The Glass Castle

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls is a memoir about a family that is less than perfect and determined to seek out a life they define.

Jeannette Walls grew up with parents who took nonconformity to another level.  Rex and Rose Mary Walls had four children, one boy and three girls–Jeannette being the second oldest. When Jeannette was young, her family lived a nomadic life–moving from place to place, sleeping in cars and camping in the desert.

Sometimes they scavenged for food and sometimes they ate like kings. All four kids grew up bookworms–studying geometry, art, history and basically any interesting fact their parents could get their hands on. Discipline took a back-burner to life; Rose Mary and Rex believed strongly in the sink or swim method of life lessons.

Although, they often went hungry and life could beat you down, there was something magical and adventurous about those early years on the road. But all that changed when the family moved to rural West Virginia and life deteriorated until the kids were all but surviving.

This is the story of a dysfunctional family that stuck together until they didn’t.

Anyone who follows my blog or reviews knows that I am not a big nonfiction person. I will occasionally listen to a biography or a narrative driven historical non-fiction but I’d rather jump out of my skin than get under someone else’s>>does that make sense? So for me, this book was beautifully written… just not for me.

When I first picked up this book I didn’t realize it was a memoir. And then reading what these kids went through, I really didn’t think it was a memoir until I looked it up on Amazon. Jeez, what a life Jeannette had and I am sure this book doesn’t even cover half of it. You’ve got to be extremely lucky to survive a life like that and come out the other side still intact.

The characters I think most people will focus on are erratic Rose Mary and charismatic Rex. But you know who I would have loved to get a closer look at… Jeannette’s brother. Although he and Jeannette were more like twins then brother and sister, Brian was the only boy and just a really interesting person in my opinion. I’d love to see this journey from his perspective.

Overall, this was a read about overcoming adversity and living life the best you can no matter what type of life you lead. This book gets 3.5 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

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Artemis

Artemis by Andy Weir is an adult science fiction novel that takes place on the moon.

Jazz Bashara doesn’t follow a straight path–she’s one for shortcuts and bending the rules. Life on the moon isn’t all it’s cracked up to be if you aren’t rich but for Jazz it’s still home and has been since she was six. So running a small smuggling operation to bring in some additional cash isn’t the worst thing she could do, right? Not when she’s barely surviving on her salary as a porter.

When Jazz is given the chance to make a ton of money on a single, all-but complicated and potentially life ruining job, she jumps at the chance to change her life forever. But planning the perfect job isn’t all it’s cracked up to be when Jazz finds herself in the middle of a conspiracy and being hunted by the mob.

What has Jazz gotten herself into and how will she get out of it and save Artemis at the same time?

Artemis has Weir’s usual narrative flair. Jazz is a master of snarky sass without making everyone want to kick her ass. This is not an easy thing to achieve and Weir makes it look effortless. That being said, Artemis didn’t capture me like The Martian did.  The latter made me laugh but had a nice balance of plausible science and excitement. Whereas Artemis didn’t quite hit that balance for me. I liked the Ocean’s Eleven feel of the story but something was just missing for me.

The world building was well done. I really felt like a city on the moon was plausible and I could totally see it being a tourist trap or taken over by the wealthy. I don’t know why but I keep thinking Disney World but on the moon. I also enjoyed the glimpse into the politics we get.

Although, I like the narrative snark, did anyone else feel like Jazz was basically a female Mark Watney without the desert island and the countdown clock? I didn’t even realize Jazz was a girl until a few pages in. She could have been a bit more original.

This was an enjoyable read but didn’t feel entirely original to me. Not bad but not Weir’s best. This one gets 3 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

 

The City of Brass

The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty is the first book in a new fantasy trilogy set in the middle east.

Nahri grew up on the streets of Cairo, surviving using her wits and her talents as a thief and swindler. Nahri has a strange gift for healing; she can immediately tell what ales a person and can often heal them. Not knowing anything about this power or where it came from, Nahri’s only goal in life is to save enough money to bribe someone into training her to become a professional healer.

But Nahri’s life is changed forever when she accidentally calls a powerful djinn warrior, Dara, to her side and she learns that all the mythical stories were true and that a part of her belongs in this world of marid’s, bird-men and djinn. With Dara as her captor/escort, Nahri travels to the mythical city of Daevabad where court intrigue rules, politics are played with blood and warring tribes threaten to tear down a peace that is shaky at the best of times.

Will Nahri learn who she truly is and will she be able to adapt to a life beyond her imagining?

I really liked this world behind the curtains. A world of magic; a world where myth and folklore come to life. The world building in this book is just so complete. From the politics to the history, to the character development and setting there just are not any glaring loose ends.

There was actually almost too much world building to the point where the story came second. There were a few times where I was wondering where the book was going and how certain chapters related to the plot. But I think the author is spinning a web to carry though the rest of the trilogy. This book felt more like a build up to the action to come.

I found myself rooting for each of our main characters in turn. First, Nahri with her sass and mysterious past. Then Dara with his lost memory and hard brand of caring. And finally Ali, with his family drama and conflicted moral code. Even the side characters were interesting and well developed.

The ending also really left you wondering… what exactly is going on and who is the one with all the power. I like this in a cliffhanger. You aren’t dying with the cliffhanger but you are definitely intrigued enough to want to know more.

I’ll be interested to see where this one is going. This one gets 4 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

The Life She Was Given

The Life She Was Given by Ellen Marie Wiseman is a duel narrative fictional novel about family secrets that span decades.

In 1931, Lilly Blackwood spots a circus through the barred glass of her attic dormer window and her life is forever changed. All her life Lilly has lived in the attic of her parents house. She is locked up and no one knows of her existence except for her devoutly religious and abusive mother and her distant father. Lilly is different and is constantly reminded that the world would fear her if they saw her.

The night after the circus arrives, Lilly’s mother drags her from the attic and to the circus where she is sold to Merrick, the owner of the circus freak show. Lilly is to be their new exhibit. A child and alone in the world, Lilly must learn to obey or face the consequences. Can she find a home in this world of spectacle and farce?

More than two decades later, nineteen-year-old runaway, Julia Blackwood learns that her parents have died and left her Blackwood Manor. Returning to a home of strict rules and locked doors, Julia begins to uncover secrets about her past that with shake her to her core.

What does Lilly and Julia have in common? How are they connected? And what secrets will come to light when the dust is cleared?

I actually really enjoyed this book. I picked it up on a whim to read in the hospital and it kept my interest the whole time. I’ve never read anything by Ellen Marie Wiseman before but I really enjoyed her writing style and the past/present narrative really worked for me.

There is something about a circus, carnival, travelling show that just captures my interest and I found myself fully invested in Lilly’s story. I wanted to see how this little girl adapts to a cast of characters and learns to live her life year after year in a travelling circus.

Although, I was more invested in Lilly’s story, I also enjoyed Julia’s search for truth. I do with Julia’s chapters were fleshed out a little bit more and the characters more developed but other than uncovering her parent’s secrets, Julia wasn’t an overly complex character, unlike Lilly.

This is a story about being different and persevering; finding ones true self and moving on. This one gets 4 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

The Child Finder

The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld is an adult suspense novel about a woman whose job it is to locate missing children–dead or alive.

Madison Culver disappeared three years ago–she would be eight now, if she survived. Gone without out a trace in the mountains of Oregon’s Skookum National Forest, very few believe she could possibly be alive. Desperate to know the truth, the Culver’s contact Naomi, a private investigator who specializes in finding children.

Naomi’s reputation precedes her; she is known as The Child Finder and her ability to find these children, dead or alive is uncanny. Whether this ability stems from her past or not, Naomi understands these children because she used to be one of them. Naomi was found running through a field naked when she was a young girl. With no memories of what happened to her, Naomi is taken in my a kindly woman and grows up with a need, an obsession to find children like her. But who is she really hoping to find?

What happened to Madison Culver? Did she freeze to death like many suspect or is she out there somewhere? Will Naomi be able to unravel another story without unraveling herself?

loved Rene Denfeld’s The Enchanted, so I had to pick up The Child Finder and I am glad I did. This won’t be a book for everyone. Some people just can’t handle reading a story about child abduction and the horrible, evil things people do. And that’s OK. But for those who can stomach it, Denfeld does it right. She creates these stories where the bad is portrayed through the glamour of magic or fairy tales, so even though you realize you are reading something awful–you know what’s going on the whole time–there still a filter and one that really does add to the story.

The Child Finder has two primary narratives–Naomi’s past and present and Snowgirl’s, Madison Culver’s. I wondered at first if this fractured narrative, jumping between stories and past and present would detract from the story but it doesn’t at all. It really works. You get invested in Snowgirl’s story and yet you are still craving the who behind Naomi’s past. This story touches upon a very dark world and we get an insight into some of the psychology of abductees without it being overwhelming. We also get a glimpse into the mind of the “villain” and we see how monsters are made and people twisted.

This one gets four stars from me. Not quite as high as The Enchanted but still a really good read and one I think readers would enjoy.

That’s all for now!

-M-

 

The Language of Thorns

The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo is a collection of six short stories that takes place in the Grisha-verse. Paired with stunning artwork that transforms with each page, this book takes you inside the sometimes dark and fantastical world of folklore and myth.

I was actually a little hesitant to pick this one up. I kinda felt like I was done with the Grisha-verse and this being a standalone of short stories, I wasn’t overly interested. But I am glad I picked it up. One does not need to be familiar with Bardugo’s Grisha universe to enjoy these fairy tales, although if you are, you will be able to tell from which books these myths stem from.

If you are familiar with myths or folklore at all, then you will be able to spot some of the inspiration for these six tales. The little mermaid, beauty and the beast, the nutcracker and more. It was really neat to re-imagine some of these tales and I really enjoyed the dark, almost gritty spin Bardugo puts on the stories. Even the ones with a happy ending, have this edge to it that I kinda loved.

Ultimately, this book is worth picking up for the illustrations alone. If nothing else, check it out and flip through it. The book is just stunning and the fact that the images that surround the text change and grow as you read, is just another little treat for the reader. I had several people asking me what I was reading while I was flipping through the book at the library one day. Definitely a talking piece.

My one negative comment about this one is that it did take me a long time to read. I tend to find it easy to stop and start short stories; putting them down and picking up something else. This is probably just me though.

This one gets a very high 4 stars from me. Probably would have gotten 4.5 if I read it straight through.

That’s all for now!

-M-

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan is an adult fiction novel that would probably be considered a thriller or whodunit.

No one in Lydia’s life knows much about her past and that is just the way she likes it. Lydia has spent her whole adult life running from a violent childhood horror. She has carefully crafted this life of books and acquaintances and has cut out all other reminders of her past, including her father.

When Lydia finds one of the bookstore’s eccentric regulars, hanging dead from the the bookstore’s ceiling, she finds herself caught up in the mystery of his death. Drawn into the deceased Joey’s life, Lydia finds a photograph of herself as a child in his pocket and her carefully crafted life starts to unraveled.

Now Lydia must uncover clues about Joey’s life by unraveling secret messages left for her in cut up books bequeathed to her upon his death. But the clues only lead to more questions. Why did Joey commit suicide? What does he know about Lydia’s childhood? And what ghosts from her past will Lydia have to face in uncovering the truth?

This was one I picked up solely because it had the word bookstore in the title. Yup, I can’t help myself–take note publishers. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the book was actually a bit of a thriller, not my usual genre but one I like to get to occasionally.

First, can I randomly gripe about a few things… What type of bookstore–thriving in this day and age, that is not a chain–is open past midnight, has multiple floors, and has a staff of what seems like it is in the double digits? And in Denver, Colorado to-boot. I know I am being picky but I’d love to know if the author based the bookstore off of a real one.

Now that I am done with that, this wasn’t a bad read. I wasn’t overly invested in the characters but it did keep me guessing until about halfway through the book, which I generally consider a successful thriller. I thought the ending was a bit abrupt and I wondered about what became of some of our side characters but for the most part the loose ends were tied up.

I did really like this idea of the BookFrogs; bookstore regulars who aren’t necessarily homeless but are regulars and fixtures in the store, each with their own eccentricities. I would have loved to glimpsed a few more of them throughout the story, as they were each unique and wonderful.

This book was fairly middle of the road for me. I would recommend it to my patrons but it was neither great nor a bad read. This one gets 3.5 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-