Book Review: The Fate Of Mercy Alban

I haven't picked up a thriller/horror novel this good in ages. The Fate of Mercy Alban by Wendy Webb was a quick and enjoyable read that I would equate to a really good Gothic horror movie, e.g. The Woman in Black. It even has the same, creepy, the-horror-isn't-really-dead ending...

This isn't groundbreaking work or a literary masterpiece, this is good scary entertainment. This is the kind of book that gets your pulse racing as you frantically flip to the next chapter to find our what happens. This is definitely the kind of book I don't recommend reading when you're all alone in an empty house late at night.

The action is set in a town on Lake Superior at the ancestral home of Grace Alban. Grace and her teenage daughter, Amity, have returned for her mother's funeral. This marks the first time Grace has been back home in twenty years (she's been spending the interim on Whidbey Island!!!*) and the book begins by covering her struggles at dealing with her families tragic history and her mother's sudden death. As she grieves, she begins to uncover inconsistencies in her family history and is on the path to uncovering them as she bonds with the new reverend in town. But when an unexpected guest shows up at the funeral reception, the story heads straight into creepy territory. 

I would have liked a bit more time spent addressing the back story  I mean, another hundred pages wouldn't have hurt anyone right? But if you are looking for something to get your adrenaline pumping or even something with a touch of mystery and dark magic, I think this book is definitely for you.

*If you find this as amazingly awesome as I do, then we may be soul mates.


Book Review: The Casual Vacancy

I loved this book because it is still J.K. Rowling in all of her easy-to-read, witty glory but it is so different from Harry Potter. A lot of people will probably hate this book for that very same reason. But I am absolutely thrilled that the author of one of the best fantasy series ever (my humble opinion and all that...) has proved her worth as an author yet again by putting together such a large book, in scope and in size, that captivates without a single touch of fantasy and some very heavy doses of bitter reality.

Yeah, I know, Harry Potter did touch on some very real subjects like death, abuse, and racism but the fantasy setting leavened the moral lessons for the young adult set. The Casual Vacancy pulls no such punches. The reality of life and all the disenchantment that can entail slaps you right across the face from the opening chapter. Like The Snow Child, I'm going to warn you that this book is not a happy-go-lucky, feel good book. It's bittersweet; although it didn't reduce me to uncontrollable sobs, it did make me rather pensive and misty-eyed. POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT: It ends just like it begins, with a funeral.

It would be nearly impossible for me to accurately summarize the plot, there are so many story lines interwoven with each other and so many great (and sometimes gut-wrenchingly broken) characters involved. The plot revolves around the untimely death of a local councilman and the subsequent election for his empty council seat, but there is so much more involved. This is really a novel about relationships: parents and children, kids and their friends, in-laws, husbands and wives, and sometimes people with their memories.

Yep, life can suck and be hard and be so accurately transcribed to paper.

I was most definitely pleased with Ms. Rowling's foray into adult fiction. I say "bravo"!


Book Review: If On A Winter's Night A Traveler & One Hundred Names For Love

Going to review my book club books together since I wasn't an overwhelming fan of either of them. (Also, I thought it would be polite to save my dissection of these books until after discussing them semi-drunkenly with some fabulous ladies! Hello ladies!)


If on a Winter's Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino


This book is not an easy read and I dare anyone to defy me on that. It's hard to maintain your focus and the pronouns will make your head spin. Not to mention that there are at least eleven different plots contained within the covers of this tale. 

Seriously, Arthur Dent had a better grasp on the Universe than  I did on this plot.

It's originally written in Italian, so I'm willing to bet that some of the difficulty I had was in an overly snobbish translation, but this book is about a Reader (is it you?) and an Other Reader (she gets a name, Ludmilla) who cross paths after discovering that the latest work by Italo Calvino they began reading is incomplete. The subsequent attempts to attain a copy to finish the story are all met without success and only succeed in giving the Reader an additional nine stories which are also incomplete to add to his frustration. Every chapter is followed by the story in question and for a long time I didn't realize that the chapters were actually forming a cohesive plot. 

Oh, so this is going somewhere...
It is funny at times and the ending did have a moment of sharp wit that really thrilled me. Several of the incomplete stories are also very fascinating and hold a lot of promise that never gets fulfilled (obviously). I will never be recommending this book to anyone, unless someone comes to me desperately requesting something more brain-bending than Inception. Although, I do think someone should turn this into a very funny and slightly weird film. With Martin Freeman as the Reader, he just does adorably befuddled so well.

UPDATE: This book has progressively grown on me in the months since reading. Having read some more Italian authors since then, I've discovered that they are all just wonderfully weird. I now recommend this book quite often.


Not anything I would ever have picked up one my own and it never exactly won me over. I'm sure this is meant to be a lovely analysis of what a stroke can do to a family, but Diane Ackerman's account of the events surrounding and following her husband's, fellow author Paul West, stroke read more like a series of musings on language. I should also mention that I had absolutely emotional reaction to her words, me who cries at everything, nothing was stirred within me.

The author is a deft hand at the art of writing, but I think this would have made a much more impressive essay than a 300 page book. Just saying.


Book Review: The Snow Child

Despite its standing on the bestseller lists, I doubt I would have ever picked this book up if my sister hadn't gifted it to me with rave reviews that sounded something like "best book I've read in years!!!!". It's not that it looks like a bad book, but I spent 2012 thoroughly engrossed in fantasy and most of it rereads of my favorite series so I haven't been in the right mindset for a more literary book. I am so so so glad that this ended up on my to-be-read shelf. And my sister was right, this is one of the best books I've read in years. Probably the best bit of literary fiction I have read since The Poisonwood Bible over a decade ago, The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey is going into my permanent collection for sure.

(Image via Goodreads)

This book is chocked full of raw emotion. From the very first page of the very first chapter right up to the very last page of the epilogue this book made me feel things. Powerful things. Overall it's a bittersweet book; I've heard it called sad, but I don't think that's quite right, there is happiness and new beginnings to celebrate after all. But if you are at all emotional, so human, if you're human, be prepared for some tears. I was absolutely sobbing, but I do cry at almost every emotion.

The story is set in 1920s Alaska and follows Mabel and her husband Jack as they attempt to save their homestead and their marriage from collapse. In a moment of pure, completely out of character whimsy (there's a lot of whimsical-ness in this story) Mabel starts a snowball fight with Jack that culminates with the creation of a snowman they have shaped to look like a little girl. The next morning, the snow child is destroyed and Jack glimpses her bright red hat and mittens on a flesh-and-blood child running wild in the nearby forest. The journey that follows touches many lives and teaches Mabel and Jack a lot about themselves and each other.

The snow child folktale from Russia and eastern Europe is woven beautifully throughout. The Alaskan wilderness is as much a character as it is a setting. And the plot is completely unpredictable; I'm rarely surprised at the culmination of a tale and I was in the dark on this one until the very end. All I can say is Eowyn Ivey, congratulations, this is magic.

Read this one for sure.


Book Review: Cinder


Let me preface this by saying that I love Young Adult literature, but that a lot of enjoyable YA is pretty much fluff, the literary equivalent of watching the Kardashians. So when I say I picked up Cinder by Marissa Meyer because it looked like some YA I would enjoy I didn't have astronomical expectations of this book. I was wrong. This is possibly one of the best YA books I've ever read and definitely the best in the past couple of years. AMAZING.

This is actually the first book I ever picked up based purely on a Goodreads recommendation, but the premise caught my attention: A retelling of Cinderella as a cyborg. 

This is genre mashup to rival Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

The book is set in a dystopian future more than 100 years after World War IV and is centered around a 16 year old cyborg mechanic named Cinder Linh (or Linh Cinder if you want to follow the Chinese-style name standard that the book uses) who has a chance run-in with the Imperial Prince that sets her world on end and starts an irreversible chain of events. There's a global plague, an impending war with the Lunars and an icy, evil stepmother to contend with if Cinder is going to make it to the ball on time, that is if she wants to even go.

You will be able to predict several plot events based on your knowledge of the classic fairy tale; but, if you're like me, you will revel at how seamlessly Marissa Meyer works all of the classic elements into her futuristic setting and story line. And, I'll admit, the major reveal in the last chapter was glaringly obvious to me within the first couple of chapters, but I didn't care. Watching the story weave towards the reveal was fascinating and beautiful. And Ms. Meyer, if you ever see this, Iko is so freakin' awesome! 

All in all, I am extremely excited to get my hands on Scarlet which is the the next book in this four book series, the Lunar Chronicles. If you like fantasy or scifi or both you will thoroughly enjoy this tale.