talking Twilight creepy stories or love stories that seem as if they are teetering on a very high cliff, ready to fall off and into pieces at the merest breath of a wind.  I’m talking a love story that grows from the roots up – that takes two seemingly ordinary people and makes them extraordinary, simply because of the love they share for the other person.  That’s what The Sun and Other Stars is about, at its core.  It’s about love: not just romantic stories either, but love between family and friends, and love within the community.

I identified so well with The Sun and Other Stars in spite of our differences.  I don’t speak the jargon that Pasulka had to beef up on in order to write a story that used sports as its platform, but I know what her heart was saying through the medium of this book, and I have to say, I’m just as in love with what she wrote here as I was with her previous book.  I’m a fan and cannot wait for her next release.

Check out these reviews!

  • “Despite my initial reservations, I found it quite heart warming and closed the book thoroughly satisfied with the way things turned out.” – More Than Just Magic
  • “Overall Pasulka has writing a very beautiful an intimate novel that has the potential to make soccer appealing to those who aren’t fans of the sport before reading the book.”  - Words of Mystery
  • “This is one to remember. I highly recommend this, and I urge you to check it out.” – Coffee and a Book Chick

Book Review: Mind of Winter by Laura Kasischke

Book Review: Mind of Winter by Laura KasischkeMind of Winter by Laura Kasischke
Published by HarperCollins on 2014-03-25
Genres: Contemporary Women, Fiction, Literary, Psychological
Pages: 288
Format: eARC
Source: HarperCollins
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three-stars
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Laura Kasischke, the critically acclaimed and nationally bestselling poet and author of The Raising, returns Mind of Winter, a dark and chilling thriller that combines domestic drama with elements of psychological suspense and horror—an addictive tale of denial and guilt that is part Joyce Carol Oates and part Chris Bohjalian.On a snowy Christmas morning, Holly Judge awakens with the fragments of a nightmare floating on the edge of her consciousness. Something followed them from Russia. Thirteen years ago, she and her husband Eric adopted baby Tatty, their pretty, black-haired Rapunzel, from the Pokrovka Orphanage #2. Now, at fifteen, Tatiana is more beautiful than ever—and disturbingly erratic.As a blizzard rages outside, Holly and Tatiana are alone. With each passing hour, Tatiana’s mood darkens, and her behavior becomes increasingly frightening . . . until Holly finds she no longer recognizes her daughter.

I received this book for free from HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

I also recommend:

My Review:

Well, this was quite the psychological thriller.  I mean, when people say they are reading a psychological thriller you don’t think that they are really reading from the point of view of someone who, in the first few pages alone, comes off as really struggling to get a grasp on reality, but that’s definitely how Laura Kasischke starts off Mind of Winter.  There is a serious bang – I could almost hear the shot, and the book was off.

I don’t want my three-star rating to fool you, I did enjoy Mind of Winter.  There were parts of it that just kept me from giving it one more star and, since I struggled, it was obvious it wasn’t a choice between a four and five star rating.  My issue was that, at times, it seemed Kasischke was going overboard with the repetition – and there is repetition in this book for a reason, I understand that, it just felt really overdone at certain points.  Additionally the switching back and forth… oy, it felt like I was on a merry-go-round and the speed was jacked up to about 350%.  I kept losing my place and having to re-start certain pages which doesn’t make for a very enjoyable read, unfortunately.

Still, all that aside, the premise and the blow-away ending were enough to keep me moving.  I knew that the book was going to be interesting based on a few key ingredients: strange repetition (yes, that’s one of my negative points, but in other places it still worked well), and the isolation of two key characters.  Nothing good can come of those two ingredients placed in the same environment for any length of time.

Mind of Winter was something I fully expected to be unable to put down, in spite of any faults it may have had.  I enjoyed Kasischke’s book, The Raising, and name recognition drew me to this story more than anything else.  If you enjoy a good psychological thriller, then I would suggest checking it out.  Just…pay close attention so the constant switching from past to present and back again doesn’t throw you like it did me.

Check out these reviews!

  • “I would categorize Mind of Winter as a contemporary tragedy, but with nothing otherworldly bordering on the paranormal.” – Bitsy Bling
  • “This is a very haunting book and I think people who enjoy heavily character-driven stories with unreliable narrators will enjoy this book.”  -Now is Gone

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Things On My Bookish Bucket List

toptentuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a fantastic meme hosted and created by The Broke and the Bookish.

Taking a step back from actual book covers, I’ve been looking forward to this list for some time.  Still, I haven’t managed to come up with a full ten items because, well, many of the things on my bucket list have been crossed off.  So I may just fill up the remaining numbers with the authors I would love to meet – just a fair warning!

1. BookExpo America

My desire to attend BookExpo America was born about four years ago.  I participated in Armchair BEA but it wasn’t the same.  In fact, in 2011, I actually was IN New York at the same time that BEA was being held, but unfortunately, I did not have the means to be there.  It’s a dream of mine that, in the future, I will actually be able to be present and fully participate.

2. Work in a Library

This is pretty cliche, but it’s been a dream of mine to be a librarian since I was a little girl.  This dream may actually be coming true soon, as I interviewed for a job at the Mililani Public Library here on O’ahu a few weeks ago!

3.  Meet Sharon Kay Penman

As much as I love fantasy, Sharon Kay Penman holds a very dear place in my heart.  I would absolutely love to meet her, but unfortunately all of the events and cons that I go to veer more toward the fantasy/sci-fi area and less toward the historical fiction genre.

4.  Visit Parnassus Books

I would just love to visit Nashville in general, but especially this.  Especially if there’s a reading or signing going on with an author I’ve read and loved.

5. Read Every Book on my Shelves

This is never going to happen, but I still hope that some day I will have finally picked up every dusty volume and at least read a bit of it.  I think they all deserve to be loved (and to think, in 2007, I started with one small little bookshelf).

6. Talk Books with Felicia Day

I’ve been a fan of Felicia Day’s since the early days of The Guild.  I would absolutely love to join in on one of her Vaginal Fantasy chats, and I adore reading her recommendations and watching the episodes.

7. Own First Edition Tolkien books.

Yeah so, I’m a Tolkien girl. I’ve read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy since I was a pre-teen.  I would absolutely love to showcase those books in the way they deserve to be showcased, but for now I’ll have to stick to my collectors copies.

8. Have Lunch with Frank Delaney

If you haven’t listened to his podcasts (ReJoyce) or read his books, then I suggest you do so as soon as possible.

9. Meet Suzanne Collins

..and beg her to sign my copies of The Hunger Games books.

10. Spend a month (or nine) just reading The Wheel of Time

They are all out now.  I have no excuse except for the mere fact that it is one of the most giant timesinks I can even think up of.

What are some of your bookish things on your bucket list?

Book Review: The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon

Book Review: The Winter People by Jennifer McMahonThe Winter People by Jennifer McMahon
Published by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group on 2014-02-11
Genres: Contemporary Women, Fiction, Ghost, Mystery & Detective, Suspense, Thrillers, Women Sleuths
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Source: Knopf Doubleday Publishing
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four-stars
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West Hall, Vermont, has always been a town of strange disappearances and old legends. The most mysterious is that of Sara Harrison Shea, who, in 1908, was found dead in the field behind her house just months after the tragic death of her daughter, Gertie. Now, in present day, nineteen-year-old Ruthie lives in Sara's farmhouse with her mother, Alice, and her younger sister, Fawn. Alice has always insisted that they live off the grid, a decision that suddenly proves perilous when Ruthie wakes up one morning to find that Alice has vanished without a trace. Searching for clues, she is startled to find a copy of Sara Harrison Shea's diary hidden beneath the floorboards of her mother's bedroom. As Ruthie gets sucked deeper into the mystery of Sara's fate, she discovers that she's not the only person who's desperately looking for someone that they've lost. But she may be the only one who can stop history from repeating itself.

I received this book for free from Knopf Doubleday Publishing in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

I also recommend:

My Review:

I’m going to admit that I’m pretty much over the narration style that involves shifting back to a time in history then jumping forward into the present to connect things.  Jennifer McMahon manages to make it a bit better in The Winter People by making some of the historical narrative present itself as diary entries.  Still, there was a lot of dates happening at the beginning of various sections in The Winter People and it never fails to confuse me.  Not once.  I mean, who really pays attention to dates – years even, let alone the actual month and day?  How do you do that if you do? I always, inevitably, have to flip back and remind myself… very inconvenient in an ebook format too, by the way.

Thankfully, the dates were not the only thing in The Winter People helping keep this reader on track.  McMahon offers up a compromise by putting various character names at the start of each change in narrative and this I could handle.  Honestly, if it hadn’t been like that, I may not have pushed forward and allowed myself to get hooked by the book, that’s how much I hate dates.  I’m glad the names were there, I’m glad I pushed forward because folks, this ghost story had me keeping my lights on last night.

If you pick up The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon, be prepared for some pretty gnarly superstitious stuff to be going on.  This book has it all – historical events that involve blood and gore, spells, myth and folklore, mystery, strangers connected via unseen forces… it’s all there.  And it’ll have you guessing because, if you are anything like me, you’ll be thinking you have it all figured out but nope, McMahon comes through again with one of her books and throws a wrench into what seems to be a carefully crafted story around an event that you start to think was never a mystery in the first place.

The Winter People is unlike the other books of McMahon’s I’ve read, but I knew when I picked it up that I was in for a white-knuckled read.  She’s consistently been an author who has been my go-to when I’m having issues with a reading slump and I think The Winter People is a great addition to her repertoire.

Check out these reviews!

  • “Fans of both literary fiction and ghost stories would do well to seek out this well-written and creepy tale.” – S. Krishna’s Books
  • “Fans of ghost stories and paranormal suspense should add this to their reading list.”  - Caffeinated Book Reviewer
  • “After bumpy start, book hooks you in and keeps you on the edge of your seat” - Misbehavin’ Librarian

Book Review: The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld

Book Review: The Enchanted by Rene DenfeldThe Enchanted by Rene Denfeld
Published by HarperCollins on 2014-03-04
Genres: Fiction, General, Literary, Psychological
Pages: 256
Format: eARC
Source: HarperCollins
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five-stars
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A wondrous and redemptive debut novel, set in a stark world where evil and magic coincide, The Enchanted combines the empathy and lyricism of Alice Sebold with the dark, imaginative power of Stephen King.

"This is an enchanted place. Others don't see it, but I do."

The enchanted place is an ancient stone prison, viewed through the eyes of a death row inmate who finds escape in his books and in re-imagining life around him, weaving a fantastical story of the people he observes and the world he inhabits. Fearful and reclusive, he senses what others cannot. Though bars confine him every minute of every day, he marries magical visions of golden horses running beneath the prison, heat flowing like molten metal from their backs, with the devastating violence of prison life.

Two outsiders venture here: a fallen priest, and the Lady, an investigator who searches for buried information from prisoners' pasts that can save those soon-to-be-executed. Digging into the background of a killer named York, she uncovers wrenching truths that challenge familiar notions of victim and criminal, innocence and guilt, honor and corruption-ultimately revealing shocking secrets of her own.

Beautiful and transcendent, The Enchanted reminds us of how our humanity connects us all, and how beauty and love exist even amidst the most nightmarish reality.

I received this book for free from HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

I also recommend:

My Review:

The Enchanted simply blew me away.  Seriously, folks, since when does a book about death row completely knock someone down, because that’s what happened to me with this one.  I went into it thinking there would be a whole Green Mile vibe and walked away feeling as if I’d been suckerpunched.  Not only did this book completely absorb me, it made me reconsider everything I thought I knew about pre-judging a person.

The Enchanted  is part real-life and part-fairytale, but a fairytale of the darker variety.  We are introduced to a nameless narrator, a man who is in a cell waiting for his death.  He is a voracious reader and, as the story unfolds, while he doesn’t reveal all of what he’s done there, it gets to the point where it doesn’t even matter anymore.  Who we do get to really know, though, are several other characters whose lives unfold in front of that one prisoner, in a sense.

The Enchanted  is a place where strange things happen.  There is a lot of symbolism in this book and it’s impossible to catch it and understand it all on the first read-through.  But it doesn’t matter, because the stories being told about the lives of those in the book are enough to carry momentum until the end of the book comes – and it does come quite suddenly.

I think that this is a book that would touch anyone who decided to pick it up and give it a shot.  It’s unusual, but not so strange that it would put off a casual reader.  If anything, it’ll make that casual reader more interested in the fate of the narrator and the other prison guards, inmates, priests, and investigators.  The Enchanted is a very profound, elegant look at a life that isn’t really a life at all.  And whose fault is that?

Check out these reviews!

  • “Though this turned out to be something so different from what I expected, I ended up being completely drawn in and totally enjoying it in the end.” – It’s All About Books…
  • “I’d say read it with caution, but definitely give it a try if you can handle the content and like lit fic.”  - Book Hooked
  • “While it’s not the type of book that I could read often, The Enchanted made me think.  ” -Books Without Any Pictures

Book Review: Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

Book Review: Two Boys Kissing by David LevithanTwo Boys Kissing by David Levithan
Published by Random House LLC on 2013
Genres: Emotions & Feelings, Homosexuality, Love & Romance, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 200
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Named to the 2013 National Book Award Longlist A 2014 Stonewall Honor Book In his follow-up to the New York Times bestselling Every Day, David Levithan, co-author of bestsellers Will Grayson, Will Grayson and Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, tells the based-on-true-events story of Harry and Craig, two 17-year-olds who are about to take part in a 32-hour marathon of kissing to set a new Guinness World Record--all of which is narrated by a Greek Chorus of the generation of gay men lost to AIDS. While the two increasingly dehydrated and sleep-deprived boys are locking lips, they become a focal point in the lives of other teen boys dealing with languishing long-term relationships, coming out, navigating gender identity, and falling deeper into the digital rabbit hole of gay hookup sites--all while the kissing (former) couple tries to figure out their own feelings for each other. The Los Angeles Times called Two Boys Kissing

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My Review:

If you would have told super conservative 17 year old me that I’d be reading a book titled Two Boys Kissing in 20 years, I would have thought you were not only lying, but you were going to hell for it.  Thank goodness I am not that 17 year old girl anymore.  One of the biggest areas of growth for me in the last decade has been a broadening of my worldview and an awareness of my own privilege.  While I understand that, as a woman, I still face some struggles, I need to also remember that there are others out there who are still being denied legal rights.  I don’t often speak out politically on this blog, but I wanted to start this review with a reminder to my 17 year old self – a reminder that I was, and still am, in no place to be judge and jury and that I am here to promote peace and love, in a non-cliche way.  And this book by David Levithan, is an excellent reminder of the struggles that a portion of the population of this world faces every day.

What I really enjoyed about Two Boys Kissing was the idea that the story was built on something that actually happened.  I mean, think about it, can you imagine locking lips with someone, anyone, for 32 hours and some odd minutes/seconds – still standing, mind you, unable to take a break for any reason at all?  The stamina that would take.  Now, why would you want to do something?  To merely break a world record?  That doesn’t seem noble or even something that I’d be interested in cheering on. Yet the boys in this story take on an entirely different issue – they do this in spite of the fact that they have broken up, in spite of the fact that one of them has yet to come out to his family.  They do it for friends who have been abused and beaten because of their sexual orientation.  They do it to take a stance and say that no matter how much people want to brush them under a rug, they aren’t going anywhere.

It’s a heartbreaking story as well.  Connor’s story had me in tears.  I’ve been in a place in my life where something happened to me and I was unable to talk to anyone about it.  It about broke me.  I wanted to just crawl away somewhere and never be found.  Why do we, as human beings, make others feel judged like this?  Can you imagine making someone so afraid of what you will think of them that they don’t tell you something and would choose to die instead?  That is what Connor struggles with and, again with Connors story, inspiration is drawn from a real life story.

David Levithan blew me away with Every Day and with Two Boys Kissing, he once again made me think about being in someone else’s shoes.  While I struggled a bit with the format of the book, I understand why he chose the narration style he did, but I think the story was strong enough that it didn’t need that type of narration and, in parts, it almost seemed a bit gimmicky to me.  Still, this short book packs a powerful punch and I was thrilled to see it sitting in the featured section of my library.

Check out these reviews!

  • “I thoroughly recommend this book to all readers, you’ll be a changed person afterwards.” – Happy Indulgence
  • “This is definitely a book with a message, a very loud and very unapologetic message.”  -  Dear Author
  • Two Boys Kissing is honestly one of the most profound and powerful books I have ever read. ” -Rather Be Reading

Book Review: Clever Girl by Tessa Hadley

Book Review: Clever Girl by Tessa HadleyClever Girl by Tessa Hadley
Published by HarperCollins on 2014-03-04
Genres: Contemporary Women, Family Life, Fiction, Literary
Pages: 272
Format: eARC
Source: HarperCollins
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three-stars
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Clever Girl is an indelible story of one woman’s life, unfolded in a series of beautifully sculpted episodes that illuminate an era, moving from the 1960s to today, from one of Britain’s leading literary lights—Tessa Hadley—the author of the New York Times Notable Books Married Love and The London Train.Like Alice Munro and Colm Tóibin, Tessa Hadley brilliantly captures the beauty, innocence, and irony of ordinary lives—an ability to transform the mundane into the sublime that elevates domestic fiction to literary art.

Written with the celebrated precision, intensity, and complexity that have marked her previous works, Clever Girl is a powerful exploration of family relationships and class in modern life, witnessed through the experiences of an English woman named Stella. Unfolding in a series of snapshots, Tessa Hadley’s moving novel follows Stella from the shallows of childhood, growing up with a single mother in a Bristol bedsit in the 1960s, into the murky waters of middle age.Clever Girl is a story vivid in its immediacy and rich in drama—violent deaths, failed affairs, broken dreams, missed chances. Yet it is Hadley’s observations of everyday life, her keen skill at capturing the ways men and women think and feel and relate to one another, that dazzles.

I received this book for free from HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

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My Review:

I really struggled with Clever Girl, I’m going to put that right out there first.  I seriously flirted with putting it down about five times, all before my usual minimum pages to be read before doing just that (63 pages, by the way).  But I pushed through and forced myself to pick up that book and .. around page 60, I finally was caught.  It’s not often that I struggle like that for a book I end up rather enjoying by the end, but still.. my experience was tainted by those first 59 pages and, frankly, for a book this size (only 212 pages on my e-reader) that’s a bit of an ouchie.

So, Clever Girl did not merit a four or five stars from me.  The ending of the book was a solid three and a half stars to four stars, so it wasn’t all lost, it was just that damned beginning.  I just didn’t care about Stella and I was so confused by the cast of characters surrounding here (I still don’t remember who a few at the end were) that I just kinda shrugged and pushed forward, hoping it would all work itself out.  It did, kind of.  But still, there were things left up in the air for me … I wouldn’t say resolved, because I’d have to know who some of the people were to resolve their parts.

Where this book really shone was the writing.  It was downright beautiful.  I could be totally cliche and pull out all of the adjectives used to describe writing like this: lyrical, musical, flowing – but let me just say that the writing far outshone the story being told.  Unfortunately, I don’t read books to read beautiful writing, I read them for a story.  That took second place here and it was far enough behind in the race that it almost didn’t finish as a result.  There needs to be a good balance and Hadley didn’t find it, in my opinion.

I was sad that I didn’t fall in love with Hadley’s writing in Clever Girl.  I know she has other titles out and I was hoping that I would be compelled to seek them out.  Unfortunately, that won’t be happening – however, if you would enjoy an extremely leisurely paced novel about a girl growing up in England from the 60′s on, then check out Clever Girl.  It might just work well for you.

Check out these reviews!

  • “If you love literary fiction and character studies, Clever Girl is a fantastic novel that provokes questions of love and purpose through life’s dips and turns. ” – Write Meg!
  • “As much as I loved Hadley’s Married Love, set in similar situations to those that Stella finds herself in, I just didn’t feel the same tug of recognition and emotional truth that was present in that collection. ”  - BookNAround
  • “The story flows well, with not too many moments of shock or surprise. ” - Books in the Burbs
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