Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell


★★★★☆
This hefty novel opens in 1806 with the meeting of the Great Magic Society. Theoretical magicians meet to discuss their discoveries while reading about, but not practicing, magic. A gentleman does not, after all, practice magic.

Ms. Clarke weaves a wonderful tale filled with shadows lurking in dark corners and chilled breezes that sneak through the window cracks. Magic is coming back to England after a 300-year absence, and Mr. Norrell and Jonathan Strange are in the middle of it all as they fumble through dusty spell books.

The reader spends the first third of the book with Mr. Norrell and his fussy approach to magic. His counterpart, Jonathan Strange doesn’t make his first appearance until well into the story.  The two characters are the opposite of one another in every respect. Mr. Norrell is small, mousey, and reserve in personality and magic. On the opposite side, Jonathan Strange is tall, handsome, and bold.

Their lives become deeply intertwined and neither Johnathan Strange nor Mr. Norrell understand the depth until the last chapters and pages.

I loved the writing style of Ms. Clarke, which is reminiscent of the time-period in which the book takes place. The humor is dry, and hidden among the words. If you are not an English major, you may miss many of the jokes that are drizzled throughout the book. The writing style is colorful and the reader will be treated to smelling the acrid air and feeling the rough textures.

The use of end-notes gives the reader some backstory of side characters and events. They are a fun diversion away from a long story, but they were a little disruptive at times. I skipped a few just to continue with my reading.

Overall, this is a great book to lose yourself in.

The Buried Giant

The Buried GiantThe Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Buried Giant is a book that will leave you thinking long after you have finished reading the last words. Kazuo Ishiguro masterfully weaves a tale of things forgotten, covered in the mists that hang like a curtain at the edge of remembering.

The main characters, Axl and Beatrice, are saddened that they live on this precipice to remember their son and, one day, decide to leave their lives behind in order to see him once again. During their journey, across the bleak landscape of Arthurian England, they cross paths with Sir Gawain, the last knight from King Artur’s time, Master Wistan, a Saxon warrior, and young Edwin a cursed boy who becomes Wistan’s apprentice. Mirrored in the undercurrent of the forgotten brutalities during the Briton and Saxon wars the characters face trials in morality, honor and love.

The reader is left a little off balance trying to find the thread of The Buried Dragon story, but this seems exactly how it should be. The allegory is strong only if the reader chooses to remember.

View all my reviews

The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating

The Sound of a Wild Snail EatingThe Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey
★★★★☆

I was pleasantly surprised with this book. The writing is very eloquent. It has a quiet strength to it that the reader may not realize until after reading Ms. Bailey’s story. The main character (the author), who is gravely ill, finds her own strength and resolve through her observations of the daily challenges faced by an unassuming creature. The snail’s simplicity brought a bit of joy to what was a difficult time in her life.

I know more about snails than I ever thought possible and was entertained while learning and reading. Some of the historical quotes, facts, and figures got a bit tiring, but it was well balanced with the humanness of the story. I don’t think I’ll look at a snail the same way.

From Goodreads: In a work that beautifully demonstrates the rewards of closely observing nature, Elisabeth Bailey shares an inspiring and intimate story of her uncommon encounter with a Neohelix albolabris —a common woodland snail.

While an illness keeps her bedridden, Bailey watches a wild snail that has taken up residence on her nightstand. As a result, she discovers the solace and sense of wonder that this mysterious creature brings and comes to a greater under standing of her own confined place in the world.

Intrigued by the snail’s molluscan anatomy, cryptic defenses, clear decision making, hydraulic locomotion, and mysterious courtship activities, Bailey becomes an astute and amused observer, providing a candid and engaging look into the curious life of this underappreciated small animal. 

Told with wit and grace, The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating is a remarkable journey of survival and resilience, showing us how a small part of the natural world illuminates our own human existence and provides an appreciation of what it means to be fully alive.

View all my reviews

Beastkeeper

BeastkeeperBeastkeeper by Cat Hellisen
★★★★☆

I LOVED the writing style that carried me through this quaint story. The plot was not earth shattering so my rating of a four instead of five stars. I still really enjoyed reading this and recommend it to adults as well as young adults.

From Goodreads: Sarah has always been on the move. Her mother hates the cold, so every few months her parents pack their bags and drag her off after the sun. She’s grown up lonely and longing for magic. She doesn’t know that it’s magic her parents are running from.

When Sarah’s mother walks out on their family, all the strange old magic they have tried to hide from comes rising into their mundane world. Her father begins to change into something wild and beastly, but before his transformation is complete, he takes Sarah to her grandparents—people she has never met, didn’t even know were still alive.

Deep in the forest, in a crumbling ruin of a castle, Sarah begins to untangle the layers of curses affecting her family bloodlines, until she discovers that the curse has carried over to her, too. The day she falls in love for the first time, Sarah will transform into a beast . . . unless she can figure out a way to break the curse forever.

View all my reviews

The Hundred-Year House

The Hundred-Year HouseThe Hundred-Year House by Rebecca Makkai
★★★★☆

The Hundred-Year House takes a look at a family’s estate from the recent past (Y2K era) back to the 1900’s through the quirky characters that occupy it. This is a treasure hunt disguised as a book. Rebecca Makkai pulls the reader back through a century of people who lived, and some died, at the Devohr estate, and slowly unravels mysteries that have been secreted away for a century. The narrative is cleverly written. Don’t look for a “happily ever after” in this tale, but it does satisfy.

View all my reviews

Thea’s Tale

Thea's Tale (Sisters Of The Curse Book 1)
Thea’s Tale by Lisa Manifold
★★★★☆
This is a story of love, curses, and royalty. A fairy tale for everyone! Ms. Manifold weaves a new twist into the old German tale of twelve sisters who are cursed to dance every night until their shoes are torn and tattered. The original story is short(about 5 pages)whereas Lisa Manifold expands the tale to a full novel taking the reader into the sister’s castle to learn who these women are and what trials they must face as sisters and royalty who under a curse they cannot speak of.

The story was well weaved and presented. It took me the first chapter to get a feel for the rhythm of the writing and the formality of the dialog, making the earliest parts a bit bumpy to read. Once I got past this, the rest was a breeze and very enjoyable to read. Manifold creates tension and passion that seem to tumble together so well, and now I am looking forward to the next installment, Casimir’s Journey due out August 15, 2015.

The Paper Magician

The Paper Magician (The Paper Magician Trilogy, #1)The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg
★★★★★
Ceony Twill dreams of being a smelter magician, yet her desires are thwarted by her assignment to the eccentric Paper Magician Emery Thanes. Her apprenticeship to a paper magician initially seems like an insult to her. After all, she was the top student in her graduating class so she should have been given her choice of any apprenticeship. She soon learns that there is more to being a paper magician than just making perfect folds.

This common story of magic, both light and dark, is presented in a fresh new way. Charlie N. Holmberg does borrow themes from other tales (magic schools are not a new idea), but she presents these in a way that feels new and inventive. It is a fun, fresh book for readers of any age.

View all my reviews