The Snow Child, by Eowyn Ivey

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This is a book I had never even heard of before, so it wasn’t on my radar whatsoever in 2014. It was first published back in 2012, and I’m surprised that I had never read it. A friend made the suggestion to me that I would probably enjoy it, after they heard about it on a CBC radio show. The announcer wasn’t actually discussing the book per say on the show, but speaking to someone else who happened to mention they were reading it. This book was one I couldn’t put down, I kept wanting to see what would happen next. It is about a married couple, Jack and Mabel. They lose a child early in their marriage, and it sends each of them into their own pits of despair. They decide to move out to Alaska on their own and take up farming. Jack, in his need to provide, won’t let Mabel help with any of the work that needs to be done to prepare the fields (and there is a lot to be done). Mabel starts falling into a heavy stint of depression, and the opening scene of the book is one of heartbreak.

Together during the early winter they create a snowman, and mysteriously after they create this snowman, they start spotting a girl darting through the trees in the forest near their home (meanwhile the snowman they have created has been stripped of its clothing, and lays in a pile of broken snowballs). The young girl has a pet fox that trails after her through the forest, and  the real story begins from that point on as the focus shifts.

As always I don’t want to give too much away, except to say that this book was beautifully written, and the story was haunting. It was probably my 2nd favourite book of 2014, and I highly recommend it.

5/5 star review

The Garden of Evening Mists, by Twan Eng Tan

18907271I’m not exactly sure how this book was recommended to me. I believe it was on sale for a great price on Amazon, and then after taking a look at some reviews or reading a portion of the book I decided that I should read it. I’m incredibly glad that I did. It was probably the most beautiful book I read in 2014 and it left an impression on me that I won’t quickly forget.

The story is about Yun Ling Teoh and her life at different stages. There is her past, in which is as a prisoner in a Japanese wartime camp, then the part of her life where she is training under Aritomo as an apprentice to design gardens, and then her present, where she is slowly coming to grips with the fact that she has a disease that may take from her everything she holds dear.

Once I lose all ability to communicate with the world outside myself, nothing will be left but what I remember. My memories will be like a sandbar, cut off from the shore by the incoming tide. For what is a person without memories? A ghost, trapped between worlds, without an identity, with no future, no past.”

Readers learn each of the hardships she has had to face, and how she moved forward (or didn’t). The book is so incredibly beautiful that I think writing out everything that happens in it would be a disservice to the reader, so I’m going to leave this review pretty sparse for details, aside from what I have already mentioned. It was beautiful, haunting, and I highly recommend it.

5/5 stars

The Wild Truth, By Carine McCandless

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Like many others, I started reading this book expecting a more in-depth look at Chris (you may remember him, he became famous after the story behind his death was published by Jon Krakauer in the book “Into the Wild”. That book deeply touched and moved me, which is why I picked this one up.

I almost wish I hadn’t purchased it (except I really enjoy reading, so of course I did). The book offers very little new information at all about Chris, and is instead a very narcissistic read about his sister and her family troubles. It’s well written and of course a page turner (sort of like that accident that you can’t look away from) but no where in the entire book does she ever take the blame for anything that befalls her, in her entire life. Even the portions of the book that were supposed to focus on Chris instead put Carine front and center. She came across as the one who never made mistakes (even three marriages later), who was never at fault, who could never be blamed for anything. I’m not excusing an abusive childhood (or adulthood), but the book paints her as being incredibly materialistic, and constantly thinking of herself. She mentions numerous times that she waits for her parents to come around, for their views to change, for them to change – but never does she mention changing herself, growing up, or moving forward in a mature fashion. Instead she clings to the past and the pain she has suffered – and the book shows just how much she wants her family to be punished for her hurt.

 

2/5 Stars

I Know This Much Is True – By Wally Lamb

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This book  is one of my favourites from this year. It made me think, and then made me think some more. The story follows the life of Dominick Birdsey and his interactions with his family. His twin brother suffers from schizophrenia and at the onset of the book he chops off his hand – in a public library. Right from the start you’re pulled into the incredible turmoil of family life. Dominick loves and hates his brother at the same time. He has his own problems, his families problems, and his brother’s problems. Some how he has to deal with them all and not get pulled down by the weight of life.

There are side stories throughout that involve other family members and how their lives affected Dominick and helped to shape who he was. Some of my favourites include passages from his grandfather’s life though these stories are certainly not for the faint of heart and they are very emotional. They made me realize I have much to be thankful for and while this was a made up story and not “real life” a book that makes you think in relation to your own life is a great book. A book that can make you feel like this one did is a fantastic one.

Don’t be put off by the length, either. Yes, it’s a long book but as you read it the pages seem to fly by because you’re completely wrapped up in Dominick’s world.

5 / 5 stars

Into the Wild – By Erin Hunter

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I’m not sure what enticed me to start reading this series. A few friends had been reading them with their kids, or their kids were interested with them. I think that combined with a great sale Amazon was having finally spurred me into action. Despite the fact that these books are written for kids around 8-10 years old, they deal with some tough subjects, and were a pleasant read.

There are four clans of cats that live side by side (separated by boundaries) in the forest. Close to these clans lives Rusty, a kittypet, owned by humans. One day he runs into the ThunderClan cats, and they invite him to join up – if he can prove himself a warrior. He has to overcome trials and tribulations while the clans are also overcoming trials and tribulations. He’s trained as a warrior, has to handle death, being made fun of for being a kittypet, and making new friends.

The book isn’t overly complex, but I did like the attention to detail that the author provides when describing life as a ThunderClan member. It’s easy to follow along, and because of the way the books are written you tend to forget that this is a clan of cats until something like grooming happens. I enjoyed the book enough to continue on with the series, and just recently learned that the name ‘Erin Hunter’ is a pseudonym for four people who are writing the novels together.

One thing that bothered me was that every single character in the book has a compound name. Lionheart, Bluestar, Tigerclaw.. you get the point. It made it difficult to figure out who was who and at the beginning all of the names just blurred together. Others have mentioned that the cats don’t actually behave anything like cats, but behave more like dogs (with bonding together, courage, etc) which I can agree with but I don’t think of these as actual cats living out in the woods, more like magical creatures on some alternate universe who are similar to what we perceive as cats. If you suspend some of that reality, it really is a pleasant read.

3/5 stars

 

The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm

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Incredibly dark fairy tales, most I had heard before in one rendition or another but many of them I had not. Almost every story involved death, decapitation, and made absolutely no sense at all which of course holds true to the fairy tale portion. As I read the book I made a game of it, ending all of the stories in my mind with, “and then he died.” which came true in about 70% of the stories. As an adult I was able to laugh and squeal in delight at the fables, but I doubt these stories would be suitable for young children. That being said it made for a delightful bedtime read, and I’m glad to have read it. The translation in this version was easy to follow and understand, and from what I have read from other reviews held very true to the book.

5/5 stars

The Midwife of Venice – By Roberta Rich

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I had been meaning to read this book for a while now, but I actually heard about the series because of the second one in line (which I’m hoping to read next). This is book one of the midwife series, and I couldn’t put it down.

The story follows the life of Hannah Levi, a midwife in sixteenth-century Venice. With that being said, I should note that I know absolutely nothing about Venice, or life in that era, so when people in other reviews complain about the inaccuracy, I don’t have an argument. What I can say is that the writing was well done and the story drew me in right from the start.

Hannah is Jewish, and her husband is missing, held captive on Malta as a slave. Her goal is to go and rescue him, and she’ll do anything she can to accomplish this goal. The love that this woman feels for her husband is etched into every word of the book, and I really appreciated that.

Isaac, her husband, is working on making his way back to her. I felt his story was lacking in places and was a bit too good to be true. He shares the same passion when it comes to the love of his wife, and I liked how in love these two felt for one another.

Hannah is asked to help birth a Christian baby, which is against the law. She also has a special tool she uses to help ease the baby out, which others consider to be tools of evil. She doesn’t care, and continues to use the tools because they help.

Life is difficult, the story is dark. Problem after problem seems to follow Hannah around, but she doesn’t give up and she keeps working towards the overall goal of rescuing her husband.

This is where I start to have problems with the book. The final 15 percent or so seemed incredibly rushed. Suddenly after an entire book of problems, heartache, and darkness, the clouds just instantly clear and everything magically fits together and works out. It did not seem to fit with the rest of the book and it ruined the ending for me.

I’m still going to move forward with the second book to the series because the story was incredibly moving, but I hope the ending doesn’t fizzle out like the first book.

3 / 5 stars

The Third Kingdom – By Terry Goodkind

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Disappointing. That’s what I thought of ‘The Third Kingdom’. I’ve happily read Terry Goodkind for years now, having fallen in love with Wizards First Rule way back when, but the Richard from these books is nothing like the one that I was familiar with. The book repeats itself from beginning to end and it feels like a whole lot of filler. If you’re looking for a story that involves Richard and Kahlan at all, you’re out of luck. Instead you get to meet another strong Goodkind female character, Samantha. This was probably the one bright spot in the entire book because Goodkind does write female characters very well.

It doesn’t become apparent until about mid way through the book what the link is between this book and the previous one, The Omen Machine. It’s filled with violence, and no one has an easy time of anything. It felt a little too over the top for me, but again I’m remembering Wizard’s First Rule and the writing style and characters that I initially fell in love with. What happened to the strong Richard, what happened to the proud Kahlan (oh, she got kidnapped, again..), how am I supposed to believe that Nicci and Zed are powerful wizards when their powers now mean nothing at all and they cannot help any situation?

I didn’t feel that I learned anything new from this book aside from within the final chapters, and I’m wondering if I should even continue reading the series because it is so lackluster.

2 / 5 stars.

The Chalet – By Tara Sue Me

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I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I didn’t read the other novels involving Abby and Nathaniel, and I probably should have. When I saw this book advertised on twitter I actually knew very little about what I was getting into. Not that I’m adverse to reading erotica, I love reading and I think it’s important to branch out no matter what the genre.

That being said, I didn’t enjoy The Chalet as much as I have other books of the same genre. The beginning of the novella started out well enough, Abby and Nathaniel are getting married. The wedding is lovely, they have a few bumps, and they head off to Switzerland for their honeymoon. Then the story turned predictable and unrealistic. The story followed a “too good to be true” setting, which irked me. The ending seemed rushed, though it did a good job of leading up to the next book in the series.

Nathaniel is a Dominate, and Abby his submissive. Their relationship is vanilla outside of the bedroom, though they spend a lot of time exploring whether or not they want it to be more D/s in their day to day activities. Abby appears baffled by the fact that she enjoys Nathaniel taking a bit more ‘control’ in their day to day lives. The majority of the story involved her figuring out these feelings while they live a glamorous life that reality doesn’t seem to be a part of. Honeymoon or not, this was the part of the story that just didn’t jive with me. Real people have real obligations with trials and tribulations that make us human. Abby and Nathaniel seemed removed from this whole aspect of life. Especially at the end.

While the story was well written, it just didn’t appeal to me.

2 / 5 stars

Review: The Midwife of Hope River, by Patricia Harman

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I picked up this book on a recommendation from Amazon, it was on sale and it had some pretty good reviews. Plus I wanted a bit of a change after reading some fantasy books. I have always said that I think I was born in the wrong era, and books like this remind me of that. Patience Murphy is a midwife in the 1930’s, and there’s so much struggle in her life it seems overwhelming. The reader is constantly reminded of what a harsh world Patience lives in, with very little happiness shed her way.

That being said, when she does get to experience a bit of happiness, you really feel for her. The author takes the time to flesh out each character so that even though Patience is disconnected from her community, the reader doesn’t feel the same way. In fact I found the writing so well done that it was one of those very few books that I could not put down, and I think I finished reading it in two or three days.

I didn’t agree or enjoy everything about the story, especially Patience’ past that always comes up to haunt her. It sounded a bit too unbelievable to me but the writing was fantastic, and I was able to bypass these small discrepancies. It was the perfect book to curl up on the couch with, a nice hot mug of tea in hand.

Reading about the births and deaths that Patience attended, and how she coped with each one (and how the families coped with each one) really made me appreciate what I have in my own life. The author did a wonderful job of conveying the emotion felt and the miracle of birth. Over all I was incredibly pleased with this spontaneous purchase.

 

4/5 stars