Thursday, June 25, 2015

Review: The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld

The EnchantedThe Enchanted by Rene Denfeld
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This may be one of the most beautifully written novels that I've read in some time. A friend wrote in her review that this book expresses her desire "to see each person, no matter how damaged, as human" which is a perfect description of this novel. It's exploration of violence, abuse and the prison system is simply stunning. The language just WOW'd me. Denfeld's ability to paint a picture with words is simply breathtaking. There were moments that the descriptions left me stunned. I highlighted a TON of passages while reading (which I rarely do anymore since I've begun reading so much via my e-reader).

There is so much in this novel - the damage we do to one another, our path to redemption, our ability to face what's done to us and come out ok, justice, the realities of the legal system. And it's all so interesting and thought-provoking. It's in no way happy or bright but rather dark, heavy and intense. It's not for everyone. If darkness makes you uncomfortable, I'd recommend that you skip this one. There are some moments of light - particularly within the poetic descriptions and some pieces that are ultimately about the triumph of the human spirit.

I can't do this novel justice, no matter what I write. But, it's simply one of the most moving books I've read in ages. Heartbreaking but poetic. It has stuck with me and I suspect it will continue to do so for some time. I highly recommend this one!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Review: Corregidora by Gayl Jones

CorregidoraCorregidora by Gayl Jones
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I heard someone on a podcast (perhaps Book Riot?) mention this as one of those books that will tear you into 100 pieces and devastate you. And now that I've completed it, I completely understand the recommendation. This is a very, very dark novel. One that really is devastating to the reader. The anger and pain in this novel really get into your head as you read. You FEEL it. You experience it. I don't think I can do this one justice in a review. The story explores the long-lasting impact of slavery and violence. It is an intense book that won't be for everyone. There are very intense scenes of violence and sex that may not be for all readers. I definitely recommend this one, particularly if you're a fan of Toni Morrison. There are a lot of similarities between this novel and some of Morrison's work. If you're interested in the exploration of post-slavery feminine identity, I think this might be a good novel for you. Really beautiful and horrific novel.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Review: The Children's Crusade by Ann Packer

The Children's CrusadeThe Children's Crusade by Ann Packer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It took me a little while to get into this one but once I did, it really delivered. It is a slower paced novel that explores many details and experiences of a family. If you're looking for a fast paced novel, this isn't the right novel for you. By the end, I knew these characters inside and out. The detailed aspects of the novel gave the story a richness that it wouldn't have had without the slow build up.

A family story that explores who we are and how our families can and cannot change us. It's beautifully written and well worth the time it takes to finish. I definitely recommend it if you have the patience to stick with it when it slows down, enjoying its details and savoring the story as it comes together.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Review: The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma

The FishermenThe Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This novel is such a haunting novel ... heartbreaking really. The themes of sibling relationships, grief, and healing were so well explored in this one. This story so effectively reminds the reader of the power of revenge as well as the power of superstition over logic.

Chigozie Obioma has written a beautiful and well nuanced novel that I will not quickly forget. Each character is well drawn and explored. This family will remain with me for some time. The sense of place was elegantly captured by Obioma. Nigeria and the home of this family came alive for me. I felt as if I could see, hear and breathe in the scents through the beautiful language.

It's not a fast paced novel but one that moves slowly and elegantly. I definitely recommend this one and can't wait to read more of Chigozie Obioma's work.

Review: The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler

The Book of SpeculationThe Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The cover alone was intriguing but when the description said words like books, librarian, magic, and family ... I was ALL IN. It sounded like something right up my alley. I'm so glad that I picked this one up. It's a book for readers, for people who value books as objects and as a way to escape. But, I will warn you ... it's not a fast-paced thriller of a book. At it's heart, it's a quiet novel about a family over the generations.

The story is told in two narratives - The first is of a librarian who is going through a rough time and is sent an old book that is the log from a traveling carnival from the 18th century. This book contains information about his family and opens the door for his exploration of the history of his family. The second narrative tells the story that is described in the log book that the librarian has in his possession. It's the story of a traveling carnival and the librarian's ancestors. I found myself loving both narratives which I was frankly surprised by. I'm typically drawn to one or the other. But, in this novel, I found myself eager to read both pieces equally.

I'm a little surprised that this is a debut novel - I didn't find all of the little flaws I typically see in a debut. It's a slow, deliberate novel. There isn't much fast action or anything ... it's just a good, solid story told through characters that are quite compelling. There is a darkness in this novel that I found surprising but completely appropriate, given the context of the story. Several reviews I've read of this novel talk about it being slow, boring and tedious. I couldn't disagree more although I understand that this type of novel isn't for everyone. You have to sort of sink into the prose, embrace the world and just go with it. I think it's completely worth the journey.

I found the carnival aspect of the novel to be one of the most compelling aspects - perhaps because most carnival people are a bit different than the average person. There is a sense of family among the carnival acts which allows for rich storytelling and interesting character dynamics. It (almost) made me want to join a carnival!

One of my favorite parts of the novel was finding the bits and pieces of the story that connect both narratives. The mystery and exploration of those things was so interesting to me. I found myself intrigued by all of them - tarot cards, horseshoe crabs, water, and the tides. I loved pulling them all together as I read, loving the sense of collection that it gave me as a reader.

And the bookish pieces, of course, made the story all the more enjoyable for me. The library, the draw of a book, the mystery of a book, the searching and researching ... it all just felt so soothing to me. I felt at home with this book in some way which is why I would argue that this novel is one that may appeal especially to book lovers.

Until I began to write this review, I didn't really realize quite how much I enjoyed it or how much it's stuck with me since finishing it. I don't think this is a book for everyone - if you need fast pacing, this may well not be the book for you. But, if you love books and want to sink into a book that celebrates books and offers a unique and compelling story, I highly recommend this one!


NOTE: I received a galley of this novel from the publisher for an honest review.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Lighter Reads - Mini Reviews

I've read a number of lighter fare novels (pretty much all romances) lately so I thought I'd give a quick update and some mini-reviews on some of those reads ... quite a few of these were read on our Caribbean cruise in May! Enjoy!

Beach TownBeach Town by Mary Kay Andrews
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nice little novel by Mary Kay Andrews - I like this one better than the last couple of her books.

All Lined Up (Rusk University, #1)All Lined Up by Cora Carmack
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

First in a romance new series that I found and I liked it quite a bit.

All I Want Is You (Coral Cove, #1)All I Want Is You by Toni Blake
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Another new series to me. Not a perfect book but I did enjoy it. I think I'll read one more in the series before I decide whether or not to keep on with this one.

Playing Dirty (Stargazer, #2)Playing Dirty by Jennifer Echols
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This one had quite a few flaws but I did enjoy the reading experience. I liked the first one in this series (I think it's a series?) so I'd be willing to keep reading these.

Moonlight on Nightingale Way (On Dublin Street #6)Moonlight on Nightingale Way by Samantha Young
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

More of a 3 to 3.5 star read but I rounded up because I love this series and it's so sad that this is the final book. This isn't the best in the entire series but it's a solid ending. Going to miss reading about these folks! If you haven't read this romance series, I highly recommend it.

All Broke Down (Rusk University, #2)All Broke Down by Cora Carmack
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the second in the Rusk University (my rating of the first one is above). I actually quite liked this one. I'll keep on with the series.

Suddenly One SummerSuddenly One Summer by Julie James
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Although this one was less light than most of the romances on this list, it was quite good. It felt like it had more substance than most romances but I'm not sure that I can pinpoint why I feel that way. All in all, it was a good one!