When What You Read Feels Like a Dream…

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern was like a dream and a fairy tale for adults (I think it even says that on the back). How someone can take such short, simple sentences and turn them into mental images of such grandeur and mystery and beauty blows my mind. Morgenstern isn’t a lyrical author, but she is a painter with words.

The Night Circus

The story is of Marco and Celia, two illusionists. Both are raised from children to understand that their illusions are part of a contest of which they know no rules. The contest eventually involves a magical, surreal circus that captivates the places it visits- and captivates the people that visit. Once Marco and Celia meet and realize that they are opponents, the fate of their lives, the circus and the performers is a jeopardy.

The novel begins in the Victorian era and it has a very steampunk feel to it. I could see some cosplay come out of this. I read it and thought what a great movie or TV series this would be (if Hollywood can meet/exceed reader expectations), but alas, there isn’t yet one despite the screenplay having been sold in 2012. Surprisingly (or maybe I missed it?) there is no mention of the turn of the century despite this story crossing over into the 20th century. I thought there could have been something extraordinary about this change included with the circus, but there was not.

Morgenstern attempts to create two time lines- a current one with a young circus-goer named Bailey and a past one that creates the backstory of the circus and the contest. You realize that the two will intersect towards the end of the book, but I didn’t feel it was that necessary, as it wasn’t until the last 1/3 of the book that I even realized they were on different paths. Bailey’s relationship to the circus doesn’t become exposed until the end, and even then it is not made totally clear. One interesting note- the author RARELY uses the word magic to describe anything in the book. If the word is used, it seems as if it is a dirty word.

Beautiful story about love, relationships, death, illusions and whether our paths in life are truly ordained before we exist.

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Been There, Seen This Scene, Still Love It

I originally purchased this book at a bookstore in St. Thomas. I like purchasing books by local authors when I am in a foreign country. It was written by Tiphanie Yanique, an author who was originally from The Virgin Islands.
land-of-love-and-drowning
I started this book late last year, and admit, it took me a while to get into it. At about 1/3 of the way through, I was hooked, and off we went on a beautiful, torturing, mythical journey. It is the story of two sisters from St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands- Eona and Anette. The first bit of the book talks about their parents, where they came from and when the girls were born. The rest of the book is about the sisters’ loves, children, and lots and lots about the island itself. Having been there, I loved reading about the familiar areas where we had traveled and imagining them in this book. St. Thomas (and the surrounding islands of St. John, St. Croix and Anegada) were strong characters in this story.

This is historical fiction, and includes the events of World War II, the Korean War, the Civil Right’s Movement and the purchase of the island by the US from the Dutch. Other events include a hurricane (Mary) and a protest by the islanders to keep the beaches public. The timelines at times didn’t line up for me. Anette has a child when her husband goes to fight in WWII (and she is still youngish), but then mentions she is in her 30s when it seems as if she should be much older (given the age of her children). The author does admit to taking some liberties with the timeline. I also love that the author explains that much of this story is based of her own mother and grandmother’s lives, and that they went to Anegada, where her grandmother’s family was from, but had never been. This tied up the book nicely.

I liken this book to a mix between Edwidge Danticat’s Breath, Eyes, Memory and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude for the mysticism that is included in the story.

And just for fun, here is a picture of me reading Land of Love and Drowning with one of my cats, John Snow. #johnsnowisalive

me-and-js-reading

And finally, if you’ve ever wanted to travel to St. Thomas, may I recommend the Allure of the Seas Cruise Ship, operated by Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines? We used this ship to get their last September and it is indescribable, as the second largest cruise ship in the world (shorter only by 1 foot from its sister ship, Harmony of the Seas).

The H.G. Wells Prophecy

I’m not a fan of H.G. Wells, mostly because his stuff scares the crap out of me. War of the Worlds is a movie I can’t NOT watch, but gives me nightmares every time I watch it. I dare not read it.

So I thought I’d try this one- seemed a little tamer.
Still terrifying.

the-time-traveller

He travels to the year 802701 and meets some beautiful waif-like creatures called Eloi who seem fairly blissfully unaware of most dangers. Their days are spent mostly in repose. One, Weena, nearly drowns and the time traveler is the only one who rushes to save her. So begins a platonic, non-romantic relationship. In arriving in this year, his time machine is lost, so he must find it to get home. In doing so, he comes upon the Morlocks, whom are quite the opposite of the Eloi. The Time Traveler is his retelling of this trip to his friends and colleagues, most are are disbelieving in his tale.

Knowing that this book was written by Wells in 1895 just blows my mind. He touches on topics of class, race, global warming, and environmentalism- in a time when these topics didn’t exist or were taboo or ignored. Quite prophetic. Here are a few examples:

“There is no intelligence where there is no change and no need of change.”

“He, I know- for the question had been discussed among us long before the Time Machine was made- thought but cheerlessly of the Advancement of Mankind, and aw in the growing pile of civilization only a foolish heaping that must inevitably fall back upon and destroy its makers in the end.”

PS, for some context, this review is being written the day before Election Day, 2016- Trump vs. Clinton.

Behold This Beautiful Book

For a brand new author, this is a beautiful story. I loved how Mbue used her own Cameroonian roots to develop the main characters in this novel.
behold the dreamers.jpg
It is the story of Jende and Neni, immigrants from Cameroon, coming to America for their own American dream. Jende comes to the US a few years before sending for Neni and his son. Neni falls in love with NYC, the flashing lights, ethnic people and access to everything. She jumps right into college to become a pharmacist. Meanwhile, Jende gets a great job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a big-wig at Lehman Brothers. 2007/2008 happen, and we all know what happens to Lehman Brothers. The fall out of the financial collapse is the background of this story.

We also get to know Clark’s wife and 2 sons. The collapse of Lehman Brothers exposes cracks in both the Edwards’ relationship, as well as Jende and Neni’s. Navigating the US as immigrants in a country that is fighting to stay financially afloat is extremely difficult, and Mbue documents this beautifully.

It is the differences in marriages from one country and culture to another. It is the determination of men and in how they recover from ruin. It is the determination of wives and how they fight to keep what they believe is theirs. It is the difference in humans; how some believe they are handed a lot in life while others scramble to pave their own way.

A beautiful, exquisite story from beginning to end.

Cat Fairy Tale? Purr, purr, purr…

Today’s Backlisted Book Review is The Cat Who Came In From The Cold.

As an animal lover and veterinary technician for over 20 years (credentialed, and specialized, thank you very much!), Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson has written books that I can really appreciate. He understands animal behavior and the human animal bond in ways many veterinarians don’t understand. Finding this small volume at a used book sale, it was not even a question that I would pick it up.

 

Cat Who Came In

The Cat Who Came In From The Cold is a fable; a fairy tale about Billi, an Asian Leopard cat who is the first wild cat to chose to be domesticated. Unlike dogs, who love being around humans and other animals, cats are solitary and fear many other animals. It takes place in India, and touches on the hypocrisy of how animals are portrayed in different religions. The word billi means cat in Hindi.

Billi frequently sees young children and a dog pass under his favorite branch in his favorite mango grove. One day, he strikes up a conversation with the dog about living with humans. Billi remembers stories his mother told him as a kitten of being around humans, and he has never been able to let go of his curiosity. He goes on a discovery journey to find out how other animals feel about humans. His knowledge and curiosity finally get the best of him, and when the time is perfect, Billi inserts himself into the human world in a very brave and beautiful way.

This is a beautiful story, very quick read, great for kids as well. It warms my heart to have this in my head now as to how my own cats have come to honor me with their presence. The end of this story touched me personally as well, given the experience I have had with my own cats caring for me when I was battling cancer and chemotherapy. ❤

2011-12-20 13.25.56

Sweetness and quiet love during the Civil War

Edenland is a sweet, quiet (if it is possible to call it that given that it is set mostly in the South during the Civil War) tale of two runaways who find each other and fall in love.

It is not a grotesque love story, in that their relationship is not ALL the story is about. It is about two people who have their own sad, sorrowful pasts that find commonality in their alone-ness. There is not an abundance love or sex scenes; it is their feelings that manifest for each other that demonstrate their love, and their longing to be together.

Edenland

Beldsoe and Alice first meet in a swamp in North Carolina and help each other escape the situations they are running from. Throughout the book, they are split apart, reunited, and are split apart again as they make their way North, where Bledsoe wants to join Lincoln’s army to fight for emancipation. Hiding in caves and bushes, stealing food from unlocked homes, and nabbing clothes off of clotheslines is what keeps them going. During their flight, they vacillate between staying together (Alice wants to) and splitting up (Bledsoe wants to). They don’t fall in love on page one.

The sole plot is to bring these two together again. Will they still feel love for each other? Is the other even still alive? Will they make it North? Is everyone an enemy? The other interesting dynamic is that Alice, an orphan born in Ireland is treated like a slave, and is thus uneducated. Many others believe her to be a slave because of her poor manners and language. Bledsoe is the son of a slave owner and slave mother, and is treated like a pet growing up, being allowed to learn to read. For this, his is capable of recanting memorized pieces of books and encyclopedias he has read. As a runaway slave, this is a dangerous talent to have. The way the author swaps the education between these two characters is a refreshing change from typical books about slaves and slavery during the Civil War.

This isn’t a long story, but it is a sweet one. The author just gives enough detail about each of Alice’s and Bledsoe’s past that you want just a teeny bit more. The ending is abrupt, but rightly so….the book would not be the same if she continued on for another 100 pages wrapping things up in a pretty bow. I appreciated the ending and it left a curious smile on my face.

Favorite line(s):
“A warm breeze ruffled the hem of her green taffeta skirt and tickled her ankles. She absentmindedly twirled the silk tassel of a button on her blouse as the brush shush-shushed through her hair. She closer her eyes. no one had ever brushed her hair before. This must be how a dog feels getting petted, she thought. She felt herself falling into a blissful state just short of sleep.”

“…today the artist had given him a small amount of pocket money. ‘There you go. Buy yourself a—? What would you buy?’
Bledsoe felt the coins rattling in his pocket and it felt good. His very first own money.
‘A book,’ he replied without hesitation. ‘But I ain’t supposed to know how to read.'”

“The July sun had turned from red to white and it was mean.”

 

There isn’t a lot of information about Wallace King, but she has written a few novels before Edenland. I feel, however, that I learned a lot about who Wallace King is in the Author’s Notes at the end of Edenland. ❤

The Girl in the Coma-Put me in a coma

The Girl in the Coma1

This review contains spoilers.
**I received this book free of charge for a fair and honest review.** This is actually the very first book I have reviewed for a free copy.
Unfortunately, this was no good. When I review ARCs, I try very hard to read the entire book. For this, I broke my own rule. The copy I read was for the Kindle app (on my phone). This may be the reason for some of my complaints- the formatting seems terribly off. I’d be interested to see it in another format to see if it is better. LOTS of missing spaces, too large of spaces, author’s name in the middle of a random paragraph, punctuation all wrong. However, on top of that, there are some spelling errors (ee instead of we, comma instead of coma). C’mon, the book is about a girl in a coma- THAT word must be spelled right of any of them. 😦
**Update from publisher- The misspellings were intentional because the girl’s boyfriend misspelled it (uh, ok, not sure how the reader was to know that. See if you agree in the image below. You can also see some of the formatting issues in this clip also.) and when looked at on other formats than my Kindle phone app, apparently the formatting issues I had aren’t present.

The Girl in the Coma

As for the story, it is about Allison who is shot in the head by someone and is in a vegetative state in a long term care facility. While that sounds all sad and touching, I had no personal connection to her at all. The only people who visit her are her ex boyfriend, whom she degrades (mentally since she can’t speak) and her brother. A girl (not a friend) from high school also shows up, but only because she (somehow) knows Allison’s roommate. There is unfortunately nothing redeeming about Allison.
I got through one of Allison’s story lines…which was- who shot her? Somehow she manages to figure it out, despite not being able to move, see or feel anything. Initially, it is not clear if Allison can even see or hear, but then you realize she can hear, and also suddenly is able to see from one eye. They arrest her alleged attempted murderer in a one paragraph sum-it-all-up fashion.
The second story line for her was that there is someone killing off patients in this long term care facility every seventeen days. Or something. People die all the time and yet she’s somehow, without moving, feeling or seeing, figured out the pattern. Even though some die on day 12 or 4 or 6. Somehow, she also knows this killer is after her- but why? Who knows. Maybe to finish the job? Maybe because they are madly in love with her? Maybe for her necklace? This “someone wants me dead” story line I could not get through.
On top of all the things she is able to figure out, she dreams (time travels?) of her ancestors and the things these women went through during the American Revolution. There is no explanation at all as to why this may be, as she doesn’t know anything about these women prior to these dreams (she’s never been told stories about her ancestors). IS she time traveling? Is it some weird coma-y thing?
I only learned about two of these women, Rebecca and Lizzie, and then couldn’t go further. BUT, these bits, about these women and their relationship to some major players in the American Revolution, were actually very interesting and written MUCH differently (re: better) than the Allison chapters. Rebecca’s chapters were fascinating, and I was sad they ended (and am not really sure why they did other than her lover dies, which we only find out as a random aside). Lizzie’s chapters weren’t quite as good as Rebecca’s, but still miles better than Allison’s. If this book had been about Rebecca in its entirety, it would have been much more readable and enjoyable.
A few other notes: Rebecca’s last name is the same as the author’s wife’s last name. Some sites list this as children’s fiction- I assume this is different than YA? I’d call this more YA than children’s fiction, but that does not make the book better or more acceptable.
Overall this book is just all over the place. There is no reason to grow attached to Allison, so no reason to cling to your chair wondering what will happen to her. The writing in her chapters is awful, and hard to read. The stories of Rebecca and Lizzie are better and much more interesting, yet they are full of sudden endings with random “oh yeah, now their dating”s and “oh yeah, her beau died”s. There is no wrapping up of any story, it’s just all abrupt endings that feel like when your seat belt gets tight after hitting the brakes too hard- painful and you don’t want to feel it/do it again.