Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler

IMG_2030“Kate Battista feels stuck. How did she end up running house and home for her eccentric scientist father and uppity, pretty younger sister Bunny?”

Now that is a good question.  Kate is definitely stuck.  Stuck in a living situation that is not ideal, stuck in a family dynamic that is not always easy, and stuck in a job she doesn’t care about and simply fell into.  Her father is finally hitting his stride with his research and is possibly about to make a breakthrough.  However, the fact that his brilliant assistant Pyotr is months away from being deported is a big problem.  A problem that Dr. Battista feels could be solved by Kate herself. However, can Kate be convinced to take part in his scheme?

Inspired by Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, Vinegar Girl is a light and easy read.  Having not read the Shakespearean play I can only share my take on the novel as a contemporary story.  Unfortunately, as a contemporary story it does fall flat and did not work for me in a few different ways.  Kate is a 29 year-old modern woman, which makes a lot of her choices and behaviour confusing and at times frustrating.  The motivation behind her actions is never fully explored or explained, and the immaturity of her general attitude is quite tiresome.  Similarly, Pyotr is a one-note character whose intentions and feelings are confusing, plus his portrayal as “the foreigner” comes off as stereotypical and not humorous, which is what I assume was the intention. The story overall does not live up to the fun and quirky potential of the premise.

*ARC provided by NetGalley.  Publication date: June 21, 2016.

Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi

IMG_1957“Her heart was heavy because it was open, and so things filled it, and so things rushed out of it, but still the heart kept beating, tough and frighteningly powerful and meaning to shrug off the rest of her and continue on its own.”

Novelist Mr. Fox has a habit of killing off the heroines in his novels.  His muse Mary comes to life and turns Mr. Fox into a tragic character through her own stories, while he in turn does the same to her.  In the meantime, his wife Daphne is convinced that he is having an affair and soon becomes involved in the game between Mary and Mr. Fox.  With stories within stories Mr. Fox is an interesting adventure with a fairytale feel.

Helen Oyeyemi is a wonderful writer, and her prose is absolutely beautiful. There are a number of lovely quotes that I couldn’t help but mark and reread. The concept is unique and many stories are quite captivating, however I feel the overall book would have been much stronger if some of the content had not been included.  There are a lot of little stories and not all worked with the concept.  By the latter part of the novel it does start to drag and unfortunately lose the charm of its initial beginning, although it is unique and the writing is lovely.  If you prefer novels with a linear plot then this book is probably not for you.  However, if you like lots of stories, fairytales, and getting lost in beautiful language, then Mr. Fox is definitely worth a read.

“The girl tried, several times, to give her love away, but her love would not stay with the person she gave it to and snuck back to her heart without a sound.”

My Favourite Books About Books

IMG_2029“The words you can’t find, you borrow.
We read to know we’re not alone.  We read because we are alone.  We read and we are not alone.” – Gabrielle Zevin, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

My recent read of The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman, a book about a secret Library society, spies, and of course books, made me think back to some of my favourite books that have books as one of the main themes.  It is always wonderful to read something that captures the love of reading so many of us share and the beauty of a story.  These are my favourite books about books:

1. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Young Daniel becomes fascinated by a book called The Shadow of the Wind by Julián Carax.  When he sets out to find other works by tis mysterious author, he discovers that someone is destroying every book Carax had ever written.  Beautifully written and engaging story with an intriguing mystery.

2. Mr. Peneumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
Young protagonist Clay Jannon stumbles upon a pattern in customer book selection, and sets out to uncover the mystery of Mr. Penumbra’s bookstore with the help of his friends.  A fun adventure that examines the relationship between new technology and old school books.

3. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
Independent bookstore owner A.J. Fikry is grieving the loss of his wife and has isolated himself from just about everyone.  When he discovers an unexpected package left at his bookstore, his life takes a turn in a whole new direction.  A beautifully written and touching story. Continue reading “My Favourite Books About Books”

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

27177204“The atmosphere of the place soothed her automatically; the rich lantern lights, the sheer scent of paper and leather, and the fact that everywhere she looked, there were books, books, beautiful books.”

A mysterious Library society, spies, alternate realities, and at the center of it all is the search for books.  Now that is definitely the sound of a book I had to read.  The Invisible Library centers around the character of Irene, a member/spy of the Library.  It is a society few are aware of and one whose mission is to collect books from alternate realities in order to preserve them.  Irene is assigned to a mission with new assistant Kai to an alternate London in order to retrieve a book of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, which proves to be particularly dangerous as this alternate world is infested with chaos.  A world where magic and the supernatural are not controlled.  Upon their arrival they learn that the book they are in search of has gone missing, and their assignment becomes all the more dangerous as they encounter various characters and creatures in their search.

First in a series, The Invisible Library is a fun, action-packed adventure with a great sense of humour.  The dialogue and banter between characters is enjoyable, and the characters themselves are interesting and memorable. Irene is a strong protagonist who is smart, tough, and oh so cool.  I would have liked more of a foundation established for the Library society, the world and the different realities before diving into the action as there are moments that were a little confusing at times.  Overall, this is a fun adventure and a great set up for what is sure to be a very enjoyable series.

“… and the deepest, most fundamental part of her life involved a love of books. Right now, she wanted nothing more than to shut the rest of the world out, and have nothing to worry about, except the next page of whatever she was reading.”

*ARC provided by NetGalley.  North American publication date: June 14, 2016.  Originally published in the UK on January 15, 2015.

The Rose & the Dagger by Renée Ahdieh

IMG_1889“That is not the way of it. Your future is not set in stone, my dearest star. A coin turns on itself a number of times before it lands.”

The Rose & the Dagger is a satisfying conclusion to the adventurous and romantic story of The Wrath & the Dawn duology.  Starting from where the first book left off, Shahrzad is reunited with her family at a camp in the desert, surrounded by those who are planning an attack on Khalid and his kingdom.  With a war on the horizon and a curse that may keep her away from Khalid forever, Shahrzad must harness her own power in an effort to put an end to it all.

The Wrath & the Dawn was such an enjoyable read and its follow up delivers a story with the same humour, sharpness, and interesting characters.  What makes this such an exceptional series is the quality of the writing with which the characters, the scenery, and the action are brought to life.  As was the case with the first book, I did feel the plot could have moved along a little faster at times, however it was still an engaging and thoroughly enjoyable read.  There is something about the world that Ahdieh has created that is undeniably charming.

“It was easy to be good and kind in times of plenty. The trying times were the moments that defined a man.  And love?  Love was something that did much to change a person.  It brought joy as it brought suffering, and in turn brought about those moments that defined one’s character.  Love gave life to the lifeless.  It was the greatest of all living powers.  But, as with all things, love had a dark side to it.”