“Illness isolates; the isolated become invisible; the invisible become forgotten. But the snail… the snail kept my spirit from evaporating.”
The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating is a unique and beautiful story of Elizabeth Tova Bailey’s observations of a snail that made a home on her nightstand. A mysterious illness drastically changes Elizabeth’s life, keeping her bedridden and detached from everything that once brought familiarity and comfort. The lack of mobility results in isolation and lengthy days, with a common woodland snail as an unexpected form of fascination and interest.
“We are all hostages of time. We each have the same number of minutes and hours to live within a day, yet to me it didn’t feel equally doled out. My illness brought me such an abundance of time that time was nearly all I had. My friends had so little time that I often wished I could give them what time I could not use. It was perplexing how in losing health I had gained something so coveted but to so little purpose.”
With the illness, Elizabeth lacked the strength to hold a book and was sensitive to the noisiness of a television, so the little snail was a welcome and surprising new companion. The book is incredibly well written and a provides a nice, quiet journey. The focus is mainly on the snail and the author’s observations, along with everything she learns about the snail from her research. Elizabeth’s illness and other people are more in the background, which results in a very powerful story as a whole. One that is a beautiful message of finding connection and hope in the midst of incredible loss.
“Survival often depends on a specific focus: A relationship, a belief, or a hope balanced on the edge of possibility. Or something more ephemeral: the way the sun passes through the hard seemingly impenetrable glass of a window and warms the blanket, or how the wind, invisible but for its wake, is so loud one can hear it through the insulated walls of a house.”
“Though her mind is still sharp, Elizabeth’s eyes have failed. No longer able to linger over her beloved books or gaze at the paintings that move her spirit, she fills the void with music and memories of her family—a past that suddenly becomes all too present when her late father’s journals are found amid the ruins of an old shipwreck.”
Elizabeth’s past is both painful and heartbreaking, with many questions that she never got answers to while growing up on Porphyry Island on Lake Superior. The discovery of her late father’s journals may possibly bring answers and closure to some difficult chapters in her life. Around the time the journals make their way back into her life, she meets Morgan, a teenage girl doing community service at Elizabeth’s retirement home. The two strike up a rapport and Morgan takes up the task of reading the journal entries to Elizabeth, which leads to the uncovering of long buried secrets and an unexpected connection between Morgan and Elizabeth.
The Lightkeeper’s Daughters is told from the perspectives of both Elizabeth and Morgan. We slowly learn about the past of each character, but the majority of the novel is Elizabeth recounting her life on Porphyry Island with her twin sister, two brothers, and parents. It took me a little while to get into the story, but once it came to Elizabeth’s flashbacks I was completely immersed in the events that unfolded. The environment and solitude of the island is really well portrayed and it is easy to imagine the lives and challenges faced by the family. There is a mystery aspect to the novel that carries the story forward and adds to the overall intrigue. A lot is unveiled towards the end, and while it is interesting I couldn’t help but feel it was a bit overly complicated, and as a result lacked the punch of a good reveal. The premise, setting, and descriptions are well done and there is a lot to be enjoyed with this novel, although the resolution and conclusion ultimately felt unsatisfying and unnecessarily intricate.
“Some adventures require nothing more than a willing heart and the ability to trip over the cracks in the world.”
Down Among the Sticks and Bones is the second book in the Wayward Children series, and tells the story of twin sisters Jack and Jill who were among the characters in the first novella, Every Heart a Doorway. Originally we met Jack and Jill at age seventeen and living at Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. This time we get their life story and everything that led up to their time at Eleanor’s; from before they were born to their descent down a mysterious staircase, and the fairy-tale realm that became their home, until it wasn’t anymore.
“There are worlds built on rainbows and worlds built on rain. There are worlds of pure mathematics, where every number chimes like crystal as it rolls into reality. There are worlds of light and worlds of darkness, worlds of rhyme and worlds of reason, and worlds where the only thing that matters is the goodness in a hero’s heart.”
I liked Every Heart a Doorway, which introduced us to this Home for Wayward Children and a number of characters, each with interesting backgrounds and experiences. However, it left me wanting more of these backgrounds and worlds explored, and that is what Down Among the Sticks and Bones provides. While Jack and Jill were not necessarily the characters I was most eager to learn more about, I was completely drawn into their story and found it to be compelling and well written. The fairy realm they enter is intriguing, but what stands out the most is the dynamic between the two sisters and the evolution of their relationship. This is a highly enjoyable novella and a great addition to the series, which makes me look forward to seeing what future releases will bring.
“Young man,” he said, “understand this: there are two Londons. There’s London Above – that’s where you lived – and then there’s London Below – the Underside – inhabited by the people who fell through the cracks in the world. Now you’re one of them. Good night.”
Intriguing in concept and full of imagination, Neverwhere tells the story of a fantastical world in which there are two Londons: London Above (real London) and London Below (full of magic and invisible to those above). Richard Mayhew has a successful career, a fiancée, and is relatively happy with his life, until one fateful night opens his eyes to a London he never knew existed. His encounter flips his world upside down and takes him on an unforgettable journey under the streets of London, which is filled with danger and adventure.
“You’ve a good heart. Sometimes that’s enough to see you safe wherever you go. But mostly, it’s not.”
I thoroughly enjoy Neil Gaiman’s writing style. There is a quality to it that provides an almost fairy-tale feeling and really brings back childhood memories of diving into great and fantastical stories. Neverwhere is written wonderfully and the world created is quite fascinating and compelling, however there is something about the story as a whole that just did not click with me and I never fully engaged with it. There is a disconnect with the characters that was there throughout the entirety of the novel, and I did not care for the main character, Richard who I found to be incredibly irritating. His journey is one that supposedly leads to growth but there is frustratingly little character development, if any. For this reason, Neverwhere is an okay fantasy novel rather than a great one.
“You must know that feeling when it’s raining outside and the heating’s on and you lose yourself, utterly, in a book. You read and you read and you feel the pages slipping through your fingers until suddenly there are fewer in your right hand than there are in your left and you want to slow down but you still hurtle on towards a conclusion you can hardly bear to discover.”
Magpie Murders provides just this feeling. It is a delightful and uniquely composed mystery novel that completely absorbed my attention and I couldn’t turn the pages quickly enough. Not only is it a compelling mystery but also a novel within a novel that brings the reader on quite a journey. It is told from the perspective of Susan Ryland, an editor for a small publishing company who works on a widely successful mystery series written by Alan Conway. The series follows detective Atticus Pünd and its style is very much an homage to the works of Agatha Christie, and although the books are popular, the author himself has developed a reputation for not being the most likeable person. While editing the author’s latest novel, Magpie Murders, Susan starts to think that there may be more behind the story, something that is very much based in reality, which leads her to embark on an investigation with life-changing consequences.
“As far as I’m concerned, you can’t beat a good whodunnit: the twists & turns, the clues and the red herrings and then, finally, the satisfaction of having everything explained to you in a way that makes you kick yourself because you hadn’t seen it from the start.”
As a fan of whodunnits, Magpie Murders really hit the mark for me. The characters are distinct and memorable, the mystery (or rather mysteries) is intriguing, and the list of suspects is clearly laid out. What makes this book a unique reading experience is the novel within a novel format, which is done in a way that I’ve never read before. An aspect of this may come across as rather frustrating but really in the best way possible, and only added to the eagerness to see how it will all unfold. I would highly recommend Magpie Murders to fans of good old fashioned whodunnits who I think will truly appreciate the experience as a whole. A noteworthy mystery novel that pays homage to the genre.
“It felt like one of those dreams, the kind he’d been having too often lately. In the dreams, he’d open his mouth to scream but could make no sound. And the very act of trying to force words out made his throat feel as if he’d swallowed broken glass.”
A year and a half after the tragic death of his wife, Bill is faced with another tragedy: the disappearance of his daughter, Summer and her best friend, Haley. The two girls are found days later in a city park, with Summer terribly injured and Haley pronounced dead at the scene. Bill is determined to find out what happened, and whether the girl found alive is indeed his daughter. The events that led up to the horrific crime are unclear and the question of who is responsible leads Bill to unexpected answers and unearths long held secrets.
Bring Her Home is a pretty solid crime thriller. It has plenty of twists and turns that takes the reader on a roller coaster of a ride as the truth is slowly revealed. There is a lot of action and the story moves at a fast pace with very short, quick chapters that propel the events forward. I do wish that the main character was slightly more relatable and easier to connect to, and at times I would have liked longer chapters in order to get more into the story, which is usually my preference as a reader. Overall it is an entertaining read, and if you enjoy fast paced storytelling with a lot of twists to keep you guessing, Bring Her Home is a good thriller option.
*Book provided by publisher for an unbiased review.
“Love isn’t: I love you so much that I need to possess you and control you and be the source of all your happiness. Love is: I love you so much that I want you to have everything you need, even when it’s hard for me.”
Next Year, For Sure is the story of a couple who have been together for nine years, and decide to try an open relationship. This experiment evolves in unexpected ways, and challenges their thoughts on love. Kathryn and Chris are in a loving and committed relationship, with each being very supportive of one another. They share and tell each other everything, so when Chris develops a crush on Emily, a woman he meets at a laundromat, he of course tells Kathryn. When it becomes clear that Chris’ crush is not something that is going away, Kathryn encourages him to go on a date with Emily. With this they embark on an open relationship, which brings up a lot of emotions, and allows the two to explore their own feelings with regards to relationships and what makes them happy.
“He doesn’t want to kiss her. He wants what comes after. After the kissing and the undressing and the confiding. After the discovery and the familiarity and the gradual absence of kissing. He wants the intimacy of friends who used to be lovers.”
This is the kind of book I absolutely love. It is thoughtful and character based, focusing on complex yet relatable feelings and written in a conversational style. The writing style makes it an easy and page-turning read and you feel like you are getting an inside view of someone’s life. What I really appreciated was the fact that there are no “bad guys” in this novel. The characters are not mean-spirited in any way, and the way they respect and communicate with one another is refreshing to read. I loved the simplicity and easy flowing nature of the storytelling, and found the novel as a whole to be very well done. If it sounds like your kind of book as well, I definitely recommend giving it a read!