Where a Miniature House Can Tell So Many Truths: The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

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The Miniaturist

By: Jessie Burton

Released: August, 2014 by Ecco

Length: 416 Pages

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction- 17th Century Amsterdam

Rating: Five Stars

Acquired: via publisher

What would you do, if at eighteen, you just get married to a man you hardly know? To a man who isn’t around? Nella Oortman is faced with those questions and more. When her husband finally returns from sea, he gives her the strangest wedding gift–a miniature replica of their house. Once a miniaturist is sought out to make the furniture, it is then secrets start to tally up. How does the miniaturist know? How does he or she predict these things? 

Taking place within three months in 1686 Amsterdam, The Miniaturist takes a deep look at what it was like for the working to high middle class at the time. Full of secrets, twists, and back-stabbing intrigue, this debut is not to be missed. Nella starts off as a small voiced, scared newlywed who is afraid of her older, much more out spoken sister in law Marin. With brilliant character development, and a more brilliant twist, the reader is taken on a surprise journey with these two women. Not to mention how the marriage goes! This book is full of plot twists that take you aback. You won’t expect a single thing that happens, which makes this book ever more engaging and fun to read.

Burton’s writing is fresh, imaginative,  and daring. With one of her plot twists, she goes there. Really, really goes there where most authors, established or not, would be hesitant or afraid to. But, not Burton. She takes it to the unexpected, especially for that time period. The way she did it was highly successful in my opinion. I was shocked, surprised, and not at all in disagreement with her choice. I was impressed with what she did, actually. That wasn’t the only plot twist where she pushed the envelope, either. She wrote one more thing, where in today’s time would not be too big of a controversy, but in 1686, big big big controversy. And, it worked! It wasn’t put in the story just to push our limits. It made complete sense.

I loved this book. I loved everything about it. The plot twists impressed me. The writing was astonishingly good for a first time author. The characters developed perfectly. The end was nicely open ended for the readers. There wasn’t a thing I could complain about. I was completely invested. It was hard not to be. The first page alone pulls you in by starting with a funeral for someone who apparently has no friends. You have to think who it is for. It’s that good. It pulls you in that fast. I’m going to say it. This book was one of my favorite reads of this year. It was that good. I can’t recommend it enough. It will pull you in; leave you wanting more. If there is one historical fiction novel you read this year, I honestly think this is the one you should read. It isn’t about Kings or Queens. Treason and the like. It is about people like us. Finally, a historical fiction novel we can relate to!

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This Book is Truly Wild; The Wilds by Julia Elliott

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The Wilds: Stories

By: Julia Elliott

Released: October 14, 2014 by Tin House Books

Length: 376 pages

Rating: Five Stars

Acquired: BEA

 

For fans of Amy Hempel and Aimee Bender, this debut collection of short stories doesn’t disapoint. It lives up to its name.

In Julia Elliott’s collection of short stories, the journey is certainly a wild one. This is one of the weirdest collections of stories I have ever read; and, not been turned off by it. I tried reading Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls  by Alissa Nutting. It was just too strange. However, The Wilds is just strange enough. There is a story entitled “LIMBs” that is about an elderly woman with bionic legs living at a senior home. It was an interesting story that immediately drawn me in to the collection. It wasn’t just that she had bionic legs, although that was one of the best parts. She had Alzheimer but there was this new out of the box treatment that led her back to her memories. It was a really sweet story.

One of the more wilder stories was “Regeneration at Mukti”.   Mukti is not your typical restort. Oh, no. Besides being extremely Eco friendly, it is also the place where you’re body goes through hell, literally. It’s called The Suffering where you enter The Hell realm. It’s a nasty story with boils, puss, and just grossness. But…I loved it. Every page of it. There was something really unique about it that I wasn’t turned off by it.

By far, the most outrageous and my favorite story, was “Caveman Love”. Now, if you’re wondering if cavemen are involved, you’d be half right. The story takes place at a Cavemen-esque vacation place where you dress up like cavemen and behave like them. There was an undertone of orgies. It was hysterical, the orgy scene. I just loved the whole story. Like “Regeneration at Mukti” there was this uniqueness about this story that connected with me. The weirdness level was perfect.

This collection was great. I really enjoyed reading this. Each story was different. The characters were interesting, unique, and kept me hooked. There were some stories I wasn’t too fond of, but none that I didn’t actively like. I highly recommend this collection if you like short stories, or are looking for a new author to read. It’s very entertaining and will keep you wanting more.

William Shakespeare like You’ve Never Read; The Tutor by Andrea Chapin

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The Tutor

By: Andrea Chapin

Released: February 5th, 2015 by Riverhead books

Length: 368 Pages

Rating: Three Stars

Acquired: via publisher- firsttoread.com

William Shakespeare was once a mediocre tutor who “fell in love”.

This is the man we never knew.

This novel has marketed itself with the tagline “William Shakespeare like we have never known before.” Something around those lines. I find it funny, and yes, a little fitting. The Shakespeare in this book is a pre famous Shakespeare, who goes to a woman to fix his sonnets. He’s still cocky, but not as so. He was an interesting and fun character to read. There was a realness to him; a weakness and a crack that was nice to see. But, this isn’t his story. Oh no, this is Katherine’s- widow and the one he falls in love with. Told through Katherine’s perspective, you got to see Shakespeare in this different light.

Katherine was an excellent heroine and lover for Shakespeare. She was strong, witty, and smart. She could hold her own in any intellectual conversation, and many times she did. She easily won Shakespeare’s heart from the very beginning when she tried to kick him out of the house, not knowing he was the new tutor for the children living in the house. It was a very funny scene. She continued to challenge him throughout; from questioning his education to critiquing his sonnets until they were perfect. She was a force to be reckoned with.

I really enjoyed their relationship. They had really funny banter. Yes, there was the romance. But, I found myself liking the challenges and banter more. I think Chapin did a great job at crafting a realistic relationship between these two characters. I enjoyed reading the novel. There was some sub plots, including a religious one that involved Queen Elizabeth killing the Catholic Priests and some household affairs, but I didn’t pay much mind to those. It was all Katherine and William for me.

Although this wasn’t a four star book for me, mostly because of the sub plots, I would still recommend it. I think if you are a big fan of either historical fiction or Shakespeare, or both like I am, you will enjoy this book. You may even like the sub plots! Who knows. I just may be picky. Either way, just book should be on your radar for sure.

 

The Liars! The Liars!: We were Liars by E. Lockhart book review

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We were Liars

OBy: E. Lockhart

Released: May 13, 2014

Length: 240 Pages

Genre: YA

Rating: 2 Stars

Acquired: BEA

 

 We are Sinclairs.

No on is needy.

No one is wrong.

Oh, those Sinclairs. They are rich, snobby, and train wrecks waiting to happen. The narrator is Cadence “Caddy” Easton, the eldest grandchild. She got on my nerves the most. She called her mom, mummy. It became a huge pet peeve of mine that I didn’t even know I had. I didn’t like her at all. I didn’t find her interesting or relatable. She was a little too whiny, actually. After the great accident that left her with mysterious headaches and memory loss, she was even more grating.

Categorized as a suspense novel, I didn’t find it as such. At least it didn’t seem that way on the surface. Sure, there was one event that happened that you don’t know the facts of until the very end, but there was much suspense leading up to it. The suspense leading up to it, if you want to think of it as such, was just Caddy’s constant falling over due to her headache. She does question certain family members over her memory loss, but it’s not truly in a suspenseful whodunit way. If you are looking for a good suspense/mystery novel, I would look elsewhere. What I will say, though, is the reveal at the very end, the twist, is amazing. It’s revealed in not the best of ways, kind of like an after thought, but it’s a great reveal. It’s just unbelievable. I loved it. It’s the only reason why this book gets two stars instead of one. It’s smart, edgy, and caught me off guard.

Let’s talk characters. Boring. Boring, boring, boring. I didn’t connect with any of them. None of them left a mark on me. Caddy’s mother was a nightmare; her sisters weren’t shining stars either. Grandpa was MEAN and very racist. Then there were the liars- three cousins and a family friend, Gatnik. I only remember Gat because he of his unusual name. But, out of all of them he was the most annoying. He was constantly talking about politics and race etc. He was trying to sound smart and impress Caddy. He was also a cheater and smooth talker. The liars didn’t really lie, so I am confused about their name, but that is for another discussion.

Overall, I was an unsatisfied reader. I read the book really fast, so you would think I liked it, but I didn’t. There wasn’t much to it. The suspense wasn’t very suspenseful. The characters were lackluster. The plot was just okay. There wasn’t much that I liked. However, I know I am in the minority. This book won goodreads choice book of the year. It’s one of those love/hate books. I just happen to fall in the latter category. If you pick this up, you may fall in the former. John Green calls it “Thrilling, beautiful, and blisteringly smart.” How can I disagree with John Green?!?!? But, I do. Sorry, John! Read at your own risk.

Kiki is kinky; Kiki by Amanda Earl Book Review

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Kiki

Kiki

By: Amanda Earl

Released: October 1st by Chaudiere Press

Length: 130 Pages

Genre: Poetry

Rating: Four Stars

Acquired: via publisher

 

I  am a window made of paper,

a fragile silhouette that goes up in flames

with the merest touch of light.

-untitled from “Alice”

Kiki is based on Kiki de Montparnasse, born as Alice Ernestine Prin. A woman of many talents and surrealist photographer Man Ray’s mistress, Kiki tells her life in parts. Divided up in four sections, the collection begins with “Alice” with rather short, untitled poems about Alice becoming Kiki; the marvelous nights spent drinking, dancing, performing; her sexual awakening and awareness. It is perhaps one of my favorite sections of the collection. The next part titled “Tales of Montparnasse” is one long poem about just that. Fitzgerald and Hemingway make an appearance, of course, as do many others. I didn’t find myself connecting to this one as much. The third section is entitled Opium (After Cocteau). The shortest long poem in the collection, it is by far my favorite in the entire collection. It is about opium use, but there is a beautiful juxtaposition that takes place within the poem that made me instantly fall in love with it.

I remove my mask.

I lie prone on the ground,

a flower’s stem impaled in my chest.

There is something in those two lines is slightly disturbing, but when I picture the flower’s stem, I can’t help but think about the rest of the flower. The whole poem has very strong imagery that challenges each of your senses. It’s the one section not to be missed. The most unique section, and the last, is a call and response to William S. Burroughs’s Naked Lunch with Kiki as the speaker. The most interesting section by far, I read it very quickly, compelled to keep reading. The responses were very fascinating, and passages chosen from the novel.

Overall, I really enjoyed this collection. It was very sensual, explicit with curse words in “Alice”, with imagery that both challenges the senses and brings a reality to the life of Kiki. I think she would be proud of this piece of work.

 

While he Was Sleeping, Someone Fell in Love: Althea and Oliver by Cristina Moracho Book Review

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Althea and Oliver

By: Cristina Moracho

Released: October 9th, 2014 by Viking Juvenile

Length: 384 pages

Genre: YA Contemporary, Realistic

Rating: Four Stars

Acquired: via publisher

Imagine this: it’s your junior year in High School. Academics are getting harder. College is getting closer. Friends are becoming options other than friends. Your life is changing right before your eyes, but there’s a problem. You sleep through it. Literally.

Meet Althea Carter and Oliver McKinley, best friends since they were six years old. Althea is the whip-smart, sarcastic, artistic one, whereas Oliver is the studious, scientific one. What used to be an easy friendship has turned harder. Oliver has been sleeping through life, quite literally. Going to sleep for weeks at a time, forgetting everything in between. Althea has been clinging to him for so long, that she has developed feelings. True to a lot of opposite sex friendships, the friendship gets tested. Can it be repaired?

Although I never felt I got a total handle on Oliver, I loved Althea. She was smart, quick witted, and someone I could see myself befriending in High School. Their relationship was very relatable, albeit Oliver’s condition. I found myself instantly drawn in. I liked how they balanced each other well, but were their own person as well. Their journey was a good one. It felt real and true. I won’t spoil the end, but I was very happy with it! There wasn’t a single thing I didn’t like about this book. All of the characters, main and side, were developed in a way that was realistic, and still current in today’s time.

The plot developed nicely, never leaving you hanging. I liked the way it took me. I think if you are to gain anything from this book, it would be about identity, and what it means to be yourself. Yes, there was a love story. What I liked, though, was although the love story was a main focus, the concept of identity, and the characters actually going through a sort of major crisis took center stage; allowing the novel to be more universal rather than just about finding love, wanting love and so forth. I do like teen romances, but I enjoy when there is added depth to them, such as finding yourself within the romance like Moracho does with her two characters.

I would highly recommend this novel. More and more, I am finding myself impressed with this year’s debut authors. Moracho is no different. This reads like a second novel, not a first. It is excellent. Not a novel to be missed by any means. If you are a fan of John Green, Sarah Dessen, and Jennifer E. Smith, this novel is for you.

What a Dying Breath Can Do: The Collector of Dying Breaths: A novel of Suspense (Reincarnationists #6) by M.J. Rose Book Review

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The Collector of Dying Breaths: A novel of Suspense (Reincarnationists #6)

By: M.J. Rose

Released: April 8th, 2014 by Atria Books

Length: 384 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction- 16th Century France/Italy Catherine de Medici

Rating: 3 Stars

Acquired: via netgalley

 

Past: 1500’s Rene le Florentin is chosen as Catherine de Medici’s perfumer at just the right time- he is about to be killed for a crime he didn’t commit. She rescues him, sending him to France with her as she becomes a Princess then a Queen. Through the years, their relationship develops and it’s not just perfumes he creates for her and her girls–her spies. In the meantime, he is experimenting on his own, trying to finish what he started with his mentor, how to reincarnate a body with a dying breath.

Present: In France, mythologist Jac E’toile of the famous E’toile perfumery just lost her brother, her only family to mysterious circumstances.No one knows how he got so sick so suddenly. He was fine weeks, maybe even days before. Then Jac gets a call to meet with a woman who Robbie was working on something with– the collection of dying breaths owned by Rene le Florentin. Jac is taken on a strange journey as she works to solve the formula and discover the truth about her brother’s death. All while having flashbacks of Rene le Florentin. 

Before I go into critiquing this novel, let me first state that I liked the book. I didn’t love it, no. It took me a bit to get into it. But, I liked it. Rene le Florentin was a great character. His life was very interesting; I would read another book about his life in an instant. He held my attention. His relationship with Catherine de Medici was both nefarious and familial. I liked the chemistry they had together. They had a clear connection that translated well on the page. The historical aspect of the novel were fascinating. Learning about how Queen Catherine conducted herself was shocking and made me keep reading. The idea of reincarnation and the dying breaths was also intriguing. My problems with the book started in the present.

How can I put this lightly? The present was dull. Yes, many things happened. There was action all the time. There was a character who belonged in a mental institution in my opinion; and, I would never say that lightly. She was truly scary and psychotic. If you read some of the things she did, you would agree. With all the action and everything, it was still dull. Why? Because Jac was a terrible protagonist. She was boring, two dimensional if that. She whined a lot. And, didn’t bring much to the table. I often wanted to skip her parts, but I liked when she would have visions of Rene as she had these reincarnation abilities; she could lock into her past lives. That sounds exciting, right? But, she hates it so much that she completely down plays it. It becomes something so negative. And she tries to stop them from happening all the time.

She made me want more Rene. He was exciting. There were many graphic sex scenes in his time period. Oh my were they graphic. He loved sex. Loved loved loved sex. He was a former monk. Imagine how different the story would be if he stayed one! If the book was all about Rene and his discoveries, the book would get a much higher rating. But, since Jac took precedence in the novel, I can only say I liked it. Would I recommend it? Yes. Just for Rene. Maybe for Jac a little bit because things really do get crazy. Really crazy really slow then really fast. I wanted to love this book. I was so looking forward to it. But, unfortunately it fell a little flat. It wasn’t necessarily the writing. I enjoyed Rose’s writing style. It was more her characters.

If you are looking for a historical, slightly paranormal, mystery with the present thrown in, this is it. The mystery is there. The historical fiction factor is great. It’s entertaining and what you expect. Or, more what you normally want out of historical fiction novels. You can overlook the Present part. Read it, but read it lightly. It’s the 1500’s that’s really got the juice.

 

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