Book 56: The Girl With No Shadow (Chocolat #2) – Joanne Harris

Harris, Joanne - The Girl with No ShadowAs I said in my response to Chocolat, I had no idea there were sequels and I’m so glad I decided to read them. I haven’t started the third, Peaches for Father Frances, but I’m excited to start it soon.

Harris takes the story of Vianne and Anouk we followed in Chocolat and expands the age-old battle between good and evil. Instead of the church, this time Vianne and Anouk, now Yanne and Annie, are battling evil itself and magic takes an even more prominent role in this story than in the first. And I was glad she did! She writes about magic in such a way as to make it beautifully common.

“It took me a little longer to recognize these things as magic. Like all children reared on stories, I’d expected fireworks: magic wands and broomstick rides. The real magic of my mother’s books seemed so dull, so fustily academic, with its silly incantations and its pompous old men, that it hardly counted as magic at all.” (67)

Beautifully common, might sound like an oxymoron or an insult, but it’s not. Harris’ writes about it so matter of fact and sets it up that way in this novel, common usage versus evil usage, that you can’t help but appreciate the beauty of the magic she chooses to write about.

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Book 55: The Silkworm (Cormoran Strike #2) – Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)

Galbraith, Robert (J.K. Rowling) - The SilkwormI don’t care what people say. I love J.K. Rowling.

She is a skilled story-teller and talented writer. With the two types of reactions most people have when they hear her name, it’s easy to see why she wanted her name kept far from her works as Robert Galbraith. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen, but this was a bonus for those of us who would never have discovered them.

On one side, you have those with visceral negative reactions to her and her writing. (A lot of the time by those who’ve never read her books.) And on the other side, you have the people who adore them solely because it’s J.K. Rowling; Obviously. Thankfully, I’m somewhere in the middle. I can both appreciate her as an evolving writer and find fault in her skills as a story-teller, especially in her post Harry Potter novels. (I’m still waiting for the, hmm Harry Potter isn’t as wondrous as I first thought it was moment, but it still hasn’t happened.)

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Book 54: Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence – Doris Pilkington Garimara

Garimara, Doris Pilkington - Follow the Rabbit-Proof FenceI know I say this regularly, but I can’t do justice to this book in my response. The more I think about it (I finished reading it last Wednesday), the more I realize I don’t know how to talk about it.

My local book group decided to do this book and movie, and it was an excellent choice even if I did miss the discussion! It was particularly relevant as Garimara died in April 2014 and is there a better way to honor a writer’s passing than reading their works?

I’m not sure, but if I had to guess I would say there are quite a few books out there about the Stolen Generations, but I’m not sure how many are first hand accounts. And that is where this story truly hits home. Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence is as much Garimara’s story as it is her mother and aunt’s. And to find out at the end that her mother made the journey a second time with one of her children and the incredible journey in the book and movie becomes that much more powerful.

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Book 53: Stone Mattress – Margaret Atwood

Atwood, Margaret - Stone MattressAtwood is an incredible writer and story teller and there’s really not much more that needs to be said, so when I saw her newest collection of short stories I knew I had to request it! I received a copy from the publisher, in return for my honest opinion:

Spectactular.

That would be a little cruel, to leave it just at that even though it would still describe it perfectly. Below, you’ll find a one-to-two sentence review of each of the nine tales and a single quote from each.

On a different note, if you haven’t heard Margaret Atwood is the first author of the future library! This is a project where authors are asked to write a work and it won’t be read for 100 years. This makes me both incredibly happy, as she writes such fantastic speculative/near future fiction, but also sad that I won’t be able to read it! It’s a fascinating project and I could go into it in detail, but really you should just read about it at The Guardian.

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Book 52: Chocolat (Chocolat #1) – Joanne Harris

Harris, Joanne - ChocolatThis book has been on my to-be-read shelf for so long it took quite a while to trace where and when I bought it! I apparently picked it up way back in October 2012 when I helped out at the Somerville Public Library book sale! I’m glad I grabbed a copy. I own a copy of the film, but for some reason I never realized they adapted it from a novel!

Add in that when random.org selected it as my next book and I prepared to read it I found out it was a trilogy, my mind was BLOWN! I was a little grumpy at first, because I had a plan worked out to read more of my to-be-read shelf and was trying really hard not to add more in between the books, but I do love a good trilogy! I plan to read two and three, The Girl With No Shadow and Peaches for Father Francis, in the next few weeks and am VERY excited about them!

Now on to the story and my response!

Book 49: L’America – Martha McPhee

McPhee, Martha - L'AmericaHonestly, I’m sad I didn’t like this as much as I thought I would. Seriously, I’ve given it the lowest rating of the year so far. I bought it in one of my bulk buys at the 2011 Boston Book festival and haven’t thought of it since. It came up on my list when I used random.org to select my next book.

Even though I finished it, I just could not invest in this book, and that’s never a good sign. It started off slow, and thankfully did pick up a good bit, but still finished slow. Seriously go read the paragraph long sentence that was the final sentence of the novel. Not fun.

I think where I struggled to enjoy the book and where the author struggled to write the book was in converting an excellent idea into a manageable and digestible amount. Thankfully, the book wasn’t longer, but it really struggled through the first half. Beth felt like a whiny idiot (she was a teenager) and Cesare just felt frigid and unapproachable. This definitely changed toward the end, but it didn’t change fast enough or thoroughly enough to make me want to bump up my rating.

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Book 46: The Hangman’s Revolution (W.A.R.P. #2) – Eoin Colfer

Colfer, Eoin - W.A.R.P. #2 - The Hangman's RevolutionIf it weren’t for the strength of the last book and Colfer’s series in general, the opening line of this novel might’ve made me turn back! I originally requested a copy of this from the publisher and you can read about my issues here (last paragraph under Books and Bookish – yes I’m naming and shaming now).

However, given the opening lines “meh” and the fact this is a second book in a series (almost always “meh”) this book turned out to be almost as good as The Reluctant Assassin the first of the W.A.R.P. series.

Part of the struggle, for me, with this novel is that the first one came out early last year and I’ve read so many books since then! Add in that this book starts in an alternative present and it took a few chapters to really start remembering characters and what happened in the previous book. I’m not sure if every book will be like this and I’m pretty sure not with the way this ended but there was a Chekhov gun introduced that I’m assuming will span the series (or at least another book)!

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