Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Night Gardener (2014)

The Night Gardener. Jonathan Auxier. 2014. Abrams. 350 pages. [Source: Library]

I loved, loved, LOVED Jonathan Auxier's The Night Gardener. It may just be my favorite new book published in 2014. I loved so many things about it: the atmospheric setting, the creepy world-building, the storytelling, the writing, and the characterization. (Yes, those overlap, I imagine.) I could just say that I loved all the elements of this one; that I loved it absolutely from cover to cover. (Which does more justice for the book?)

Here's how the story opens. I'm curious if it will grab you like it did me!
The calendar said early March, but the smell in the air said late October. A crisp sun shone over Cellar Hollow, melting the final bits of ice from the bare trees. Steam rose from the soil like a phantom, carrying with it a whisper of autumn smoke that had been lying dormant in the frosty underground. Squinting through the trees, you could just make out the winding path that ran from the village all the way to the woods in the south. People seldom traveled in that direction, but on this March-morning-that-felt-like-October, a horse and cart rattled down the road. It was a fish cart with a broken back wheel and no fish. Riding atop the bench were two children, a girl and a boy, both with striking red hair. The girl was named Molly, and the boy, her brother, was Kip. And they were riding to their deaths. This, at least, was what Molly had been told by no fewer than a dozen people as they traveled from farm to farm in search of the Windsor estate.
I loved Molly and Kip. It wasn't that either protagonist was perfect. It was that I felt both were oh-so-human. These two do find the Windsor estate. And they do manage to stay on as help. Even though they don't necessarily receive wages--just room and board. This country estate is...well, I don't want to spoil it. But the people who warned them to stay away from the estate, from the sour woods, well they had good intentions. The book is creepy in all the right ways. It is a WONDERFUL read if you love rich, detailed storytelling.

I also loved Hester Kettle. She is the old woman--Kip thought she was a witch at first glance--who tells them the directions to the estate. She also proves to be a friend and kindred spirit. She is, like Molly, a story-teller.
Hester touched the button, "Funny things, wishes. You can't hold'em in your hand, and yet just one could unmake the world." She looked up at Molly. (214)
"You asked me for a story; now you call it a lie." She folded her arms. "So tell me, then: What marks the difference between the two?"
Agitated as she was, Molly couldn't help but consider the question. It was something she had asked herself in one form or another many times in her life. Still, Molly could tell the difference between the two as easily as she could tell hot from cold--a lie put a sting in her throat that made the words catch. It had been some time, however, since she had felt that sting. "A lie hurts people," she finally answered. "A story helps 'em."
"True enough! But helps them do what?" She wagged a finger. "That's the real question..." (214)
I loved the story. I loved the pacing. It was a great read!!! Definitely recommended!

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, October 20, 2014

Silver Like Dust

Silver Like Dust. Kimi Cunningham Grant. 2012. Pegasus. 288 pages. [Source: Library]

Silver Like Dust focuses on the relationship of a grandmother and granddaughter. The author--the granddaughter--wants to strengthen her relationship with her grandmother. At the start, she feels like she barely knows her. She knows a few things, perhaps, but not in a real-enough way. For example, she knows that her grandmother spent world war 2 in an internment camp. She knows that that is where her grandparents met, and also where her uncle was born. But her grandmother has never talked about the past, about the war, about her growing-up years. In fact, her grandmother has always been a private, quiet person. So she focuses her attention and begins to do things intentionally. She sets out to get to know her grandmother, she sets out to get the story, the real story. The book isn't just telling readers about the grandmother's experiences in the 1940s. The book is telling readers about the process, the journey, to getting to the story. That was unique, I thought. Not every nonfiction book lets readers in behind the scenes. I also thought it kept the book personal. This is very much family history, taking an interest in your family, in the past, of making sense of it all.

I found it an interesting read.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, October 19, 2014

A Tale of Two Cities (1854)

A Tale of Two Cities. Charles Dickens. 1854/2003. Bantam Classics. 382 pages. [Source: Bought]

I didn't love A Tale of Two Cities. Or should I say I didn't love it as much as I hoped I would OR even thought I would. A Tale of Two Cities is definitely a subject-driven novel. The focus, I would even say sole focus, is on the French Revolution. We meet individual characters within that setting, to make the French Revolution more personal, perhaps, but, in my opinion, Dickens characterization is not as strong in A Tale of Two Cities as it is in some of his other novels. That doesn't mean his characters are not memorable. In fact, I imagine that there are at least two or three characters in this one that are very memorable indeed. A Tale of Two Cities is also a very heavy novel thematically. It's just dark and oppressive. Dickens won't be bringing any smiles to readers in this one. Personally, I love it when Dickens makes me laugh!

The novel begins with a reunion. A daughter, Lucie Manette, learns that the father she has long presumed to be dead is, in fact, alive. His existence seems to be news to quite a few people. Lucie Manette and Mr. Jarvis Lorry travel to France from England to meet him and bring him back. The name of this section is "Recalled to Life." And it's a very fitting title, in my opinion. Lorry and Lucie never really learn the whole story, all the ugly details of the past. Seeing Lucie with her father reminded me--in a good way--of the relationship between Jean Valjean and Cosette.

The second book, "The Golden Thread," introduces readers to Charles Darnay and Sydney Carton. These two men become very well known to Dr. Manette and his daughter. Both men love and admire her, as you would expect. But she can only love one of them, and, her heart belongs to Charles. Of course, this is a very simple summary!

The third book is "The Track of A Storm." Let's just say, Dickens can do bleakity-bleak. This book follows Charles Darnay into France during the early days of the French Revolution. I had a hard time reading this section, because I didn't want to experience it. Darnay is NOT alone in France. And he's far from forgotten. Dr. Manette and his daughter and granddaughter are there, for one, and so is Sydney Carton. Of course, there are others as well to round out the plot.

Throughout all three sections, readers have also followed a few people from France, mainly Monsieur Defarge and his not-so-lovely wife, Madame Defarge. I'm not sure I've ever hated a character more. I am sure that I have. Probably. Still, this book made me so very angry in places!!!

I won't talk about the ending. I won't. I don't want to. I probably don't even need to. A Tale of Two Cities left me needing a comfort read as a follow-up.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Week in Review: October 12-18

An Autobiography. Agatha Christie. 1977/1996. Berkley. 635 pages. [Source: Bought] 
The Eye of the World (Wheel of Time #1) Robert Jordan. 1990. Tor. 814 pages. [Source: Bought]
A Creature of Moonlight. Rebecca Hahn. 2014. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 313 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Madman of Piney Woods. Christopher Paul Curtis. 2014. Scholastic. 384 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
The Magic Half. Annie Barrows. 2007. Bloomsbury. 212 pages. [Source: Library]
Lady Susan, The Watsons, Sandition. Jane Austen. 1975. Penguin. 211 pages. [Source: Bought]
Read the Bible for Life: Your Guide to Understanding and Living God's Word. George H. Guthrie. 2011. B&H Books. 338 pages. [Source: Bought]
A Bride in Store. Melissa Jagears. 2014. Bethany House. 363 pages. [Source: Review copy]

 This week's favorite:

I loved, loved, LOVED Agatha Christie's Autobiography. It was so very GOOD from cover to cover--not dull for a moment. The Eye of the World was a great re-read, I'm glad I made time for it this year. But. It can't really compete with Agatha Christie's Autobiography.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Library Loot: Third Trip in October

New Loot:
  • Sky Raiders by Brandon Mull
  • The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier
  • My New Friend Is So Fun by Mo Willems
  • The Wars of the Roses by Dan Jones
  • Tsla's Attic by Neal Shusterman and Eric Elfman
  • The Plantagenets by Dan Jones
  • Once Upon An Alphabet by Oliver Jeffers
Leftover Loot:
  • Graduation Day by Joelle Charbonneau
  • The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey
  • Half A World Away by Cynthia Kadohata
  • Tumtum & Nutmeg The Rose Cottage Tales by Emily Bearn
  •  The King's Speech by Mark Logue and Peter Conradi
  • A Cat of A Different Color by Steven Bauer
  • The Carpet People by Terry Pratchett
  • Mr. and Mrs. Bunny Detectives Extraordinaire by Polly Horvath
  • The Edge of Terror by Scott Walker
  • Until Our Last Breath by Michael Bart and Laurel Corona
  • The War of Our Childhood reported by Wolfgang W.E. Samuel
  • The Little Girl Who Fought the Great Depression: Shirley Temple and 1930s America by John F. Kasson 
  • End Times by Anna Schumacher
  • Hero on a Bicycle by Shirley Hughes
  • The Dark Lady by Irene Adler, translated by Chris Turner
  • 4:50 From Paddington by Agatha Christie
  • A Darcy Christmas by Amanda Grange, Sharon Lathan, Carolyn Eberhart
  • Saving Lucas Biggs by Marisa de los Santos and David Teague
  • Envious Casca by Georgette Heyer
  • Through the Skylight by Ian Baucom
  • The Inventor's Secret by Andrea Cremer
  • A Little House Christmas by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • Ivan: The Remarkable true Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla by Katherine Applegate
  • Fancy Nancy Splendiferous Christmas by Jane O'Connor
  • What Cats Want for Christmas by Kandy Radzinski
  • The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
  • Wombat Divine by Mem Fox
  • Santa Clauses: Short Poems From the North Pole. Bob Raczka
  • Palace of Spies by Sarah Zettel
  • When Santa Fell To Earth by Cornelia Funke
    Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Linda from Silly Little Mischief that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries.  

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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