Book Reviews

I have to start my post with exciting news for my very talented friend, Melinda Olliver, who just published a novel, Not Counting You. I am so excited for her and can’t wait to read it. You should totally help out local talent and support new authors – check out her book at Smashwords.

And speaking of supporting authors … just a reminder (plead) that if you’ve read my novel, New City, please take a few minutes to write a quick review on Amazon, here. Just scroll down to where it says “write a customer review.” It’s reviews that really help sell novels – it’s funny, but people don’t ever seem to care how well rated something is, but rather how many other people have read or seen it. Popularity is king in this world. So I would so appreciate it if you could do this for me – it doesn’t even have to be a good review, I won’t take it personally (*cries into pillow). Soon I might be pimping the next novel, so it will be great to have a good starting point there.

Okay, self promotion over. I’ll keep on promoting friends’ work, as much as possible – read my friend’s book! And here’s what I’ve been reading lately. Hefty books, but all of them so worthwhile.

The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt

Book description: It begins with a boy. Theo Decker, a thirteen-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don’t know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his unbearable longing for his mother, he clings to one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the underworld of art.

As an adult, Theo moves silkily between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty labyrinth of an antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love-and at the center of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle.

The Goldfinch is a novel of shocking narrative energy and power. It combines unforgettably vivid characters, mesmerizing language, and breathtaking suspense, while plumbing with a philosopher’s calm the deepest mysteries of love, identity, and art. It is a beautiful, stay-up-all-night and tell-all-your-friends triumph, an old-fashioned story of loss and obsession, survival and self-invention, and the ruthless machinations of fate.

My review: This was one of those huge books looming over me, that I felt I must read because I’ve heard so many good things about it, but I knew it was going to take awhile. Also from what people told me. I was reading it from my Kindle, which is always a bit disconcerting when you’re trying to judge how big a book is. It doesn’t feel any heavier in my hand, so I can never be sure how long it’s going to be. But with The Goldfinch, I was pretty sure it was going to be long.

And beautiful. And totally worth the read. It was exciting and sometimes I swear I was so stressed out for Theo, I could barely sleep. It’s a sign of truly great writing when you are so invested in the characters. They are flawed and they are human and they are understandable.

There were a few times where I started to think things were stretching out just a little too long. The time spent in Las Vegas especially – it was like a day by day account! But you fall so helplessly into Theo’s life and his struggles that you keep on reading, knowing something horrible or shocking is just around the corner and you don’t want that for him but it’s inevitable. The ending was also a little abrupt for such a heavy book, I thought, but it worked. Carve out a few weeks for yourself and delve into this one.

Winter of the World, by Ken Follett

Book description: Winter of the World picks up right where the first book left off, as its five interrelated families—American, German, Russian, English, Welsh—enter a time of enormous social, political, and economic turmoil, beginning with the rise of the Third Reich, through the Spanish Civil War and the great dramas of World War II, up to the explosions of the American and Soviet atomic bombs.

Carla von Ulrich, born of German and English parents, finds her life engulfed by the Nazi tide until she commits a deed of great courage and heartbreak. . . . American brothers Woody and Chuck Dewar, each with a secret, take separate paths to momentous events, one in Washington, the other in the bloody jungles of the Pacific. . . . English student Lloyd Williams discovers in the crucible of the Spanish Civil War that he must fight Communism just as hard as Fascism. . . . Daisy Peshkov, a driven American social climber, cares only for popularity and the fast set, until the war transforms her life, not just once but twice, while her cousin Volodya carves out a position in Soviet intelligence that will affect not only this war—but the war to come.

These characters and many others find their lives inextricably entangled as their experiences illuminate the cataclysms that marked the century. From the drawing rooms of the rich to the blood and smoke of battle, their lives intertwine, propelling the reader into dramas of ever-increasing complexity.

My review: And they I immediately dived into my next huge tome, which I knew was going to take me just as long as the last one, but I was so excited to start the next of Follett’s Century trilogy. Follett does these massive epic novels so well. He covers such an intriguing, important and complex era in modern history, and does it in a way that’s compelling and makes sense.

I adore books about the Second World War, and Winter of the World was no different. It’s just such a fascinating period of time – so much outright evil and acts of heroism. My one niggling little problem with the book is that sometimes the character had to be a little explicit or overly earnest when explaining something in dialogue in order for Follett to explain something to the reader – the reasoning behind a politician’s actions, for example. Sometimes it pulled me out of the story a bit and was a little disconcerting, but I can see why it was necessary. Now I get to read the last of the series, Edge of Eternity, if Z ever gets through it!

Days of Blood and Starlight, by Laini Taylor

Book description: Art student and monster’s apprentice Karou finally has the answers she has always sought. She knows who she is—and what she is. But with this knowledge comes another truth she would give anything to undo: She loved the enemy and he betrayed her, and a world suffered for it.

In this stunning sequel to the highly acclaimed Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Karou must decide how far she’ll go to avenge her people. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, secrets and impossible choices, Days of Blood & Starlight finds Karou and Akiva on opposing sides as an age-old war stirs back to life.

While Karou and her allies build a monstrous army in a land of dust and starlight, Akiva wages a different sort of battle: a battle for redemption. For hope.

My review: After all these epic books, I was looking for something a little lighter. Why not a tale about monsters and angels and the end of the world? For that, I looked to the second in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series, Days of Blood and Starlight.

I’d been meaning for a long time to get to the sequel of Taylor’s excellent first book, and this didn’t disappoint. It is thoroughly fantasy, but somehow it’s done in a way that I think even people who don’t typically enjoy fantasy would get behind this. It uses exotic locales and blends worlds together and I just love what Taylor has created. The love story of Akiva and Karou is one you ache for, and it makes you immediately want to go out and read the next one. So I figured, what the heck, and I did.

Dreams of Gods and Monsters

Book description: By way of a staggering deception, Karou has taken control of the chimaera rebellion and is intent on steering its course away from dead-end vengeance. The future rests on her, if there can even be a future for the chimaera in war-ravaged Eretz.

Common enemy, common cause.

When Jael’s brutal seraph army trespasses into the human world, the unthinkable becomes essential, and Karou and Akiva must ally their enemy armies against the threat. It is a twisted version of their long-ago dream, and they begin to hope that it might forge a way forward for their people.

And, perhaps, for themselves. Toward a new way of living, and maybe even love.

But there are bigger threats than Jael in the offing. A vicious queen is hunting Akiva, and, in the skies of Eretz … something is happening. Massive stains are spreading like bruises from horizon to horizon; the great winged stormhunters are gathering as if summoned, ceaselessly circling, and a deep sense of wrong pervades the world.

What power can bruise the sky?

From the streets of Rome to the caves of the Kirin and beyond, humans, chimaera and seraphim will fight, strive, love, and die in an epic theater that transcends good and evil, right and wrong, friend and enemy.

At the very barriers of space and time, what do gods and monsters dream of? And does anything else matter?

My review: This book was just so exciting. Taylor threw in a huge twist here that I’m not sure was necessary, but made the story so much MORE that I couldn’t put it down. And although there was a very satisfying conclusion to the story, including all the requisite heartache a good book gives you, there is an opening for there to be so much more. I had initially thought Taylor was finished with the series after this book – after getting to the ending, I just want more. Excellent series, highly recommended.

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