Reviews: January.


The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling):  I was told that it was even better than the first one, The Cuckoo’s Calling, and was not disappointed.  It’s so wonderfully British and I’m very fond of the two main characters.  A far departure from the wizarding world of Harry Potter, but still great storytelling.  I was engrossed in this intriguing mystery!

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton:  I really wanted to enjoy this novel, but it just got worse and worse.  I felt like the author was insulting the reader’s intelligence with these mysterious conversations between characters and drawing out a big secret that seemed pretty obvious from the beginning of the book.  I also did not appreciate that there were some things left unresolved.  Overall, I felt this was a waste of time.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo:  This book is short and wonderful.  It really does have the power to change your life.  It operates on the principle of only surrounding yourself with things that bring you joy.  It’s practical and it makes sense and since clearing out half of my closet and two-thirds of my books, I feel no regret or guilt or loss at discarding so much of what I had amassed; I feel free.  And it has even changed the way I shop!  Instead of buying something because a deal is too good to pass on, I consider if I really love it.  More often than not, it’s novelty or amusement that has me considering a purchase.  But no more!  I only want things that will continue to give me joy, not regret, the longer I have them.  I cannot recommend this book enough!

Review: A Snicker of Magic.

A Snicker of Magic is one of the best books I’ve ever read.  It is part Diana Wynne Jones, part Sharon Creech, part Beverly Cleary, and a whole lot of herself, the author, Natalie Lloyd.  Felicity, a collector of words, moves to a new town she’s convinced still has some of its fabled magic.  Though this book is for a younger audience, I still fell in love with the characters, the idea of remnant magic, and all of the ways Natalie Lloyd plays with words.  The woman loves words and you can tell in descriptions like this:

Love was the only word I’d ever found with a flavor to it; love tasted as sweet as cotton candy when I said it…Love is too heavy a word, though, which is exactly why I don’t like to say it.”

I love that.  Natalie Lloyd chooses every word in her first novel carefully so each word captures a whole myriad of feelings, images, and associations.  She is so talented and it’s refreshing.  Plus, ice cream plays a very prominent role which doesn’t hurt one bit.

I also love when a book talks about books so let me leave you with this:

“Some books are magic that way.  Your body stays right here, hiding in a tree, tucked away in a closet, sitting up against a crumbling old building…But good stories take your heart someplace else.  My body’d never been out of South Georgia.  But my heart lived everywhere.  I’d lived a hundred lives without ever leaving my tree.”

This book is one to: own and love.

Review: Gone Girl.

I only just got around to reading Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl.  I know I know, everyone read this years ago.  If you also successfully held off the hype, the book is about a woman who goes missing and her husband is the primary suspect.  The two parts overlap his and her accounts and timelines which makes for an excellent and intriguing read.

The writing is masterful.  It does exactly what a suspense novel should- manipulates the reader.  Does it ever.  I was constantly reevaluating what was true and what was intentionally misleading.  The writing makes it a page-turner, but each character becomes their worst selves at some point in the course of events and that is hard to endure.

This book is one to: borrow.

Review: House of Many Ways.

House of Many Ways was a sufficiently delightful end to the Howl’s Moving Castle series.  I started it right after finishing Castle in the Air and finished with all 404 pages in a couple of days.  I loved the protagonist, Charmain, and the mysterious magical house she’s supposed to be house-sitting while her Great Uncle is away.  The writing is very much like Howl’s and the cameos of Howl and Sophie are much bigger roles in this book than in the previous one.  There are magical creatures and magical spells to be caught up in.  The story is, as always, cleverly told with a great twisting of all the loose ends together into one big bow of an ending.  I loved it.

This book is: one to own and love.

Review: Castle in the Air.

Last month I was on a Diana Wynne Jones kick reading Howl’s Moving Castle (twice actually, I reread it immediately after turning the last page) and it’s sequels Castle in the Air and House of Many Ways.  Well, “sequels” is a bit misleading because the main characters from Howl’s aren’t the main characters in the other books although they make cameos.

I didn’t enjoy Castle in the Air as much as Howl’s and I think it was because the main character, Abdullah, wasn’t  as interesting to me as Sophie.  Abdullah, a carpet merchant, procures a magic one that takes him to see the princess of his dreams.  Literally the princess he imagines in his daydreams.  But an evil djinn kidnaps her and Abdullah must find a way to rescue her.  Diana Wynne Jones cleverly unfolds how his daydreams become reality and expertly reveals the Howl cameos.  She is a really wonderful storyteller to the very last word.

This book is: one to borrow.

Review: Divergent.

I wasn’t even remotely interested in reading this YA series until someone said it was like Hunger Games, but better. Challenge accepted.

Veronica Roth started writing this trilogy whilst in college so I guess that sort of excuses the writing for being so uninteresting. It drove me mad that most of the sentences are five words or less – she favors the one word sentence – and it reads as monotone because the sentence structure is so rigid. I believe it picks up pace around the halfway point, not because the writing changes but by the introduction of a much more interesting character than the one whose point of view she’s written. The main character, Beatrice (yup, that’s the heroine’s name), is just not that interesting to follow. As with Bella in the Twilight saga, there are other characters whose point of view I’d rather be reading. And as Stephanie Meyer did, Veronica Roth has also noted this and started a series from the POV of that other character, the one she should have used in the first place. Which credits Suzanne Collins because readers aren’t pleading for Peeta or Gale’s point of view. But one of the most irritating things about this book is that the world she’s created is not believable. There is no basis for the radical change in the future of American society that creates this dystopia and she doesn’t really give one. There is no excuse for this oversight.

Verdict: it is not Hunger Games and it is not better.

This book is: one to pass on.

Review: Mary Poppins.

When I read this children’s book by P.L. Travers, I heard Julie Andrews reading it to me.  And that’s just the best way to read anything.  The Disney movie is quite close to the novel which is unsurprising if you also saw Saving Mr. Banks.  So I’m glad P.L. Travers had a say in the film because some of the stories could be very weird translated to film.  There’s not much to say about it because it’s a book for children complete with illustrations, but it is delightful to read.  I love how it opens.

This book is: one to read to a child.