Monday, February 16, 2015

The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld

Book Synopsis(via Goodreads):

"This is an enchanted place. Others don't see it, but I do."

The enchanted place is an ancient stone prison, viewed through the eyes of a death row inmate who finds escape in his books and in re-imagining life around him, weaving a fantastical story of the people he observes and the world he inhabits. Fearful and reclusive, he senses what others cannot. Though bars confine him every minute of every day, he marries magical visions of golden horses running beneath the prison, heat flowing like molten metal from their backs, with the devastating violence of prison life.

Two outsiders venture here: a fallen priest, and the Lady, an investigator who searches for buried information from prisoners' pasts that can save those soon-to-be-executed. Digging into the background of a killer named York, she uncovers wrenching truths that challenge familiar notions of victim and criminal, innocence and guilt, honor and corruption-ultimately revealing shocking secrets of her own.

This insomniac's opinion: 

I've spent nearly two days ruminating on this review after turning the last page of Rene Denfeld's incredible novel. It is deeply, deeply dark. Dark enough that maybe not every reader would be comfortable going into this place of damp bleakness, even if it is a place of enchantment.

As a pediatric public health nurse I am comfortable with the darkness in a way that not everyone can understand. I feel an immediate kinship with those that do understand and I knew immediately that Ms. Denfield was one of those kindred souls. 

This book is not long, and yet the reader is lost into this world and, when spit out the other side, feels changed in an intangible way. Ms. Denfield writes with a mystical lyricism that transcends the darkness.

This book tacked a gritty subject matter-death row and the crimes that have been committed by those living there- yet the author has not sugar-coated the novel to suit the palates of bland-tongued readers.  The characters are deeply complex. It was a stark reminder of the things in humanity that go unspoken-the acrid, grinding, clawing needs that rise to the surface to matter how firmly they are pushed down. Yet, even as the crimes of these men were told, the reader feels compassion bubbling up within her. It stirred a myriad of feelings within me.

And so, after the last page was turned, I sat with the novel. Invited it to tea as I pondered my feelings about it. The words, while magical, were ever so bleak and cold altogether. They left a bitter, melancholy dust on my lips. I was unsure if I wanted to spit it away or savor the taste. So, I read it again and decided upon the savoring. For even bitterness, if complex enough, is worth savoring.

Worth staying up all night to read?

Yes! In fact, set aside two nights in case you feel the need to reread immediately. The most beautiful writing that I have read in some time.

Rating: 10 stars, out of five. Seriously, it was like nothing else that I have ever read. I cannot recommend it enough.

The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg

Book Synopsis(via Goodreads):

Ceony Twill arrives at the cottage of Magician Emery Thane with a broken heart. Having graduated at the top of her class from the Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined, Ceony is assigned an apprenticeship in paper magic despite her dreams of bespelling metal. And once she’s bonded to paper, that will be her only magic… forever.

Yet the spells Ceony learns under the strange yet kind Thane turn out to be more marvelous than she could have ever imagined — animating paper creatures, bringing stories to life via ghostly images, even reading fortunes. But as she discovers these wonders, Ceony also learns of the extraordinary dangers of forbidden magic.

An Excisioner — a practitioner of dark, flesh magic — invades the cottage and rips Thane’s heart from his chest. To save her teacher’s life, Ceony must face the evil magician and embark on an unbelievable adventure that will take her into the chambers of Thane’s still-beating heart—and reveal the very soul of the man.

***Many thanks to Net Galley and Amazon Publishing for the advanced reader's copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.***

This insomniac's opinion: 

I requested a copy of this novel to read with my daughter. She read one and a half chapters and had no interest in reading on. So, this Mama forged on alone. I admit that it is a unique premise and the writing is fine. However, it just could not hold my interest and I was really slugging through to finish. This one was not for me. 

Worth staying up all night to read?



1 1/2 stars, rounded up to 2 for Goodreads. 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Yellow Crocus by Laila Ibrahim

Synopsis(via Goodreads):

Mattie was never truly mine. That knowledge must have filled me as quickly and surely as the milk from her breasts. Although my family ‘owned’ her, although she occupied the center of my universe, her deepest affections lay elsewhere. So along with the comfort of her came the fear that I would lose her some day. This is our story...

So begins Lisbeth Wainwright’s compelling tale of coming-of-age in antebellum Virginia. Born to white plantation owners but raised by her enslaved black wet nurse, Mattie, Lisbeth’s childhood unfolds on the line between two very different worlds.

Growing up under the tender care of Mattie, Lisbeth adopts her surrogate mother’s deep-seated faith in God, her love of music and black-eyed peas, and the tradition of hunting for yellow crocuses in the early days of spring. In time, Lisbeth realizes she has freedoms and opportunities that Mattie does not have, though she’s confined by the societal expectations placed on women born to privilege. As Lisbeth grows up, she struggles to reconcile her love for her caregiver with her parents’ expectations, a task made all the more difficult as she becomes increasingly aware of the ugly realities of the American slavery system. When Lisbeth bears witness to a shockingly brutal act, the final vestiges of her naiveté crumble around her. Lisbeth realizes she must make a choice, one that will require every ounce of the courage she learned from her beloved Mattie.

This insomniac's opinion: 

 Wonderfully developed characters. I loved Mattie's character so deeply that every hurtful thing done to her pierced my heart ever so painfully. My heart shattered and was pasted back together again over and over in the most beautiful way. 

However, the ending was not very believable although it did give a solid resolution, for those readers that need that. 

Worth staying up all night to read?



4 stars

The Way the Crow Flies by Ann-Marie Mac Donald

Book Synopsis(via Goodreads):

The optimism of the early sixties, infused with the excitement of the space race and the menace of the Cold War, is filtered through the rich imagination of high-spirited, eight-year-old Madeleine, who welcomes her family's posting to a quiet Air Force base near the Canadian border. Secure in the love of her beautiful mother, she is unaware that her father, Jack, is caught up in a web of secrets. When a very local murder intersects with global forces, Jack must decide where his loyalties lie, and Madeleine will be forced to learn a lesson about the ambiguity of human morality -- one she will only begin to understand when she carries her quest for the truth, and the killer, into adulthood twenty years later.

This Insomniac's Opinion: 

At over 800 pages, reading this novel is an investment of time. I realize that many will not choose to read this novel due to the length. I assure you, however, that it is so very worth the investment! 

Impeccably, emotionally written with beautifully well fleshed-out characters that the reader finds herself rooting for and hoping for and, eventually, feels as if they are family. The transition from the past to the present was jarring, but I quickly fell back in love with Madeline as in adult, flaws and all. 

It was a very honest portrayal of the life-long ramifications of evil in childhood and how it challenges every nuance of your life. I cried so many times that I lost count and was deeply saddened to turn the last page.

Worth staying up all night to read?

YES! Lay that box of Kleenex right next to you in your bed. 


5 stars.