Told in Reverse: The Hundred-Year House by Rebecca Makkai Book Review

Leave a comment

18693644

 

The Hundred-Year House

By: Rebecca Makkai

Released: July 10th, 2014 by Viking Adult

Length: 352 Pages

Genre: Fiction

Rating: Two Stars

Acquired: via publisher

 

Makkai tells an original family saga in reverse in The Hundred Year House. From family suicide to mysterious deaths, and an old artist colony filled with secrets, The Hundred Year House doesn’t disappoint with the amount of secrets. In this family comes first drama, you learn what it means to be a Devohr.

There was plenty to take in, in this novel. There were the general plot lines of the characters: Doug and his struggle to write his book while hiding the fact that he’s become a ghost writer for a popular teen series that is a little embarrassing; there’s his wife, Zee who is doing her best to secure a spot for “jobless” Doug, by implicating a fellow professor for stuff he isn’t doing. Then there is the couple living with them that are slightly minor. Plus, there’s Gracie, the mom, who is blocking Doug from finding out about certain things that happened in the artist colony.

This novel was intriguing, while a little lackluster for me. I found myself reading it days in between. It didn’t hold my attention as well as I had hoped it would. Although, it did get better in the end. The beginning was slow. Would this be a book I would recommend, no I don’t think so. It took too long for me to feel invested. The characters weren’t my favorite. The plot was a little interesting, though. I liked the ghost haunting the house, but that was not a sub plot that was fully developed, unfortunately.

Dollbaby, Dollbaby, Tell Me Your Secrets: Dollbaby by Laura Lane McNeal

6 Comments

18693929

Dollbaby

By: Laura Lane McNeal

Released: July 3rd, 2014 by Pamela Dorman Books

Length: 352 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction- 1960s Southern Fiction

Rating: Four Stars

Acquired: via publisher

 

After the sudden death of Liberty “Ibby” Bell’s father when she is around 11, her mother drops her off to stay with her grandmother she never knew. To a house full of secrets and wonderment. There she meets Dollbaby and Queenie, the two women that know how to keep the house running and take care of Fannie, the grandmother. But, they two have secrets meant for keeping.  

Taking place in the 1960’s during the civil rights movement in New Orleans, Dollbaby offers a fun take on a historical fiction novel. Both Dollbaby and Queenie have sass beyond belief. Ibby isn’t lacking any herself. Fannie is a delight, yet a little crazy and eccentric. The plot takes place in three parts, separated by four years each. The first part when Ibby is young, the second when she is in High School, and the last and shortest, when she is in college. Each section offers an authentic look at the civil rights movement and what it was like for a white person to have a black friend. Ibby’s best friend was Dollbaby’s daughter.

I loved this book. I feel the author did a fantastic job analyzing the civil rights movement during that period. She crafted fun, complex, intriguing characters full of life. There was so much to like and enjoy. Then, there were the secrets. My, was I not prepared for what I kept learning. Especially the reveal at the end. There is a tie in reveal that had me shocked for days. Days! Even thinking about it now, I’m back to being shocked. It’s major. Not just OMG major, but major to the characters and plot line. You just can’t believe it happened; and a little you can’t believe the author wrote it in. It’s that shattering. That big. I don’t know in a good way. It’s just big.

There is something about this book that will keep you wanting more. It’s one of those pieces of literature that is so good and fulfilling that at the end you want an unnecessary sequel just so you can read more. There’s no point. No real plot thatcan be continued, but I want it. I will definitely try to read more by this author. She really hooked me in. I hope you will check this novel out. Believe me, you won’t be disappointed. It’s a little similar to The Help, but really only because there is “the help” featured. I find it can stand on its on far better. Just give it a go.

 

What Everyone Thinks They Know: The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu Book Review

4 Comments

16068341

The Truth About Alice

By: Jennifer Mathieu

Released: June 3rd, 2014 by Roaring Brook Press

Length: 199 pages

Genre: YA Realistic Fiction– bullying

Rating: Four Stars

Acquired: via netgalley

 

Alice Franklin was one of the popular girls. She wore pencil skirts and fitted tops. She was pretty without trying very hard. She was wanted. That’s what got her in trouble. It started at a party, where it always starts. Alice “has sex with two boys in one night” according to one of the recipients who texts his best friend. That slut. If it was just sex, she’d be a slut. But, weeks later the boy with the loud keyboard dies while sexting Alice in a car crash. Now, not only is she a slut, she is a slut who kills the superstar quarterback because she can’t keep it in her pants. How could she! The Truth About  Alice isn’t her story, but the story of four people who think they know the truth; only one is right.

Alice doesn’t get to defend herself in this unique take on he said/ she said. Told in alternating voices of the girl who threw the party, Alice’s then best friend, the best friend of said dead guy, and a guy who wasn’t there but may know something, this novel gives us a look at what bullying is really like. Each voice is different. The party thrower focuses more on herself rather than Alice. The best friend throws Alice completely under the bus because she doesn’t want to be a loner like she was at her old school again. The best friend of dead guy is just idiotic, and the shy, wasn’t even there guy, is the only great character; also, with the only narrative that has Alice speak albeit briefly and in little sentences.

You might not believe me, but I loved this book. Really loved this book. I thought Mathieu did an excellent job writing about High School bullying; and, how hurtful rumors can be. Alice is not the only person who has been slut shamed, whether or not the rumor was true. She went from looking pretty, being herself, to wearing pants and a hoodie zipped up, hiding her head. This isn’t a rare thing, unfortunately; and, Mathieu captured it masterfully. The reader is taken through the whole journey of the development of the rumor to discovering the truth. It’s a heart breaking story, with only a small happy ending.

Although I am well out of High School, and the politics of it, I can see this book as still being relevant. Kids are still cruel. People are being bullied all the time. I think this is a perfect novel to be taught in schools.  See, kids, this is what happens. Do you want to be such and such? Do you see what he/she is doing to Alice? Having Alice not speak in this novel, although it sounds like it wouldn’t work nor be beneficial in teaching a lesson, it does the opposite. Here’s how: you meet Kurt. Kurt is not popular, a total nerd, and the only one who befriends Alice. Yes, he had a crush on her, but his narrative becomes so much more. It brings reality to all the other nonsense you read from the other three people.

At first, I was apprehensive when I found out Alice never gets a chance to defend herself against these rumors, but as I continued reading, I understood why. If you choose to read this book (please do!) you’ll get it, too. Sometimes, these rumors have nothing to do with the victim. They just happen to be with the target. You need to understand the person who is the bully. It completely works. You don’t feel sorry for these people, I sure didn’t, but you get it. You understand where rumors start, develop, and take off full force. This approach is certainly a risk, it may not work in fiction all the time, but Mathieu did it well.

I highly recommend this book. I read it in one sitting; it’s that good. You just want to find out the truth. You know one of them knows, but which one. You will be surprised at who and why. There are three good plot twists that I enjoyed. Little zingers I didn’t see coming. The end was also very good. I loved it. I hope you read it. It’s a book not to be missed, in my opinion. Plus, if you know someone in High School, or are in High School yourself, this will be a great novel for you, I promise!

These Princesses Sure Can Dance: The Girls at The Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine Book Review

4 Comments

17158540

The Girls at the Kingfisher Club

By: Genevieve Valentine

Released: June 3rd, 2014 by Atria Books

Length: 288 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction- Roaring Twenties / Fairy Tale retelling- Twelve Princesses Dancing

Rating: Four Stars

Acquired: via netgalley

 

It’s the era of Prohibition. The flappers are a dancing. The men are sneaking in their booze. In Manhattan, twelve sisters stay holed up in their house upstairs. Never to see their father, only when they are individually called upon to be married off.  Dying to get out of their house, the “general” eldest sister Jo, concocts a plan to drag them out dancing every night. Nothing but worn shoes and out of style dresses.  It’s the only thing that keeps them sane. But, their father has other plans for his daughters. Plans of marriage that doesn’t fit with their dancing lives. 

The Girls at the Kingfisher Club is the marvelous retelling of the well-known fairy tale “The Twelve Princesses Dancing”. What makes this novel special, and sets it apart from other retellings, is the era– the glitz, the glamour, and the sneakiness of all of it. Women were just starting to fight for their rights. It’s the perfect time for deception and the freedom these twelve girls/women are seeking. There is no better era, I believe.

 I absolutely adored this novel. I loved the characters, all twelve of the girls. Jo, the eldest, was my favorite. She grew the most out of all of them.  She had the most to lose and the least to gain. I also liked the second set of twins, Lily and Rose. I liked them because one of them was a lesbian. Why do I like that so much? Because think of how bold that is. o develop a lesbian character set in that era? It worked. It pushed the limits, yes. But, it wasn’t too much, too little, or too uncomfortable. It was perfect. It made sense one of them would be. I just liked it. I liked the character, herself, too. How daring she was. She wears pants! That’s a big deal and step.

There isn’t much I can critique about this book. The plot flowed nicely; the characters, although plenty, were developed nicely; and, the setting seemed historically accurate. I can picture Zelda Fitzgerald reading this book today and loving it. Valentine was able to reanimate the roaring twenties and bring back that life that was once alive.  I can’t recommend this book enough. This was truly a joy to read.  I hope you pick this book up. You won’t regret it.

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

1 Comment

18144112

 

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.

 

I Want a Museum of: The Museum of Intangible Things by Wendy Wunder Book Review

6 Comments

18079542

The Museum of Intangible Things

By: Wendy Wunder

Released: April, 2014 by Razorbill

Length: 302 Pages

Genre: YA Contemporary, YA Mental Illness-Bi polar

Rating: Five Stars

Acquired: purchased

 

Hannah and Zoe have been best friends since they were little kids.  Hannah is the practical one. She owns her own hot dog stand. She wants to go to college, even if it’s only at county. She can’t see more for herself. Can’t see past the lake. Zoe is more adventurous. More wild. She’s artistic, creative, free-spirited. Bi-polar. 

On a particularly manic day, Zoe has decided she has had enough of their New Jersey lake town. It’s time they see more. It’s time Hannah stops settling and learns some lessons outside of school. On this adventure is where, on each new day, Zoe teaches Hannah about something–Loyalty. Envy. Obligation. Dreams. Disappointment. Fear. Negligence. Coping. Elation. Lust. Nature. Freedom. Heartbreak. Insouciance. All while have the most epic road trip. 

The Museum of Intangible Things is one of those books that has a pretty cover and is not a let down. There are books that have beautiful covers and when you crack that spine, read those first pages you are immediately disappointed. But the cover is so pretty! This is not one of those books.  I immediately fell in love with this book. First sentence, first page in love. There was something magical that just grabs you without magic. They way Wendy Wunder crafts the words and weaves a story is magic in itself. There doesn’t need to be dragons or princesses. Hannah is perhaps one of my favorite characters I have read/met this year, possibly after Zoe. Zoe was pretty phenomenal, too. They both were great. And, I don’t just like Hannah because we share a name! She is a genuine, tough, real, true to herself character who goes through a lot and comes out strong. She comes out on top. I admired her completely. Zoe was the opposite of her. She was this wild girl. Strong-willed, will-full, and kind of a parent’s worse nightmare. Yet, there was something so special about her. Then, there was her demon–her mental illness.  

Her Bi-polar 1 Disorder with psychosis was prominent in this book. Not in a scientific way or anything. But, there. Let me tell you, never have I read a book so spot on about the illness. There are tons of books, movies, and television shows that portray this serious illness wrong. Completely wrong. It’s not like that terrible medical drama Black Box. It’s mostly like Homeland. And, it’s like this. Zoe’s mania was very, very accurate. Her need for adventure, for something more at an unrealistic pace, all real. I was very impressed. Also, very moved by the end of the novel. It’s a mini tear jerker. I won’t lie. The end. THE END!!

The “lessons” in the book are both universal and true. They are meaningful; some like insouciance are fun while others are more moving. This book really makes you think. Young Adult novels can still do that. This book definitely makes my top ten list of books read this year. I would truly recommend this book to anyone and everyone. There is just this realness and rawness you don’t find too often in any kind of genre anymore.

“Perfect should never be a goal. Perfect just happens if you let it.”

 

Laudanum and Arsenic: The Devil in the Corner by Patricia Elliott Book Review

Leave a comment

20728920

The Devil in the Corner

By: Patricia Elliott

Released: March, 2014 by Hachette’s Children’s Books

Length: 400 Pages

Genre: Young Adult– Gothic/ Historical Fiction

Rating: 3 and a half Stars

Acquired: via netgalley

 After a terrible run as a governess, poor, orphaned Maud Greenwood can’t keep the nightmares away without some Laudanum at night. When she moves in with her cousin by marriage, Miss Juliana Greenwood,  her need begins to take over. Then, there is issues with her cousin; all is not what it seems. She is needy, persistent, and sees her as an unpaid nurse rather than family and a companion. Suddenly, as an event shakes the town, the “Devil” begins to take over. Part love story, part Victorian Gothic story, The Devil in the Corner is engaging and enthralling. Has the Devil really come?

The Devil in the Corner is a compelling story told by two narrators, Maud, and John Shawcross, her love interest who is a local artist set to restore the Doom painting in the local Church. Their love story often gets in the way of what really is happening; the relationship between Maud and Juliana, Maud’s Laudanum addiction, the visions she sees and imagines, the rumors and accusations brought forth against her. Although John offered a different perspective, full of love and want for Maud, his story was one that could be expendable in this 400 page novel. It was what happened to Maud that was the most interesting.

In this novel, there is an underlining theme of good and bad; with the “Devil” appearing later on. The painting John has to restore is of the Judgment which later becomes one of the central themes in the novel. In the begin, Maud keeps thinking she sees shadows and that someone is following her, thus assigning this to the Devil. She also believes she has heavily sinned, as she tries to tell John who does not believe in any religion. He believes in Darwinism. Which also becomes a conversation piece, however brief.Then an event happens that shakes the town and its beliefs. I won’t say what happens because, spoilers, but it’s big.

I liked how Elliott approached the idea of divinity and good and evil. The symbolism was strong. The way she used the Devil throughout her novel was really good. She didn’t throw it in the reader’s face. She approached it slowly, then sped things up at a nice, progressive pace. The plot twist was great. I enjoyed it immensely. It was unexpected, new, and kept me engaged. The chapters were often short, and left me wanting more. I rather breezed through this relatively long book that did not feel like 400 pages long. I really lost myself in the characters and plot. Juliana was the right amount of bad and needy. Maud was the right amount of scarred.

I would definitely recommend this book. It was an enjoyable read that I didn’t put down often. The Gothic aspect was very well written. The only issue I had was the love story which can be easily bypassed. It’s not that it’s cheesy, it’s just that it should take third chair to all the action that Maud sees. I hope you give this book a look over. Don’t be thrown by the pages, it’s shorter than it seems.

 

 

Newer Entries

Travel in Retrospect

Geographers don't get lost; they merely explore.

The Life Between Pages

Devouring words one page at a time.

Creative-Lee Designed

Getting through life one craft at a time.

stampingwithreneetorres

Independent Stampin' Up! Consultant

My OBT

What if you spent every day looking for One Beautiful Thing?

Attack Of The Quarterlife Crisis

Because suddenly you wake up one day and realize you're an adult

An Unconventional Librarian

Those who are clever, who have a Brain, never understand anything.

November Notebook: A YA Lit Blog

Updated Sundays & Wednesdays

Glenn Hates Books

Brutally Honest Book Reviews

Adam Burgess

Author Blog & Website

Michelle Gable, Writer

Fiction and Finance

Words And Peace

Book reviews and good books for you to read

Pages And Tea

Because life is better served with a good book and a cup of tea. Book reviews and general bookish writings. I love many genres, so all manner of books may appear on my blog.

retrohipmama

vintage inspired creativity

Squeakerchimp

Vintage and Retro Emporium