Little Deaths: #SpoilerFree #BookReview

Little DeathsLittle Deaths, a debut novel by Emma Flint, is a mystery crime thriller inspired by a true story (Alice Crimmins case). Flint mentions two books in the acknowledgments which were also inspired by the Alice Crimmins case, The Alice Crimmins Case by Kenneth Gross, and Ordeal by Trial by George Carpozi Jr. Little Deaths is a new book published in 2017 by Hachette Books.

We learn a lot about the main character, Ruth Malone, in the first chapter. She is telling us how much life has changed now that she’s in prison.

First chapter, first paragraph:

“On the rare nights that she sleeps, she is back in the skin of the woman from before.

     Then: she rarely slept neat in a nightgown, pillows plumped, face shining with cold cream. She sometimes woke in a rumpled bed with a snoring figure beside her; more often she woke alone on the sofa with near-empty bottles and near-full ashtrays, her skin clogged with stale smoke and yesterday’s makeup, her body tender, her mind empty. She would sit up, wincing, aware of the ache in her neck and of the sad, sour taste in her mouth.

    Now she wakes, not with the thickness of a headache or the softness of a blurred night behind her, but with forced clarity. Her days begin with a bell, with harsh voices, clanging metal, yelling. With the throat-scraping smells of bleach and urine. There’s no room in these mornings for memories.”

Ruth Malone used to be a cocktail waitress living in Queens, New York, 1965. She was recently separated from her husband, Frank, and was struggling to take care of her two kids Frankie (almost six years old) and Cindy (four years old). Ruth was a poor, proud woman who felt like she’s had a harder life than anyone else. She wears too much makeup, moves in a sexy, smooth way that enabled her to get almost any guy she wanted. Ruth cheated on her husband, with Lou Gallagher, and was also sleeping around with Johnny Salcito. Lou was using her as arm candy, while Johnny was madly in love with her.

Ruth and her kids lived in a cramped apartment building neighborhood with lots of nosy women like Carla Bonelli on the third floor, Sally Burke’s prying mother in the next building, and Nina Lombardo next door.

At times I loved Ruth for her spit-fire attitude, but most of the time I disliked her choices, especially how she put herself before her children. For example, she kept their bedroom door latched at night (claiming it’s for their safety), and doesn’t unlatch it until she has gotten dressed, had coffee, a smoke, and walked the dog Minnie. On July 14th, the day everything changed, it was 9:10am by the time she unlatched the kid’s bedroom door. I have two kids, and I can’t even imagine doing that. When my eyes open in the morning my first thought for the past ten years is to check on my kids.

And the sight of her hand in front of her, lifting the latch, pushing the door. And again, and again, every moment since: the slow sweep of the white-painted wood, and the widening expanse of light, and her hand falling to her side through the weight of the still air, and her voice catching in her dry throat. And the room beyond. Empty.” (page 21)

When her kids are reported missing, Sergeant Devlin and his noobie partner Detective Quinn immediately blame Ruth, and become obsessed trying to discover evidence to prove her guilt.

Pete Wonicke, one of the newer journalists writing for The Herald, scores the missing children story thanks to his quick-thinking. Pete’s boss Friedmann instructs him to ignore the truth and write the story that readers want to hear.

“”Readers want three things, Wonicke.” He ticket them off on his fingers. “They want to see the money. Or the lack of it. To feel envious, or superior.”

Another finger, bent back. “They want sex. There’s always a hot dame. Or a dame we can work up into hot. There’s always an angle we can use.”

A third finger. “And every story needs a bad guy. Every story needs fear.”

On the day children go missing at 1:30pm, little Cindy is found dead. On July 25 Frankie is found dead. And we begin to believe that maybe Sergeant Devlin was right. Maybe Ruth did kill her children.

Over the next three months the cops and Pete follow Ruth’s every move. The cops are trying to find that final piece of evidence that will allow them to make an arrest. Pete is talking to everyone who every knew her, her ex husband Frank, or her lovers Lou and Johnny. He’s fallen madly in love with Ruth and believes she is innocent.

At the end of November, three months after her son is found dead, Ruth is arrested for the murders of her children and the trial begins. The courtroom proceedings are exciting, and surprising.

I whipped through the pages so fast wanting to know who did it. I constantly shifted back and forth on Ruth’s innocence. GREAT novel, my only complaint is that we don’t find out for sure who did it until the last ten pages. The ending felt quite rushed to me, and I would have liked another 30-50 pages for resolution.

If you like stories inspired by true crime, or mystery thrillers, you’ll love this quick read.

The Books of Magic by Neil Gaiman #spoilerfree #bookreview #fantasybingo

The Books of MagicThe Books Of Magic: The Deluxe Edition

Written By: Neil Gaiman

Illustrated By: John Bolton, Charles Vess, Scott Hampton, Paul Johnson

Originally Published 1990, 1991 by DC Comics

Goodreads Blurb:

From Neil Gaiman, the bestselling novelist and creator of the world-renowned comics title The Sandman, comes a mesmerizing tale of the dangers and opportunities of youth, and its endless possibilities. Illustrated by four of comics’ most accomplished artists, John Bolton, Scott Hampton, Charles Vess and Paul Johnson, THE BOOKS OF MAGIC collects all four issues of the original
miniseries that introduced the character of Timothy Hunter and set the stage for his continuing adventures.

Timothy Hunter could be the most powerful magician in the world, but does he really want to be? Guided through the magical world starting at the begining of time by a group of DC Universe magicians, often refered to as the Trenchcoat Brigade (John Constantine, Phantom Stranger, Mister E, and Doctor Occult), they attempt to aid Timothy in his decision whether or not to embrace his gift. However, by the time Timothy makes a choice, it may have already been made for him.”

This edition has all four books:
Book I: The Invisible Labyrith
Book II: The Shadow World
Book III: The Land Of Summer’s Twilight
Book IV: The Road To Nowhere

trenchcoat brigade.jpgThe “Trenchcoat Brigade” (Constantine, Doctor Occult, Mister E, and an unnamed stranger) take twelve year old Timothy Hunter on the most amazing journey to the past and future.

 

“It is up to the four of us to ensure that he chooses his path correctly”.

Timothy first travels to “the void” where he sees angels and archangels. Here he learns that people kill what they fear. John Constantine then takes Timothy on a plane to New York where Timothy meets Boston Brand. Boston warns Timothy that people are looking for him. Boston Brand is quite an interesting character who takes control of the minds of random people a few times throughout the story in order to warn Timothy of danger. Mister Fate, AKA Doctor Fate, AKA Kent Nelson, also visits Timothy to warn him that there is now a price on his head. Nelson pleads Constantine to find sanctuary.

Timothy continues on his journey with his other guides, meeting more interesting characters, is chased by a witch who owns a house with legs, and in the end must choose either an exciting, but dangerous life with magic, or a less exciting, but safer life of science.

I’ve only read one other graphic novel that I can remember, so I’m afraid I can’t offer an weighted opinion. The art was fantastic, very dark DC comic feeling. The Books Of Magic reminded me of A Christmas Carol with appearances by fate, fairies, and witches. I did find it quite strange that Timothy is a young teen who wears glasses, has a pet owl and is learning about magic…remind you of anyone? I’m all for authors taking an idea and running with it, and J.K. Rowling certainly did create an entire world that had nothing in common with Gaiman’s world that I could tell, but Harry Potter and Timothy Hunter sure have a lot in common. Perhaps she hasn’t even read The Books Of Magic and it’s a huge coincidence. Neil Gaiman has written about it on his blog if you’d like to see his opinion.

I gave it three stars on Goodreads because I did like the characters, the worlds were creative, the art was beautiful, but the plot was predictable for me and I feel like there could have been a bit more detail into the Trenchcoat Brigade’s motivations.

 

The Essex Serpent Book Review – Spoiler Free

The Essex Serpent is a slow, seductive, mysterious, historical literary fiction novel set in the Victorian era.

The Essex Serpent

 

The Essex Serpent

By Sarah Perry

Published 2016

The Essex Serpent #FirstChapterFirstParagraph

This tale begins on New Year’s Eve. A drunk man wanders to the edge of Blackwater estuary, flirting with the idea of going for a dip, he suddenly catches a glimpse of “something vast, hunched, grimly covered over with rough and lapping scales” (page 5). He is later found dead, with his head turned 180 degrees.

Time is marked by the tide,
Time is served in jail,
Time can be wasted and lost,
Time is money,
Time passes no matter how we try to stop it.

“In a Circle Line carriage, Westbound, fitful lights showed The Times had nothing happy to report, and in the aisle a bag spilled damaged fruit. There was the scent of rain on raincoats, and among the passengers, sunk in his upturned collar, Dr. Luke Garrett was reciting the parts of the human heart.” (page 13) Dr. Garrett, a 32 year old man with short stature and a lopsided gait, is traveling to the funeral of his patient, Michael Seaborne, who died from cancer of the throat. Mr. Seaborne’s wife, Cora, is our main character. She is a tall, strong, not slender, gray-eyed, independent woman who does not mourn for her abusive husband. While Mr. Seaborne was ill many nurses walked out on him, one claiming he was the devil. With Mr. Seaborne dead, Cora has been born again, and is free to pursue her passion for science. Their eleven year old son Francis has some odd characteristics, and I suspect he is on the Autism spectrum. Francis has had the same nanny since birth, a thirty three year old woman named Martha.

While caring for Mr. Seaborne, Dr. Garrett has fallen in love with Cora. She thinks of him as a friend, but doesn’t return his romantic feelings. She travels to Colchester with Martha and Francis for some peace and quiet. Martha and Cora meet Thomas Taylor, who tells them a story about the earthquake that shook the Essex Serpent from it’s hiding place. They run into Charles and Katherine Ambrose who were also visiting Colchester. Charles was once a colleague of Cora’s late husband, Michael.

Charles tells Cora about the Essex Serpent while enjoying pastries at a café. “Three hundred years ago or thereabouts a dragon took up residence in Henham, twenty miles northwest of here. Ask at the library and they’ll show you the leaflets they nailed up round the town: eyewitness accounts from farmers, and a picture of some kind of leviathan with wings of leather and a toothy grin. It used to lie about basking in the sunshine and snapping its beak (its beak, mind you!), and no one thought much of it until a boy got his leg broken. It vanished soon after, but the rumors never did. Every time crops failed or the sun eclipsed, or there was a plague of toads, someone somewhere would see the beast down on the riverbank, or lurking on the village green. And listen: it’s back!” Charles then tells Cora about the man who had washed up on shore New Year’s Day with a broken neck. This convinces Cora she must go to Aldwinter and search for the serpent in hopes that she can make a great scientific discovery. Katherine suggests Cora meet up with the Ransome family while in Aldwinter.

William Ransome is a reverend, married to Stella, and they have three children named Joanna, John, and James. Will does not believe in Darwin, or the Essex Serpent, and tries to convince Cora and all other believers in town that there is nothing to be a afraid of.

Henry Banks believes his lost rowing boat is a result of the Essex Serpent. His daughter Naomi Banks is friends with Will’s daughter Joanna.

One of the most interesting characters is Mr. Cracknell, who lives on the edge of the marsh. During the past three years he has lost his wife, sister, and his son. He has witnessed some strange happenings and also blames them on the serpent.

In April Cora, Martha, and Francis move to Aldwinter, which enables Cora to become quite good friends with Will and his family. As Will and Cora strengthen their relationship everything else falls apart.

The Essex Serpent may be a slow-burning story, but you’ll be on the edge of your seat trying to figure out if there really is a monster terrorizing the small town.

 

As soon as I finished the book I wanted to go back and start it all over again. (In fact, I did go back and re-read the first 100 pages). This is a story in which you’ll see something new each time you read it. Sarah Perry developed authentic friendships that change with time and circumstance. I highly recommend you give this one a read – I have a funny feeling that it will be picked up and made into a movie. Such a great story about good vs evil, love, family, lust, loyalty, guilt, fear, and how time creates the ebb and flow changing everything in its wake.

Fantastic Beasts #SpoilerFree #BookReview

Fantastic Beasts and Where to find them.jpg

Photo from Goodreads

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay

Written By: J.K. Rowling

Illustrations by Minalima

Published 2016

This enchanting tale begins in Europe, 1926. We then meet Newt Scamander, the chaser of truth, as he arrives New York. He claims he came to New York to buy an Appaloosa Puffskeins. We later find out he’s really there so he can bring Frank the Thunderbird home to Arizona. Newt stumbles across a crowd who are watching Mary Lou Barebone’s lecture about how we should be fearful of magic, and the wizards who are all around us. She has three adopted children: Credence, Chastity, and Modesty. I like the creative naming of the children, their meanings being the complete opposite of what Mary Lou Barebone is;

Credence: belief as to the truth of something

Chastity: the state of being pure

Modesty: being humble, free from vanity

As Newt is watching Mary Lou, he’s being watched by Tina Goldstein. She works for the Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA). She spies the latch of Newt’s case opening on its own, and suspects he is entering America with dangerous magical creatures. She’s recently lost her auror status at MACUSA, and is intent on finding out exactly what Newt is up to in hopes that she can regain her status.

MACUSA are concerned with the dangerous magical activity that’s been going on in the city, and are also extremely worried about an evil wizard named Grindelwald. Percival Graves, who also works for MACUSA, suspects it’s the work of an Obscura, which is an unstable, uncontrollable dark force that busts out of a witch or wizard who has been trying to suppress their magical abilities. Percival’s been secretly pushing Credence to try and figure out where the obscura is.

A Niffler escapes from Newt’s case and they set off on a wild goose chase, running into Jacob Kowalski who was on his way to the bank in order to inquire about a loan so he can open his own bakery.

Newt carries a briefcase which, like the TARDIS, is much bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. In this case Newt carries extraordinary creatures:

Niffler

Occamy

Thunderbird

Graphorns

Fwooper

Bowtruckle

Mooncalf

Nundu

Diricawl

Erumpent

Swooping Evil

Swooping_Evil_concept_art.png

Demiguise

Newt’s case is accidentally switched with Jacob’s case when they run into each other. He tracks Jacob down, and discovers many magical creatures escaped from the case while he was separated from it. Jacob, agrees to help Newt find his missing creatures. Tina hunts Newt down, suspecting him of breaking magical law, thinking if she can land a big arrest she may be able to regain her auror status. She thinks it’s one of his creatures that have been wreaking havoc on the city, so she agrees to help him find his creatures and recruits her sister Queenie (my favourite character, she can read minds).

There are parts of Fantastic Beasts which are quite comical. But at its heart it’s an enchanting, adventurous, dark, page-turning mystery. You don’t need to read, or know about Harry Potter in order to be able to enjoy this story.

Happy Reading!

 

 

Outlander: Spoiler Free Book Review

Outlander is Diana Gabaldon’s debut historical fiction, romance, adventure, Sci-Fi, fantasy novel published in June 1991. It’s the first book in a series that has also produced novellas, graphic novel, spin-off book series, and a tv show (the first two seasons can be found on Netflix).

“In a remarkable debut – vigorous, eloquent, and wholly original – Diana Gabaldon fuses a wry modern sensibility with the drama and passion of the eighteenth century, and vividly brings to life a heroine whose journey through time forces her to make an agonizing and fateful choice.” (part of the book cover blurb)

 

It’s 1945 in Scotland, and many are celebrating the end of the war. Claire, a royal army nurse, is off on a second honeymoon with her husband Frank, a history professor. They’ve been married for seven years, but have spent the majority of those years apart due to the war.

Claire and Frank witness a strange moonlit dance at a stone circle. The next day Claire returns to the site in order to fetch some flowers she spied the previous day. While doing so she hears a buzzing noise coming from the stone. As she lays her hands on it she is transported two hundred years into the past.

Moonlit stone circle.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“The past is a very different country, boiling with rumors of the Jacobite Pretender’s Rising, beset with ignorance and superstition, ravaged by pestilence and disease. Alone where no lady should be alone, and far from the familiar comforts of her other life, Claire’s usual resourcefulness is tested to the limit. The merciless English garrison captain so feared by others bears a disturbing resemblance to the husband she has just left behind. Her own odd appearance and even odder behavior expose her to accusations of witchcraft. And the strands of a political intrigue she doesn’t understand threaten to ensnare her at every turn” (part of the book cover blurb)

Jamie Fraser.jpg

From IMDB

A group of Scottish warriors save her from being raped. In this group of Highlanders is Jamie, a tall, broad, muscular,  fetching young warrior with blazing red hair and sky blue eyes. Believing she may be a spy, the Scots take her with them back to Castle Leoch. When Claire sees a castle that was nothing but remnants the last time she saw it, now at it’s best, she realizes she was most likely in the 18th Century.

Castle-leoch-still-1.jpg

Outlander Wiki page

Claire plots her escape, so she can find the magical stones which can take her back to 1945. As she gathers info, waiting for the perfect moment, she is forced to marry Jamie in order to keep her from harm. Jamie takes to calling her Sassenach – which means “Englishman” or “Outlander”. Their marriage gives them permission to admit to the love they have had for each other since they first met.

Jamie and Claire marriage.jpg

IMDB

“Claire is forced to choose between the future she has left and the past she now inhabits. And, having been plunged into an adventure that is at once unimaginably bizarre and unmistakably real, she learns an unforgettable lesson: that a man’s instinct to protect the woman he loves is as old as time.”

At 627 pages, with small lettering, Outlander is quite a lengthy novel packed with big themes; love, lust, trust, infidelity, sexual harassment, rape, domestic abuse, war, and adventure highlighting the fact that there are always good and evil people, no matter what time period we find ourselves in.

Gabaldon did a fantastic job conveying the Scottish accent in the dialogue. I could clearly picture every character’s appearance and voice. Her writing is positively splendid. I often found myself reading aloud, attempting to imitate accents. The words nicely slip off your tongue. I didn’t notice any awkward sentences (something I am guilty of doing at times and hence notice in other people’s writing). Here is a passage that I found quite striking:

“There was a feeling, not sudden, but complete, as though I had been given a small object to hold unseen in my hands. Precious as opal, smooth as jade, weighty as a river stone, more fragile than a bird’s egg. Infinitely still, live as the root of Creation. Not a gift, but a trust. Fiercely to cherish, softly to guard. The words spoke themselves and disappeared into the groined shadows of the roof.”

hugh munroOne of my favourite characters has quite a small part, and I wish we got to know more of him. Hugh Munro is an interesting man with a “jack-o-lantern” grin, orange-brown leathery skin, and bright blue eyes. His broad shoulders are off balance with one higher than the other, and he speaks sign language because he had his tongue cut out. He can also write Latin, as he was once a school teacher. I mean – doesn’t he just sound fascinating!? I could read an entire novel about his life.

There were some strange fantastical moments thrown in to this story which I feel weren’t necessary such as Claire seeing the Loch Ness “waterhorse”. I also had a really hard time getting over the fact that Jamie beat Claire and somehow she’s to blame. The fact that he hit her violates the oath he took at their wedding that he would protect her until his last drop of blood. I could write an entire blog post on this topic…in fact, in University I wrote an entire research report for an Anthropology class about domestic violence in Medieval England. But that discussion is for another place, another time. 😉

The TV show follows the novel pretty closely, with some liberties taken from parts of the plot, and the ending was slightly altered. The casting director chose quite well for Jamie’s part, he is exactly as I had imagined in my mind. I had imagined Claire to look and speak differently, and at first I didn’t like the Claire in the TV show, but within a few episodes she grew on me.

I recommend both the book and the TV show to anyone who enjoys an adventurous story, filled with love, war, and sex (at times graphic).  ***warning*** There are many scenes of graphic violence, including flogging, injuries, and rape.

Wyrd Sisters Spoiler-Free Book Review

wyrd sisters

Wyrd Sisters (Discworld #6) by Terry Pratchett

Originally published: 1988

A magical/paranormal, science fiction fantasy comedy, inspired by Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Hamlet, and King Lear.

Goodreads blurb:

Kingdoms wobble, crowns topple and knives flash on the magical Discworld as the statutory three witches meddle in royal politics. The wyrd sisters battle against frightful odds to put the rightful king on the throne. At least, that’s what they think…

I chose to read this book because it was the r/fantasy Goodreads Group book of the month for May (which satisfies one of my Fantasy Bingo squares).

1st paragraph: Wyrd Sisters #FirstChapterFirstParagraph

Characters:

Nanny Ogg

Granny Esme Weatherwax: most highly regarded witch

Magrat Garlick: junior witch

DEATH

Verence the Fool

Tom John

Takes place in Lancre, within Discworld. Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax agreed to Magrat’s proposition and they form a coven. King Verence, Monarch of Lancre is dead, and replaced by Duke Felmet and his wife, the horrible Lady Felmet. The three witches see how horrible this new king is, and try to dethrone him. While watching the theater the witches are reminded that words can be powerful – and hatch their plan, which includes altering time itself.

The banter between the witches was quite amusing, and I did laugh out loud quite a few times. The first half of the story is a little slow – but the second half makes up for it. It’s been many years since I’ve read Macbeth or Hamlet, so a lot of the jokes whizzed right over my head. In fact, I found the first half of the book confusing – so much so that I went back to the start and re-read it more slowly. I know many readers love Pratchett and his Discworld stories and it’s highly rated on Goodreads, however it’s a 3 star read for me…maybe even 2.5 star. This may be due to the fact that it’s the first book I’ve read from this world, perhaps I need a little background on the characters before jumping in. I’m willing to go back and read some previous novels, and maybe some newer releases as well.

Have you read any Terry Pratchett? What did you think?

Thirteen Reasons Why #spoilerfree #bookreview

I finished reading Thirteen Reasons Why, a young adult fictional novel, yesterday, and put off writing a review until now because my mind needed to simmer awhile on what I wanted to write. After watching the Netflix adaptation, I was inspired to read the book by Jay Asher. I have to say upfront that I liked the book A LOT more than the Netflix series. There are many differences between the two, and the Netflix series is much more brutal than the original story.

Thirteen Reasons Why has won many awards:
American Library Association’s “Best Books for Young Adults”
Heartland Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature
Florida Teens Read Award
California Book Award
Barnes & Noble’s “Top 10 Best for Teens”
Chicago Public Library’s “Best of the Best Books”
and more…

I read the Deluxe Tenth Anniversary edition, which also includes an introduction from Jay Asher, deleted scenes, and original ending. The cover is stunning, showing a teen girl sitting on a swing, half in the dark, half in the light. This accurately depicts Hannah’s emotional battle. A gold play button sits in the middle, waiting for you to press play and hear her story.

13RWanniversary

You can’t stop the future.

You can’t rewind the past.

The only way to learn the secret…is to press play.

“Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker – his classmate and crush – who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Hannah’s voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out why.

Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a firsthand witness to Hannah’s pain, and as he follows her recorded words throughout town, what he discovers changes his life forever.”

www.thirteenreasonswhy.com

The novel is told from two perspectives, Hannah Baker’s and Clay Jensen, who were classmates at Liberty High School, in an unnamed town sometime in the 2000s. Clay and Hannah also worked together at Cresmont Theater. Jay Asher has said the story was based on the town where he grew up, San Luis, California.

At first I found the back-n-forth between Hannah’s taped voice and Clay’s present thoughts jarring, but quickly adapted, and realized this technique allowed Clay to express the reader’s responses to some of Hannah’s irrational reasoning.

Asher tackles the touchy subject of suicide in a gentle, yet authentic way. Thirteen Reasons Why highlights friendship, family, trust, loneliness, and depression in a thrilling modern coming-of-age story.

Clay listens to all seven tapes in one night, the reader turning the pages just as fast as Clay turns each tape. This is a really quick read, great for those who aren’t big on reading, who are getting into reading, or who are getting out of a reading slump.

Some may find it hard to relate to Hannah, but when I was a teen I had many of the same feelings she did, have struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts, which enabled me to connect with Hannah easily. Many of her thoughts and actions were completely irrational, and I understand that some readers will find her annoying. I suggest you attempt to put yourself into the shoes of someone who is having a really bad day every single day, who feels left out, put down, used, and abused. Who wants things to get better, but isn’t strong enough to ask her parents or friends for help. If you can find yourself in that mindset then I think you’ll be able to relate to her character.

In his introduction Jay Asher explained the three words that were his motivation for the entire story – “Everything affects everything”. As Hannah shared her thirteen reasons why she wanted to end her life, we see how each character’s story affect each other.

Many reviewers have said they feel like everyone should read this book at least once in their life, and I would have to say I completely agree. I recommend this book to everyone over the age of 16.

Find out more about Jay Asher on his blog http://jayasher.blogspot.ca/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whimsical Novel from Canadian Author: The Lonely Hearts Hotel – Review #spoilerfree

Like a tough meat turning tender in a homemade beef stew, Heather O’Neill’s newest novel, The Lonely Hearts Hotel, will toughen your heart with the abuse of two orphans, then mend it with a timeless love story of two quirky, yet magical destined sweethearts called Rose and Pierrot. This dark, peculiar, imaginative fairy-tale takes place in Montreal and NYC from the 1910s to 1940s.

lonely hearts hotel

Published in 2017 by HarperCollins. Picture from Goodreads.

After being sexually abused by her cousin, “Iggy”, a young teenager gave birth to her baby at the Hôpital de la Miséricorde. The baby was born blue, declared dead, then somehow came back to life. “The nuns at the orphanage called this baby Pierrot because he was so pale and he always had a rather stupid grin on his face.”

Another teenage mother gave birth to a baby girl in a bathtub, relinquished her newborn to a woman who, for a small fee, promised she would find a good home. The woman left the baby, and other infants, in a park to freeze in the snow. Miraculously, the baby girl was found and brought to the orphanage with blue marks on her cheeks. “All the girls at the orphanage were named Marie, and so was this baby girl. But her nickname, which she would always be known by, was Rose, because the two bright spots on her cheeks had turned from blue to red, then took two more weeks to disappear”.

Pierrot grew into a tall, blonde, slender performer with a natural piano-playing ability. Rose bloomed into a stunning young lady with dark hair, also an artist, she loved to create hilarious skits, and dance to Pierrot’s beautiful music.

Sister Eloïse had been sexually abusing Pierrot for years and was insanely jealous of how close Pierrot and Rose were becoming, which was heightened when Mother Superior decided to send Pierrot and Rose out to perform at local old-age homes and in order to make money for the orphanage. These outings gave them a chance to fall head-over-heels in love, and make plans for their Snowflake Icicle Extravaganza circus that they would one day run together.

A rich elderly man named Irving stopped at the orphanage to give his usual donation when he heard Pierrot playing the piano. He loved it so much that he adopted Pierrot so that he could listen to the alluring music every day. Sister Eloïse ripped up Pierrot’s goodbye letter to Rose while Rose was locked in the cupboard. Rose’s heart broke thinking she had been abandoned yet again. She left to work as a governess where she would mainly be looking after two children, Hazel and Ernest McMahon.

Pierrot wrote letters to Rose for years, which Sister Eloïse destroyed. And so, the two attempt to live life without each other, yet always yearning for the other. Rose becomes McMahon’s mistress, then porn actress, while Pierrot ends up a heroin addict playing the piano at a movie theater.

I love the way O’Neill writes. It’s absolutely sublime to read:

“His pupils always dilated for a split second when he was confronted with the truth. Once she saw his eyes turn black, he had already confessed to her.”

“She looked at the cheap wedding ring on her finger. She would always wear it. It was like a small snowflake that had landed on a mitten – and it was so beautiful. It was always just about to melt.”

The perspective bounces back and forth between Rose and Pierrot frequently. Sometimes you’ll get a full chapter from one perspective, then other times you only get one sentence. I found this annoying at first, but eventually became used to it, and as the story progressed found myself enjoying the jumping as if it were piano notes hopping around creating the rhythm of their story.

The Lonely Hearts Hotel reminds us about the importance of art, and how it can positively affect people even during the saddest, most desperate times. O’Neill also uses this story to highlight gender expectations, and I love the fact that Rose is a strong female, unafraid of the glass ceiling.

My only critique is that the lengthy section of the book where Rose and Pierrot are separated. We are left yearning for them to find each other for about two hundred pages. I was beginning to get a little bored with their continuous pining for each other.

The Lonely Hearts Hotel ultimately is about the power of hate versus the power of love. O’Neill weaved a story set in the Great Depression, with graphic sex scenes, drug addiction, abuse, violence, yet managed to teach us a touching lesson about true love, and forgiveness.

 

A Tapestry of Tears #SpoilerFreeBookReview

A Tapestry of Tears is a collection of beautiful yet heart-breaking short stories from India.

A Tapestry of Tears

“Set in the early nineteenth century, A Tapestry of Tears is about female infanticide, and the unmaking of tradition. If a woman gives birth to a female child, she must feed her the noxious sap of the akk plant. That is the tradition, parampara. Veeranwali rebels, and fights to save her offspring.
The other stories span a spectrum of emotions and also bring to life the varied culture and social spectrum of India. Woven into this collection is the past and the present, despair and hope, and the triumph of the human spirit.”

Published 2016

The first story shares the same name as the book, A Tapestry of Tears. This story highlights a prevalent subject that I think many of us face which is the big question  – Should we choose love for our partner over family obligation?

Other stories talk about an elderly woman’s first day at an old age home, and the inner-struggle her family members have wondering if putting her in the home was the right thing to do. Reddy doesn’t shy away from big topics like terrorism, and discusses it’s impact in This Love Business. In Aalaya we are given a story about hope, family, perseverance, love, and hard work.

Division Into Two is another somber story about a tough women named Waseema, called Bibi by most, who lived through the violent Partition which divided Pakistan and India. Her brother, on his death bed, has sent his son Om to meet Waseema and beg for his forgiveness 53 years after he had betrayed her.

“…if a human being is divided with his body in one place and his heart in another, the sun of the parts does not make a whole”

The Empress’ New Gowns is a quirky story about two clothing designers coming to visit the Emperor, and end up teaching the Emperor and Empress a lesson on self-confidence.

Never Ever is about one of the toughest life events that too many of us face – divorce. It doesn’t just break up a family, it also breaks up friendships. I could relate to this one because my parents divorced when I was young, and now as an adult I have a few close friends who went through divorce/separation this year and it has caused big changes for our group of friends.

The other stories in this collection all tackle some of life’s toughest challenges. It’s amazing to realize that it doesn’t matter where you’re born, what religion you may follow, or how much money you have – we all face many of the same obstacles in life. We can choose to let them defeat us, or we can choose to find a way to thrive.

If you enjoy stories about family, hardships, life, and hope, I highly recommend you pick up A Tapestry of Tears. It’s available on Amazon.

Check out the author’s website: http://www.gitavreddy.com/

 

 

Dragon Teeth #BookReview #SpoilerFree

Dragon TeethMichael Crichton, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Jurassic Park, returns to the world of paleontology in this recently discovered novel—a thrilling adventure set in the Wild West during the golden age of fossil hunting.
Goodreads Blurb

When HarperCollins sent me a complimentary Advance Reader’s E-Proof of Dragon Teeth by Michael Crichton for review I was convinced that I wouldn’t enjoy it all that much. A book about Paleontology in the Wild West isn’t something I would have ever selected to read. By the end of the first chapter I was hooked.

Dragon Teeth is a thrilling historical fiction novel set in 1870’s, before the Wild West was “conquered”. After a terrible first year at Yale, William Johnson, a young man from Philadelphia and grandson of a Scottish immigrant, accepts a bet of $1,000 proposed by Harold Hannibal Marlin to go West on an expedition with Paleontologist Professor Marsh. The expedition was expected to be about 2.5 months long, but for William it ended up consuming a year of his life.

Professor Marsh’s arch rival is Professor Edward Drinker Cope. Marsh is a paranoid man who believes Cope is always spying on him. They are two Paleontologists competing in the strange new world of finding fossils, and naming undiscovered species of dinosaur.

William is given a list of supplies he’ll need, which include a knife, revolver, and rifle. That alone is enough to tell you that the next few months will be life-changing and life-threatening.

Some of the characters in Dragon Teeth were based on real people, and actual events.

Edward Drinker Cope was a “paleontologist who discovered approximately a thousand species of extinct vertebrates in the United States and led a revival of Lamarckian evolutionary theory, based largely on paleontological views.” https://www.britannica.com/biography/Edward-Drinker-Cope

Othniel Charles Marsh “spent his entire career at Yale University (1866–99) as the first professor of vertebrate paleontology in the United States. In 1870 he organized the first Yale Scientific Expedition, which explored the Pliocene deposits (2.6–5.3 million years old) of Nebraska and the Miocene deposits (5.3–23 million years old) of northern Colorado.” https://www.britannica.com/biography/Othniel-Charles-Marsh

Wyatt Earp was a “legendary frontiersman of the American West, who was an itinerant saloonkeeper, gambler, lawman, gunslinger, and confidence man.” https://www.britannica.com/biography/Wyatt-Earp

Charles Hazelius Sternberg “was an American fossil collector and amateur paleontologist.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Hazelius_Sternberg

William Johnson, is an entirely fictitious character who undergoes a tremendous attitude change throughout the novel. There are themes of Greed vs Downfall, Betrayal, Heroism, Sacrifice, and Isolation. During a time when Americans were at war with Native Americans, before the Wild West was won, this novel was bound to be a page-turning thriller.

 

Also by Michael Crichton:

Westworld originalWestworld is an American science fiction–thriller media franchise. It began in 1973 with the release of the film Westworld, written and directed by Michael Crichton. It depicts a technologically advanced, Western-themed amusement park populated by androids that malfunction and begin killing the human visitors.

It was followed by the sequel film Futureworld (1976).

In 1980 there was a short-lived television series, Beyond Westworld. A new television series from HBO, based on the original film, debuted on October 2, 2016.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Westworld

Jurassic Park book

 

Jurassic Park is a 1990 science fiction novel written by Michael Crichton, divided into seven sections (iterations). A cautionary tale about genetic engineering, it presents the collapse of an amusement park showcasing genetically recreated dinosaurs to illustrate the mathematical concept of chaos theory and its real world implications. A sequel titled The Lost World, also written by Crichton, was published in 1995. In 1997, both novels were re-published as a single book titled Michael Crichton’s Jurassic World, unrelated to the film of the same name.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jurassic_Park_(novel)

 

 

For more info about Michael Crichton’s work visit http://www.michaelcrichton.com/