Monday, October 31, 2011Posted by Melissa (Avid Reader)
Happy Halloween everyone! In honor of the holiday I decided to post on a great spooky read.
We Have Always Lived in the Castle
by Shirley Jackson
"My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood. I am eighteen years old, and I live with my sister Constance."
So begins the short novel the has become one of my new favorite October reads. The Blackwood sisters live with their crazy uncle on the outskirts of a small town. They're social pariahs, cast out of polite society, though at the beginning we don't know why. It has a bit of a Grey Gardens feel to it, but with more of the tragedy and less of the humor.
This story unravels so beautifully, giving you just enough new information with each page. Jackson has such a flair for maintaining suspense. If you haven't already read her short story "The Lottery," go do so immediately. Then you'll understand what I'm talking about when I say she can walk the line between disturbing and thought-provoking, while at the same time giving you some serious chills.
The creepy factor is high. The ending in incredibly satisfying. The writing is fantastic. I can ask for nothing more from a gothic story.
This was my final read for the R.I.P. Challenge hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings.
For more R.I.P reviews visit here.
Sunday, October 30, 2011Posted by Melissa (Avid Reader)
Wherever You Go
by Joan Leegant
Three disconnected stories of Jewish Americans in Israel culminate with a tragic event. Each of the three main characters has family issues that, in one way or another, convince them to travel to Israel. Mark Greenglass, a former addict who turned his life around and because a Talmud teacher, Aaron Blinder, an academic failure and the son of a successful author and finally, Yona, a New Yorker who loses herself in meaningless relationships and denies her true passion: art.
Mark's family has a hard time accepting his new beliefs. Aaron has a hard time accepting his father's work and fame. Yona hurt her sister deeply ten years earlier and is now trying to reconcile with her. The three individuals are incredibly different and remain separate for the majority of the book. At times I felt like I didn't get to know them as well as I would have liked because it does bounce between the stories so quickly.
Leegant focuses on the role religion plays in a person's life. Should it justify any behavior? Should it come between personal relationships? What are the driving motivations behind our actions that we often attribute to faith? All of which are fascinating questions, though I don't think the books' goal is to answer any of them.
At times, the story reminded me of Nicole Krauss' Great House or Everything Beautiful Began After. Both books feature multiple characters who are, at first, unconnected and are brought together by a major event. The difference, for me, was the writing. Both of those books rely heavily on beautiful prose and that's what made me connect to them in the end.
So, overall, an interesting read and one that's perfect for anyone who's particularly interested in Israel or looking at the role religion plays in your life. I wish I could have connected more with the main characters, but I'm still glad I read it.
I received a review copy of this book from the author and I read it as part of the Read-Along hosted by Books and Movies and she reads and reads.
Here's Part One of the discussion.
Friday, October 28, 2011Posted by Melissa (Avid Reader)
A Discovery of Witches
by Deborah E. Harkness
Dear A Discovery of Witches,
When I heard you were “Twilight for adults” I was skeptical and a bit hesitant to pick you up. Then you were available as a Kindle library loan and I thought what the heck.
When I started reading you, you reminded me more of The Historian than Twilight and I thought the Oxford setting and academia references were interesting. But then you had a vampire who sparkled and a yoga class for “creatures” and I was became wary. Really, the vampire is going to get mad if someone asks what he likes to eat for dinner when they are cooking for him? I think that’s a pretty valid question, even if he has been answering it for centuries.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed reading parts of you, but I do wish you had avoided some of the Edward/Bella clichés. I don’t care if the vampire can’t get over some woman’s smell and I get that a vampire’s skin is going to feel cool against the “hot skin of a warm blood.” Also, it’s actually a bit creepy (not sexy) to have him hunting/stalking her, even if he is “falling” for her.
Look, it’s not you, it’s me. I’m just a bit sick of the vampire thing to be honest. I don’t want to read the word chiseled to describe another gorgeous vampire. I don’t want two paragraphs on how someone smells like cloves… in every single chapter.
I really did like some of your supporting characters. You had some great sassy women (I’m looking at you Sarah) and I loved how the house became a character in its own right. But frankly, it wasn’t enough to make me really like you. There were too many repetitive plots and when I reached the end and realized I had just read 600 pages not knowing you weren’t going to resolve ANYTHING I was more than miffed. If you want to have a sequel, that’s fine, just give me some sort of heads up next time.
Burned out on vampires in the Midwest
I read this for the R.I.P. Challenge hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings.
For more R.I.P reviews visit here.
Thursday, October 27, 2011Posted by Melissa (Avid Reader)
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter
by Tom Franklin
I rated this one shortly after finishing it, now almost two months have passed and I hadn’t reviewed it yet (bad book blogger). As I started to write the review I was second-guessing my rating, but the more I thought about the book, the more I remembered why I liked it so much.
The beauty of the book lies not in the twists or the turns of the plot, though those are wonderful, but in the characters themselves. The main two characters are both incredibly flawed and you aren’t sure how you feel about them. Your opinion of them may vary as more details are revealed, but you’re still left feeling deep sympathy and attachment to them.
Silas and Larry meet as young boys. Silas is black, Larry is white and they live in Mississippi during the 1970s, but somehow they form a bond. Their lives are taken in drastically different directions as they grow up. Larry was accused of kidnapping and murdering a young woman while he was a teenager and though he was never convicted, the shadow of the accusation has tainted his entire life. Silas, on the other hand, left town for college, returning to his hometown years later to live a respectable life as a constable. He hides the fact that he and Larry used to be friends.
This story has layers of secrets and the descriptions of the south are perfect. It moves quickly and is incredibly hard to put down. It’s not a thriller, it’s just wonderfully paced. It's a great read for anyone who loves well-drawn characters or a just a good, dark story.
Here are a few more reviews of this southern gem…
books i done read
Books and Movies
I read this for the R.I.P. Challenge hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings.
For more R.I.P reviews visit here.
Wednesday, October 26, 2011Posted by Melissa (Avid Reader)
More Early Horror Works
by H.P. Lovecraft
How have I never read H.P. Lovecraft before? Seriously, this is just wrong. One of the first authors I ever fell in love with was Edgar Allen Poe. I remember reading The Black Cat and realizing that not all books were like the happy-go-lucky Babysitters’ Club series. It was a wonderful thing to discover. After that I read all of Poe’s work and developed a deep love for dark tales.
Yet, somehow, even though people speak of Lovecraft in the same breath as Poe, I’ve never read anything by him. Thank goodness I finally picked up this short collection. It gave me just the taste I needed to know I want to read more.
This collection includes The Alchemist, The Picture in the House and The Tomb. The Alchemist was my favorite. I have a feeling this isn’t Lovecraft’s best work. The sheer fact that it’s called “More Early Horror Works” suggests there are better selections to be hard. But after really enjoying these, I’m hopeful I’ll love his other works.
Have you guys read H.P. Lovecraft and if so, what should I read next of his works?
I read this for the R.I.P. Challenge hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings.
For more R.I.P reviews visit here.
Tuesday, October 25, 2011Posted by Melissa (Avid Reader)
This week's Top Ten from The Broke and the Bookish asks from good Halloween reads.
1) Umbrella Man - I wish more people knew how great Roald Dahl's adult short stories are. They are wonderfully creepy and perfect for Halloween.
2) The Woman in Black - My new favorite ghost story. I will absolutely be breaking this one out frequently for Halloweens in the future.
3) The Thirteenth Tale - Gothic horror story for book lovers, can't beat that.
4) The Little Stranger - A haunted house... or is it?
5) We Have Always Lived in the Castle - I just read this one and it's super creepy and captivating.
6) Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde - It's a classic and it's the ultimate good vs. evil story, because we each contain a bit of both.
7) The Bunnicula series by James Howe - I loved this series growing up and these books would be great Halloween read for kids.
8) The Graveyard Book - Imagine reading passages from this in a graveyard at night. I'm getting chills just thinking about it.
9) The Yellow Wallpaper - There's seriously nothing scarier than losing your mind.
10) The Cask of Amontillado - Every Halloween list needs a bit of Poe and this is one of my favorites.
Pumpkin from here.
Monday, October 24, 2011Posted by Melissa (Avid Reader)
The Nobodies Album
by Carolyn Parkhurst
A widowed author, a rock star son, a murder mystery, unresolved family issues, this book kind of has it all.
The story bounces back and forth between the main plot, which follows author, Octavia Frost, whose adult son, rock star Milo, is arrested for murder of his girlfriend and a secondary plot. Those portions are chapters from the author’s novels and are part of a collection called The Nobodies Album, which contains the rewritten endings of her books.
At first it was jarring (at least on the audio) to switch between the fictional stories and the author’s life, but after awhile you get into each of the stories within the larger story. It’s really beautifully told. I found myself forgetting that Octavia isn’t a real author and I wanted to read some of her books, particularly The Human Slice.
Part of me, the cynical side I suppose, thought maybe this was a way for the author to fit a bunch of ideas for books into a single book. But even as I say that, I realized that it still worked. It doesn’t feel forced, it just feels like an author reflecting on her books, her “children.” These things that she created and now wishes she could change. It’s about so much more than changing books though; it’s about living a life of regret and realizing you can’t change what’s already happened.
I’ve never read anything by Parkhurst before, but I kept thinking about what an engrossing voice she has. I went back and forth on my rating, because though I really enjoyed it while I was reading it, I think I’ve grown to like it even more in the past few weeks. I keep thinking about new elements of the story and how they say so much more than they seem to at first. It’s almost like the book is just trying to tell a story, but it can’t help but be profound. It was an incredibly satisfying read.
"Why do we think that knowing the events of someone's life gives us insight into the person they are? Certainly we react to the things that happen to us, we are not unchanged by them, but there is no format to it. You may know that a cascade of water can wear away stone, but you can't predict what shape the rock will take at any given moment."
Check out Sandy’s review, which convinced me to read this one in the first place.
Sunday, October 23, 2011Posted by Melissa (Avid Reader)
***New update at the beginning of hour 20***
Pages Read: 1,096 (I broke the 1,000 mark!)
Books Finished: 3 (75% through the 4th)
Breaks Taken: I made a cup of tea to keep me going
(last time: I slept. I wanted to take a "quick nap" and I've been asleep for almost 2 hours. Fail.)
Coffee Consumed: 3 cups + 2 Starbucks Doubleshots
Music Listened To: The Head and the Heart, Cat Power , Death Cab for Cutie, Max Bruch
Current Location: My chair in my library and the front porch swing.
Biggest Distraction: My snoring husband and the desire to go to sleep
(Past times: Sleep, oops. My dog, who thinks it's hilarious to grab a corner of my blanket and run with it. Also visiting other people's blogs and tweeting.)
Mini-Challenges Completed: 11
Pet Hour 19 Mini-Challenge, hosted by A Buckeye Girl
My dog Oliver is only 10 months old, so he still has that puppy energy, despite his giant size. He has been, by far, my biggest distraction during the read-a-thon. He wanted to play tug-of-war with my blanket and he wanted me to take him outside to play fetch. But he also curled up with me and took a nap and kept me warm. The distraction is definitely worth it!
Re-reading Hour 16 Mini-Challenge, hosted by The Blue Stocking Society...
My top 5 favorite re-reads are as follows:
1) The Harry Potter series - These books never fail to get under my skin
2) Pride & Prejudice - Each time I read it the experience is deeper and I take away something new.
3) The Book Thief - A WWII story told from death's point of view, sounds creepy, it's not.
4) The Time Traveler's Wife - This story is just beautiful and never fails to make me cry.
5) Tuck Everlasting - I don't know what it is about this book, but it is bittersweet and wonderful.
(Ollie finally fell asleep - Yay, but then I did too - boo)
1. What are you reading right now? A Discovery of Witches
2. How many books have you read so far? Only finished 1, boo
3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon? Um, "And the Pursuit of Happiness"
4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day? No
5. Have you had many interruptions? Too many, usually my dog
How did you deal with those? Asked my husband to please, please take him outside.
6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far? I haven't read as much as the last one.
7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? No, I love how it works!
8. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year? Have more caffeinated beverages in the house.
9. Are you getting tired yet? I just accidentally took a 2 hour nap, so yes.
10. Do you have any tips for other Readers or Cheerleaders, something you think is working well for you that others may not have discovered? Read short books.
Here's my book title sentence for the Hour Nine mini-challenge hosted by Midnight Book Girl.
"In the time of butterflies a good man is hard to find in the woods."
Hanging in there so far, but this morning has been way too full of distractions (aka a dog dropping a tennis ball in my lap ever 5 seconds). Here' my first mini-challenge though.
Mini Challenge #1 Character Photo: From Alyce at At Home With Books
I'm currently reading "We Have Always Lived in the Castle" and so I took a picture of an old Fisher Price Castle.
Photos by moi*
Saturday, October 22, 2011Posted by Melissa (Avid Reader)
The official winner, chosen by random.org, is Suey of It's All About Books. Congrats! You guys all had such amazing answers, I love it!
Welcome to the Dewey Read-a-Thon Hour Four mini-challenge! I hope you all are still going strong at this point.
Setting can be such an essential part of a book. Sometimes reading can give us a wonderful taste for a new location and almost make us feel like we've traveled there ourselves.
When I’m about to travel to a new place, I love reading books set there. It’s also a great way to supplement travel when money or vacation time is tight. Armchair travel can give you a little wanderlust fix until you can hit the road again.
To participate in this challenge, please name three books (fiction or nonfiction) that are good representations of the USA state in which they are set. You can pick three books set in one state or books set in different states, it doesn’t matter.
There are so many books set in Europe, India, etc. that evoke the atmosphere of that country, but for this challenge I’m only looking for books set in the US. For example, To Kill a Mockingbird is a wonderful representation of small town life in Alabama, John Steinbeck’s novels are the embodiment of depression-era California and Dave Egger’s Zeitoun is a powerful example of nonfiction set in Louisiana.
Each person who provides three examples will be entered to win a copy of “Novel Destinations: Literary Landmarks from Jane Austen's Bath to Ernest Hemingway's Key West.” I have my own copy of this book and I love it! I consult it every time I go on a trip to see if there are any fun literary places to stop along the way.
Just leave a comment with your three examples on this post. The only requirement is that you provide an e-mail address where I can reach you and that your three examples are set within the USA. I can’t wait to see what you guys come up with!
This challenge is open internationally. It will remain open for three hours and then, at the beginning of hour seven, I will close it and select a winner at random. I'll e-mail the winner so they can send me their full name and address.
It has officially begun! Here's the Hour One introduction questions from the main site...
1)Where are you reading from today?
2)Three random facts about me…
3)How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours?
4)Do you have any goals for the read-a-thon (i.e. number of books, number of pages, number of hours, or number of comments on blogs)?
5)If you’re a veteran read-a-thoner, any advice for people doing this for the first time?
1) Indy, IN
2) a. I just visited the Monroeville, AL Courthouse that inspired To Kill a Mockingbird last week. (see photo above)
b. I review local theater performances once a week
c. I put hot sauce on just about anything
3) 7, but I don't plan to get to all of them.
4) No, I'm just looking forward to a whole day of reading.
5) This is only my second, but I'd recommend reading shorter books and a variety of genres.
Ok, back to reading. I'll post an update on how I'm doing in an hour or two. Good luck everyone!
*Photo by moi*
Friday, October 21, 2011Posted by Melissa (Avid Reader)
Guys, it’s almost time for the Dewey 24 hour Read-a-Thon! Seriously, I’m so excited! I participated in the bi-annual read-a-thon for the first time in April and I just loved it. This time I’m also hosting a mini-challenge. The reason I loved it so much is because there’s so much support from other readers. It’s the first time I ever spent a day reading and realized that it was a community event.
The stack of books in the picture, (along with my wonderful pup Oliver), are the ones I’m going to attempt to read during the read-a-thon. If one doesn’t strike my fancy or another sounds good, I may add or subtract them as I go.
So, a couple things before the reading begins tomorrow.
1) If you aren’t participating, I apologize in advance for the multiple posts. I’m sure I won’t post every hour, but I definitely post more than I normally would over a weekend.
2) If you are participating, good luck! Read a variety of books, have snacks on hand and remember to have fun. Make sure you stop by for my mini-challenge during hour 4.
3) If you want more info about the event, visit the event website here. There’s still time to join in!
*Photo by moi.
Thursday, October 20, 2011Posted by Melissa (Avid Reader)
by Daniel Defoe
Classic novels often have the occasional racist references and usually it doesn’t bother me too much. I take it with a grain of salt and try to remember that it was written during a different time period and reflects an earlier belief system. I still don’t like it, but there’s nothing we can do about it at this point and it’s usually a minor point in the book.
This one was different though. There’s something disturbing about the way Robinson mentions slavery so casually. He joins a ship on the condition that he’ll get a cut of the profits made from the slaves they transport. He also escapes being enslaved on an island with a young boy, only to sell the boy into slavery once they are rescued.
Robinson spends more than 20 years on an island by himself before interacting with another living soul, (it reminded me a lot of Cast Away, which I’m sure took huge inspiration from this novel). When he finally gains a companion, the infamous Friday, he decides to treat him as a slave instead of an equal. The first thing he teaches him is how to call him Master. He also decides to name him Friday instead of attempting to find out his actual name.
He continuously refers to Friday as an ignorant savage, all the while saying how he loves him dearly. When he discovers that Friday's people don't live too far away, his first concern is that Friday will forget that he is his slave and try to return to them. It's unbelievably selfish. Yes, Friday loves him and feels indebted to him, but I felt like Robinson took advantage of this in a horrible way.
Robinson’s devotion to God and regret for his past behavior seems to come and go with each mood. He swings from thanking God for providing food and shelter for him, to lamenting the fact that he could have been living on a huge slave plantation if his boat hadn’t been shipwrecked.
All of that being said; there are some things I liked about the book. Robinson is forced to get very creative to survive on the island and it’s interesting to see how he creates a new home for himself. Also, his solitude makes him reflective and he makes some wonderful observations as he examines his life.
In the end, I’m glad I read it, but I think Robinson is a self-centered jerkface.
A few great lines:
“That all the good things in the world are of no farther good to us than for our use. And that whatever we may heap up to give others we enjoy only as much as we can use and no more.”
Robinson felt this strongly after he killed more than he could eat or collected more wood than he needed. He watched it rot away when he didn’t use it and realized that it was useless to hoard extra food, etc. because it just went to waste.
"How frequently, in the course of our lives, the evil, which in itself we seek most to shun, and which, when we are fallen into is the most dreadful to us, is often times the very means or door of our deliverance, by which alone we can be raised again from the affliction we are fallen into."
"Thus fear of danger is 10,000 times more terrifying than danger itself when apparent to the eyes. And we find the burden of anxiety greater by much than the evil which we were anxious about."
Tuesday, October 18, 2011Posted by Melissa (Avid Reader)
I’m not big on judging a book solely by its cover or title, but occasionally one is just too good to irresistible. Here's my top ten for this week's Broke and the Bookish list, I went with just my covers, not titles.
1) The Muse Asylum by David Czuchlewski
2) The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly
3) Bossypants by Tina Fey
4) Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby
5) Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
6) Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach
7) The Arrival by Shaun Tan
8) Blindness by Jose Saramago
9) The Sweetness At The Bottom Of The Pie by Alan Bradley
10) Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
Monday, October 17, 2011Posted by Melissa (Avid Reader)
We vowed forever and it's just the beginning.
I can't wait to see what's next.
Photos by Burkett Photography
Friday, October 7, 2011Posted by Melissa (Avid Reader)
This week I will be out of town on vacation…woo hoo!!! I love traveling to foreign locales, but time and money are limited this year and so instead we’re staying a bit closer to home. My husband loves road trips and camping and I love visiting new places. So we looked at the states around us and picked one that we’d never been to.
Drum roll please… we’re going to Alabama! I’m a firm believer that every single state has some interesting and unique to offer visitors. With that in mind I started researching Alabama to figure out what we could do there and there’s so much!
We’ll be camping half the time and it turns out there are lots of fun parks with hiking trails and even waterfalls. We’ll be staying one night in Monroeville, where we can see Harper Lee’s stomping grounds, including the original courthouse from To Kill a Mockingbird, which is now a museum. We’re going to visit Civil Rights Museums, the Bellingrath Gardens, and the Fitzgerald’s home and, of course, eat lots of BBQ.
So guys, I won’t have too many posts up while I’m gone because I won’t be keeping track of comments. I can’t wait to catch up when I get back!
Also, anything I should not miss in Alabama?
p.s. For the first time in my life I've bought a car I actually like! Up until now I've driven old beaters (journalist work doesn't pay much), but the above beauty is my new (used) Subaru Forester. We're taking her on out vacation and I think I'm going to name her Scout in honor of her first road trip. Blue is my favorite color in the world and so that was a huge bonus for me.
p.p.s. If any of you love To Kill a Mockingbird, you should watch the documentary “Hey, Boo.” It’s wonderful!
Photos from here, here, here, here and here. Last photo by moi.
Thursday, October 6, 2011Posted by Melissa (Avid Reader)
A Red Herring Without Mustard
by Alan Bradley
Oh how I love Flavia de Luce. This is the third book in the series (here are reviews of one and two) and instead of getting lazy and assuming the audience from previous books would love her regardless of his efforts, the author has delved deeper into what makes her tick. It’s a wonderful addition to the series.
This mystery has her trying to find out who killed a local boy and beat a gypsy within an inch of her life. Though the plot is great, it’s really secondary to the developing relationships in the series. What I truly loved about this book was getting to know a bit more about Harriet, Flavia’s mother. We also had the chance to see a bit more of her illusive father. He has completely cut himself off from his daughters because of his debilitating grief, but we are getting the chance to see flashes of the man he once was.
The novel still gives us the same old Flavia, curious to a fault, but endlessly entertaining. Yet there are a few moments of maturity that weren’t there in the previous books. While she’s always been wise beyond her years when it comes to chemistry, she’s still a little girl in most ways. In this book we realize that she’s starting to grow up.
In one scene, a new friend is talking about how her mother died too young. Flavia realizes that it would be easy to bring up the death of her own mother, but instead she lets the matter lie, because at that moment, the grief in the room belonged to her friend. In scenes like that we get to see a bit of the woman she will one day become, but I hope we don’t get there too soon, because I love the mix of childish delight and grown-up analytical thought processes that is Flavia.
“Whoever had chosen the paint, I decided, wanted to ensure that anyone who wasn’t sick when they entered the hospital, jolly well would be before they left.”
I read this for the R.I.P. Challenge hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings here.
For more R.I.P reviews visit here.
Tuesday, October 4, 2011Posted by Melissa (Avid Reader)
This week's list from The Broke and the Bookish is Top Ten Book Endings That Left Me With My Mouth Hanging Open (because of the cliffhanger or because it the ending was MINDBLOWING, etc.
Here's my list...
1) The Time Travelers Wife by Audrey Niffenegger– You know what’s coming, but it still breaks your heart.
2) We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver – At no point did I think this one was going to have a fairy tale ending. The whole book is leading the reader towards the final, horrible event. Even though I knew something awful was coming, it was still incredibly powerful to read.
3) The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon – I am still scratching my head about this one, but in a good way. I loved that it really makes you think and I’m still not sure I understood all of it.
4) The City of
5) One Day by David Nicholls – Seriously? WTF.
6) The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – I loved the ending. I wasn’t sure how she was going to do it without killing off the main characters, but she managed it beautifully.
7) A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving – Again, this is one of those that is building towards a big reveal the whole time, but I still wasn’t expecting what happened.
8) Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro – I read this one a few years before the movie came out (and ruined the twist in the trailer) and so I didn’t know what the twist was.
9) My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult – This is the only novel by Picoult I’ve ever read. Since then I’ve heard she often has big shocking endings, but I didn’t know that at the time.
10) And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie – It’s a whodunit, Christie’s best in my opinion, so of course the ending is supposed to surprise you, but it’s so good!
Monday, October 3, 2011Posted by Melissa (Avid Reader)
by Jennifer Donnelly
This book has been popping up everywhere, but it was Sandy’s recommendation that made me finally pick it up. I listened to the audio version which was the perfect format for this.
The novel gives us two separate stories. First there is Andi, a teen living in Brooklyn who is struggling with the death of her younger brother, Truman. Overwhelmed with grief, she’s been falling behind at school and has been thinking about committing suicide. Her estranged father whisks her off to Paris over Christmas break to try to get her back on the right path.
Andi’s passion is music, specifically guitar. She’s incredibly talented and spends her time in Paris busking and researching the famous French composer, Amade Malherbeau. In the midst of her research, she finds the journal of Alexandrine, a young woman who lived during the French Revolution. Alex’s story is the second one to unfold. Her journey leads her to become the nanny to Louis Charles, son of King Louis XVI.
Donnelly managed to perfectly capture the voice of a broken teenage girl. She makes Andi both sympathetic and frustrating. You want to slap her and give her a hug at the same time. That voice made the whole book ring true for me.
My only real issue with the book was the ending, I didn’t love. But at the same time, I’m not sure how I wanted it to end. It felt a bit rushed and forced in the moments leading up to the conclusion. I did love the final pages which give a roundup of who ended up where, that felt right.
In so many ways, this book is a love song to the power of music. It has the power to rise above time and grief, and it binds people together despite their differences. That’s what I’ll take away from it and I’m so glad I read it. I’m looking forward to trying Donnelly’s Rose trilogy, which I’ve heard great things about.
“I’m wishing he could see that music lives. Forever. That it’s stronger than death. Stronger than time. And that its strength holds you together when nothing else can.”
“History is a Rorschach test people,” she said. “What you see when you look at it tells you as much about yourself as it does about the past.”