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 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.

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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.

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Fourth Son

Fourth SonFourth Son by Monica Poole
★★★★☆

Fourth Son is a bitter tale of a young man, Jahnes Tehrel, who faces saving his family from slavery after his father dies in a mining accident. His decision changes his life and those he loves the most. This book is an excellent examination of a society built on a brutal caste system of order that strictly enforces the hierarchy.

This is the second time I have read Monica Poole’s tale and will admit the second round was much better than the first (Note: never read this type of story when sick). There are many subtleties threaded through this story that could be missed if the reader isn’t paying attention. I want to give this book a five star rating but it falls slightly short. The beginning of the story builds very slowly using an overabundance of reflections. The sense of who the characters are, especially Jahnes, is masterfully developed yet I didn’t fall into the story through development of place.

I highly recommend this book with a note to the reader to push through the earlier chapters. You won’t be disappointed with the final ones.

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The Magicians

The Magicians by, Lev Grossman
★★★★☆
The Magicians is a book not for everyone. Quentin, our main character, is magical, and missing something in his life. If he could only get to Fillory (a magical place found in his favorite books, and a very grown up version of Narnia) then everything will be OK. He first finds himself at Brakebills Preparatory College of Magic (think Harry Potter in a partying frat). After 4 years, he finally gets to Fillory. Throughout the story Quentin is forever longing for something that is just out of his reach that he never can grasp.

Lev Grossman is a master at opening Quentin’s mind and diving in to reveal those dark places that everyone lives in at some point or another. Grossman does such a wonderful job of writing that I couldn’t put the book down. He drew me in and I left only because I turned the last page. What is missed in the “feel-good department” it is made up through great writing.

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 Potter Books? Read.

Harry Potter, Books #1-#7
Harry Potter, Books 1-7
★★★★☆

In 1997 J.K. Rowling published the first Harry Potter book that opened her world, and our’s, to things so magically wonderful. Over the course of seven books, eight movies, action figures, and theme park rides, the Harry Potter franchise has touched every corner of the world. In 1997 my daughter was only four years old, but by the time 6th grade came around she had her nose in the Harry Potter books and she only came up long enough to eat, take a bath, and go to school. Not only did she read all seven books twice (I think she actually read them three times), she saw all the movies (I enjoyed them right along with her), and then she went to discovered everything at the Wizarding World in Universal Orlando, Florida.

Here it is 2015 and I am proud to say that I have finally read all the books, once. The height of the Potter furor has died down a little bit and I felt, well, it’s about time that I find out what all the excitement was about. So, over the course of about a month I read all seven epic books. As mentioned, I have seen all of the movies so while reading the books I already knew many of the big moments in the plot so I need to say that reading a book post movie is not really the best idea. Yet, there were many instances that I actually understood some things that the movie just couldn’t bring out. It is great to finally understand the game of Quidditch. In addition, the book brought aspects of the story to life that the movie just didn’t have the room to squeeze in (like Nearly Headless Nick’s Death Day Party).

I found it interesting how J.K. Rowling would keep most of the text simple and easy to read for the young crowd she was writing for, yet the reader was respectfully challenged with higher levels of vocabulary and ideas.The progression of each book also grew more mature thematically allowing the reader to grow right along with Harry and his friends who not only developed as growing teens, but as people who were faced with horrendous choices in impossible situations.

Overall I loved this entire series of books. Although written to a young audience the Harry Potter series welcomes readers of all ages. The only fault, if one could be found, is the stretches that are just plain long. I found myself skipping over sections that were either repetitive (the obligatory restating of things early on in each book), or they just kept going on and on bringing the story progression to a stop. Thankfully these were just in a few places and the pace picked right back up. If you have not yet read this series of books then I think it is time you do. J.K. Rowling takes you into a magical world that, on the last page, you truly hate to leave.