Tag Archives: fantasy

A Monster Calls – Patrick Ness

Review (Amazon): An unflinching, darkly funny, and deeply moving story of a boy, his seriously ill mother, and an unexpected monstrous visitor.

At seven minutes past midnight, thirteen-year-old Conor wakes to find a monster outside his bedroom window. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting– he’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments. The monster in his backyard is different. It’s ancient. And wild. And it wants something from Conor. Something terrible and dangerous. It wants the truth. From the final idea of award-winning author Siobhan Dowd– whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself– Patrick Ness has spun a haunting and darkly funny novel of mischief, loss, and monsters both real and imagined.

My Review (Spoilers):

Executive Summary: Emotional

This was my book pick for 2016 for “book into movie”. However the movie release continued to get pushed back so we switched it with our book swap and did it as the last book of 2016. I also loaned the book out so I needed to get it back before finishing the review which is why it’s a few months late. Oops.

First, if you get this book, be sure you get the one with pictures. Seriously though, it is worth it. The book is touted as a children’s book but it is actually fairly dark and is about serious issues. I don’t think a single person in my book club finished the book with dry eyes.


Conor keeps having this nightmare about a monster. He wakes up but keeps hearing his name whispered. And when he looks out his window, he sees the giant yew tree that is planted in the church cemetery beside their house turn into a giant monster. It comes up to Conor’s window, but he’s not scared of the monster.

When he gets up in the morning, he thinks it was just his nightmare again like it always is, but when he steps out of bed, his whole room is covered with yew leaves. He sweeps them up and hides them in the trash as he’s getting ready. His mom -er- mum comes down and we realize that something’s wrong with her. She’s in a new round of treatments. And she tells Conor that his grandma is going to come stay with them because a kid of 13 shouldn’t have to take care of everything.

At school, he’s bullied by the teacher’s pet Harry. It started right around the time Conor’s mum was diagnosed. Not immediately, but afterwards. When he started having the nightmare with the screaming and falling. The bullying continues and this time, Conor’s friend Lily steps up for him, telling the teacher that they were making fun of Conor’s mother, but he denies it and she gets detention. When Conor’s mother was first diagnosed, she called Lily’s mother, who told Lily and then eventually everyone knew. And they started treating him differently.

When he gets home from school, the yew tree is just a tree. But in the middle of the night, it visits him again. Always at 12:07. This time he tells Conor to come outside and that he will tell him 3 stories. And at the end, Conor will tell the monster a story of his own–the truth, his truth. Conor thinks this is about the stupidest thing for a monster to do, but he’s also scared to tell his story.

Conor’s grandma arrives and she’s a bit…cold. Everything about her irritates Conor. She tells Conor that he can come live with her, but he angrily denies that there will be a need for that.

The monster arrives that night again at 12:07 for the first story. Long ago, a kingdom was on that very land. The king remarries a young bride, but then he suddenly grows ill and dies. His son is still too young so the queen rules alone, and rumors start that she is a witch and she killed the king with magic powers. As the prince grows closer to the throne, the queen has grown fond of ruling and tries to entice the prince to marry her. Alas, he has fallen in love with a farm girl, and one night, he and his love run away. They fall asleep under the (same) yew tree, and when the prince awakes, the princess is dead. The prince races back to the kingdom telling everyone that the queen has murdered his bride. The villagers break into the castle to get the queen who is to be burned alive. BUT it turns out that it was not the queen. It was the prince. He sacrificed his beloved to rid the kingdom of the queen who was actually a witch. The yew tree knew what had happened, and before the villagers could burn the queen at the stake, he saves her and transports her to another land where she could do no harm. The prince ruled til the end of his days and was much loved.

Conor is enraged! What does the yew monster mean that the prince killed his own bride. Surely the villagers would have believed him without such drastic measures. And why would the yew monster save the evil queen!? She was bad. No one was the good guy in the story.

When Conor gets up in the morning, there’s a foot tall sapling growing out of his bedroom floor. He gets a knife and cuts out the tree. His day at school is more of the same. Lily apologizes because he deserves special treatment. Harry bullies him. The teachers pity him. And then he comes home to his grandmother who tells him that his father is coming to visit from America. He never sees his father. Why’s he coming? His mum is going back to the hospital but she assures him she’s going to be fine.

When his mum goes to the hospital, he goes to stay with his grandma. The yew tree doesn’t visit him for a few days. Maybe it doesn’t know where he is. His dad arrives because his mum asked him to. But he won’t say why. And Conor isn’t coming to live with him because his place in America is small and his wife is (paraphrasing) terrible. And he can’t stay long because Americans don’t get much vacation (preach!) so by the time Conor is done hanging out with him, he’s just so mad. He’s so mad, he destroys his grandma’s heirloom clock and the time is stuck, of course, at 12:07 so the yew monster appears for story #2.

Over a hundred years ago, the country had become industrialized. But there are still some who are clinging to the past, in particular, the apothecary. He made ancient medicines from trees and berries and plants. But as society changed, people started using him less, and he grew bitter. The parson (of the church beside Conor’s home) had two daughters who he loved very much. The apothecary asked the parson if he could cut down the ancient yew tree for his medicines and the parson said no. In fact, he went so far as to preach against the apothecary and turn the townspeople against him. But then one day, his daughters fell sick, but no modern doctor could help. The parson swallows his pride and asks the apothecary. The apothecary asks why he should help the parson. The parson says he will give up the yew tree. He will send all his parishioners to the apothecary. He will give up everything he believes to cure his daughters. And so, the apothecary tells him that there is nothing that he can do to help the parson, and that night, both his daughters die. And that night, the yew monster tears the parson’s house from its foundation.

Conor is furious! The parson’s house! But the apothecary is the bad one. He let the children die. No, the yew monster says. The parson was selfish and cared only about himself. He should have given up the yew tree from the beginning.

Conor and the monster begin tearing down the parson’s house in the story, but once the story is over, Conor realizes he has completely destroyed his grandmother’s home. When he realizes what he has done, he’s in shock, and then his grandmother pulls into the driveway. When she sees what he has done, she screams. But she’s not mad. She comes through the room and knocks the only remaining upright thing down.

No one yells at him. He goes through school and no one really talks to him. He doesn’t even get his beating from Harry. It’s like he’s invisible. He goes to visit his mum in the hospital, and she tells him they are going to try one more thing–medicine made from the yew tree.

His dad has to leave but before he goes, he tries to tell Conor that his mum is very very sick and the medicine is probably not going to work. Stories don’t always have happy endings. Conor has learned this from the yew monster, but he still thinks that the situation is too coincidental for the medicine not to work. When the yew monster appears that night, Conor asks him if he will heal his mum. The monster say “If your mother can be healed, then the yew tree will do it” The monster leaves without a story.

At school the next day, he gets cornered by Harry and his friends. But instead of beating him up, Harry tells Conor, “I know longer see you” and walks past him. It’s 12:06. The yew monster appears for the 3rd tale.

There once was an invisible man. Not really invisible, but it was just that people had gotten used to not seeing him. And so he decides that he will make them see him. Conor asks how–by calling for a monster! And he reaches his giant monster hand out and knocks Harry across the floor. The monster pummels Harry, and at the end, the headmistress calls Conor to the office. The entire cafeteria saw Conor completely attack Harry. Like usual, he’s not being punished. The entire school now sees him, but he’s more alone than ever.

A few days pass. He doesn’t see the monster. He does make up with Lily, but just at that moment, his grandma appears at school. His mum’s treatment isn’t working. Conor is furious and tells his grandma that he has to go back to his home, the one with the yew tree. She is confused, but she agrees, and she drops him off and then heads back to the hospital. There Conor confronts the yew monster about why he didn’t heal his mother. The monster says it’s time for Conor’s story, and suddenly they are in his nightmare. The one he doesn’t tell anyone about.

He’s in a forest clearing and on one side, there’s a cliff. His mum is standing near the cliff edge, and he yells that she needs to get out of there. She doesn’t listen despite his pleas. A cloud which turns into two large fists raises over the cliff and grab her and pull her over the edge. Conor runs toward her and catches her just as she falls over. She begs him to hold on, but she’s slipping. She’s getting heavier, and the monster appears to tell him that it’s time for the fourth tale. Conor wants him to help, but the yew monster tells him that it’s time for the truth, and his mother falls from his grasp.

But that’s not the end. The monster says he must tell the truth. That he had let her go. Conor argues that he didn’t, but the monster says he cannot leave until he admits it, and finally he does. The monster asks why, and Conor says that he just wants it all to be over.

They leave the nightmare and are back at his house. Conor is devastated that he has said such a horrible thing about his mum who he loves so much. But the monster says that it is just a thought. It wasn’t an action. Conor is exhausted and falls asleep under the yew.

He awakes to his grandmother screaming, trying to find him. When she finally does, they race back to the hospital. On the way, she tells Conor that she knows that they haven’t always gotten along very well, but she tells him that they do have one thing in common. They both love his mum.

They arrive to the hospital in time, and the monster is there too. It’s close to midnight. The monster tells Conor to speak the truth. He tells his mother “I don’t want you to go” and she tells him that she knows. He puts his arm around her and when 12:07 arrives, he knows that he can finally let her go.

Verdict: 4.5 stars

This book is really special. It’s imaginative. It’s happy, funny, sad. The characters are all so incredibly believable. I would recommend this book to everyone from about late junior high on. Yes, it has pictures. No it’s not for children. I absolutely loved it.

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under 4.5 stars, Book Club, Book Review

Graceling – Kristin Cashore

Review (Amazon): Kristin Cashore’s best-selling, award-winning fantasy Graceling tells the story of the vulnerable yet strong Katsa, a smart, beautiful teenager who lives in a world where selected people are given a Grace, a special talent that can be anything from dancing to swimming. Katsa’s is killing. As the king’s niece, she is forced to use her extreme skills as his thug. Along the way, Katsa must learn to decipher the true nature of her Grace . . . and how to put it to good use. A thrilling, action-packed fantasy adventure (and steamy romance!) that will resonate deeply with adolescents trying to find their way in the world.

My Review (SpOiLeRs!!!):

Executive Summary: a fun escape

The book is set in the Seven Kingdoms which were originally ruled by the same family, but now many generations later, each has a different ruler–some good and some bad. In this land, certain children are born with two different colored eyes and a special skill of some sort. These children are called Gracelings and their skill is called their Grace. The main character Katsa is a Graceling who is from the Middluns and her Grace is killing.


As it is the protocol in most of the kingdoms, Gracelings are given to the ruler once their Grace appears and the ruler can determine whether the Grace is of use. (If your Grace is holding your breath underwater for a long time, it might not be. If that’s the case, you’re sent home to your parents.) Katsa’s mother was the sister of the Middluns king so either way, she ended up as the king’s ward at a young age when her parents died. Once her Grace appeared at age 8 as she accidentally killed her distant cousin, a creep who liked little girls and tried to touch her, the king put her to work.

It was a lonely childhood as most view the Graced as people to avoid–a sort of curse. Especially in Katsa’s case. Her only friend was the King’s son Raffin, her cousin. Eventually she also gained the confidence of Captain Oll who helped her train as well as a woman named Helda who was the nurse of the royal nurseries, but who had a son who was a Graceling who she had left behind so she took a particular fondness to Katsa.

As Katsa grew older, she trained in all fighting skills and did King Randa’s dirty work. She continued to get more and more disenchanted with it. She, Raffin, and a few others decide to start using their skills for good and assemble a council.

The book begins with a mission. Katsa, Captain Oll and Giddon (one of Randa’s right hand men) were in the dungeons of Sunder to rescue the father of the King of Leinid (Prince Tealiff) who had been kidnapped. During the process while Katsa knocks the guards unconscious and gives them some sleeping medicine developed by Raffin, she encounters another Graceling, a Lienid, who she wasn’t expecting. She doesn’t want to kill anyone but she also doesn’t want her plan foiled. She debates what to do with him and eventually leaves him unconscious like the others. They rescue the Prince and take him back to Middluns to hide him and figure out who kidnapped him and why.

They immediately thought of the kings of Wester, Nander, and Estill as they were typically the most troublesome. King Randa for the most part minded his own business so he wasn’t likely to blame. King Ror of Leinid was the least troublesome and well-liked by his people. Even King Murgon of Sunder where the Prince was found was typically only doing someone else’s bidding, not plotting something on his own. The only other kingdom was Monsea who was ruled by King Leck whose wife was a Leinid and also the daughter of Prince Tealiff. Monsea was separated geographically but the general view was that King Leck was well liked and kind to children and animals. However, the word was also out that the queen had locked herself in her room after hearing of her father’s disappearance.

After returning to the kingdom after some time away, it turns out that Prince Tealiff hasn’t spoken. She asks Raffin if he had ever heard of a Graceling Leinid and Raffin mentions that he’s the son of King Ror and is in the Middluns castle at the moment as he is searching for his kidnapped grandfather. On the way to her rooms to dress for dinner, she sees him a floor above and feels his gaze on her.

At dinner, she is seated next to Giddon and next to the next potential suitor, Lord Davit, that King Randa has arranged, except this one has come to inquire about the Council. Katsa overhears the King telling a story about her and gets enraged and leaves the dinner to go for a walk. The Leinid Prince, Po,  finds her at the archery range. He explains that he is no good at fighting with weapons but is graced with hand to hand combat. He’s looking for his grandpa and he fights Katsa, an even fight, to get some answers, and he is invited to that evening’s Council meeting.

Po remains in Middluns until they decide what to do, practicing fighting with Katsa which continues to make Lord Giddon upset.  Katsa and Po get to know each other out of the ring too as Katsa has never really met any other Gracelings. She learns that he has six older brothers, his own castle, and has never felt weird about his Grace. In the meantime, Lord Randa sends Katsa to do his bidding. When she arrives, she makes the decision to not follow orders because she knows the King can’t actually harm her. She also refuses Giddon’s proposal for marriage but something he says gives her cause for concern–it’s an exact phrase that Po has said to her. When she returns to Middluns, she confronts Po that his Grace is not what he has said–he is in fact a mind reader. Katsa is furious, but Po eventually convinces her that he has to keep it a secret so that he can lead a relatively normal life. He tells her that he is leaving the following day and asks her to come with him.

Before she can answer, she gets called in to see the King for her disobedience. The king has lined up all his best soldiers to confront her, 10x more than the usual amount. Instead of unleashing her fury, she listens to Po’s voice in her head and tells the King how she could defeat all the soldiers and still get to him and then tells the King that she will no longer be his pawn and is leaving the following day with Po.

As she and Po travel, she becomes more accepting of his Grace and they figure out a way to make it work. He openly shares with her and she practices on guarding the thoughts that she doesn’t want him to outright know and also how to communicate with him without speaking. He boosts her confidence, first by suggesting that she keep in mind that she started the Council so therefore is not completely evil and only good for doing the King’s bidding and then leading to her revelation that in fact, her Grace is not actually fighting–it’s survival.

Po also tells her the tale of the King of Monsea. The previous King and Queen of Monsea yearned for a child but never could have one. One day, a young boy arrived, wearing an eye patch, and charms the King, Queen and the rest of Monsea. The King and Queen take him in, feeling pity for this poor boy who has no home and has lost an eye. So a few years later, when the King and Queen still do not have an heir, they name him the heir. Only a few days later, the King, Queen and their closest advisers had all died.

They collect information along the way which leads them into changing their plans to head to Monsea instead to talk to King Leck. And then they realize that his eye patch might mean that he’s actually Graced and has used the patch to hide it. They suspect that King Leck’s Grace is distributing misinformation. So they head that way and assume that Po’s Grace will protect them. As they travel, both Katsa and Po hone their Grace. Po begins to be able to sense things around him, even inanimate things that could not be thinking of him. Katsa and Po also begin to think about each other. Katsa does not want to get married or have children, and Po is OK with that.

When they arrive in Monsea, they stumble across a scene–a woman is running from an army of men, led by a man with an eye patch. The woman is shot in the back trying to escape. Po tells Katsa to kill King Leck, but he sees them and goes on about what a terrible accident the whole thing was so Katsa doubts what she has just seen and puts down her bow. Po and Katsa run into the woods although Katsa’s thoughts are blurry and disoriented and she doesn’t understand what is going on. It takes a while for her to realize that she was fooled by Leck’s Grace. He shot his own wife in front of Katsa and he was still able to convince her that it was an accident.

They hide out in the woods until they believe that it is safe (that King Leck’s men aren’t looking for them) and they go off in search of Bitterblue, the King’s daughter who took off and is hiding. Luckily Bitterblue’s mom thought about where Bitterblue was hiding as she died so Po has a good idea of where it is.

Once they find Bitterblue, she reinforces that her father needs to be killed. He tortures children and animals. And her mother locked the two of them up so that her father couldn’t get to Bitterblue. King Leck stole Prince Tealiff to try to blackmail Bitterblue’s mother into changing her mind. Po is to set out early to find King Leck and kill him. However, he returns very injured and King Leck is very much still alive. Po remains in hiding because he will slow them down due to his injuries. Po gives Katsa his ring so that his parents will trust her, and Katsa and Bitterblue set off to Leinid. They take an impossible pass since Leck and his minions will be watching for them at the obvious ones.

The journey is incredibly difficult but Katsa’s Grace protects them. Eventually they arrive at Po’s castle and his whole family is there…with King Leck. King Leck has the entire family in a trance. Luckily Bitterblue has fought against him long enough to be able to combat his trickery some. King Leck wants to talk about Po–where he is and how he is doing. When he begins to suggest that Po’s Grace is more than just fighting, Po’s mom and Katsa become agitated and Katsa kills Leck with a dagger to the throat.

It takes quite a while for the effects of Leck’s spell to stop but eventually Po’s family realize that they had been tricked. They set off the next morning to take Bitterblue back to Monsea where she will be the new queen. They make their way back to find Po. He has healed some but Katsa finds him depressed and not the fun loving person she left. Eventually, she realizes that he is blind–blinded during his fall into the river after his attack with Leck’s men. His Grace keeps the others from realizing what has happened. Katsa begins training him as well as Bitterblue so that Po can get back to full health and Bitterblue can learn to protect herself. She decides to take her skills on tour–starting in Monsea where she continues to teach Bitterblue along with other girls how to fight. The book ends with her planning to meet Po back in Leinid in the fall.

Verdict: 3.5 stars

This book was a fun, easy read. It had a lot of resemblance to Hunger Games but it didn’t feel quite so dark. I did enjoy that while it was still a YA, it wasn’t the traditional “I’m just waiting for that man to come along and suddenly I’ll be smitten and get married and have babies!!!” On the other hand, I wished that we got to see a bit more depth out of Katsa throughout the book. Maybe in the next one.

Leave a comment

Filed under 3.5 stars, Book Review

Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel

Review (Amazon): Kirsten Raymonde will never forget the night Arthur Leander, the famous Hollywood actor, had a heart attack on stage during a production of King Lear. That was the night when a devastating flu pandemic arrived in the city, and within weeks, civilization as we know it came to an end.

Twenty years later, Kirsten moves between the settlements of the altered world with a small troupe of actors and musicians. They call themselves The Traveling Symphony, and they have dedicated themselves to keeping the remnants of art and humanity alive. But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who will threaten the tiny band’s existence. And as the story takes off, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, the strange twist of fate that connects them all will be revealed.

My Review (Spoilers!):

Executive Summary: fun

I’ve had this book on my list for quite a while so I’m glad I was actually able to squeeze it into my schedule. I enjoyed it a lot even though it was quite a bit different than I was expecting. It’s a dystopian novel, sure, but it’s really more of a people drama (aka literary fiction) set in the future.

The book jumps back and forth between pre-flu and post-flu. The connection between the two times is Arthur Leander, a famous Hollywood actor who in his later days became a stage actor. The book begins with his last performance in King Lear. He has a heart attack and dies on stage. Arthur’s friend Clark is in charge of calling his ex-wives (all 3) to let them know. That same night, the Georgia flu pandemic arrives in Toronto killing most in its wake.

Post-flu time is measured in years starting with 1. The book starts its story in year 20. By this time, most of the chaos has died down, and people tend to live in towns. Kristen Raymonde is part of The Traveling Symphony, a group of actors and musicians who travel around the Great Lakes area doing Shakespeare performances. Kristen had been on stage and part of the production the night that Arthur died. She was only 8 at the time of the flu so her memory is very hazy regarding anything pre-flu. She does remember Arthur and she always looks for details about him in magazines and newspapers that she finds when they check abandoned buildings for supplies. They go in her pack with her paperweight and Station Eleven comic book that Arthur had given her.

The Symphony arrives in a town that they went to two years prior, and where they left two of their members so that they could have their baby. When they return, they find that the town has changed dramatically and their members have left. When they finally find someone who can tell them where they went, the answer is Severn City, a city in an old airport. They do their performance followed by a speech by the prophet there, and then decide to get out of the strange religious city while they still can. A little ways away, they realize they have a stowaway. A small girl from St. Deborah by the Water was promised to be the prophet’s next wife.

Interspersed with the post-flu “current time” storyline are stories about Arthur. We learn that he was from a small island in British Columbia, moving away to Toronto as soon as he could, but he drops out of college and enrolls in acting classes. He’s good friends with Clark, and they stay friends until Arthur’s death even though they both know they grew apart years before. Arthur’s mother calls him one day to tell him about another girl from their island who just moved to Toronto. She’s seventeen and just enrolled in art school. Arthur agrees to meet with her for lunch, and then waits 7 years before contacting her again. At this point, he is 36 and she is 24 and they very much hit it off. Miranda is in a dead end relationship with an artist who isn’t selling, and she is supporting him. She goes back to her place after dinner and drinks with Arthur where her boyfriend physically abuses her. She shows up at Arthur’s door with her suitcase and the rest is history…until it isn’t.

Miranda is an artsy sort, not used to the pomp and circumstance that Arthur is now used to. They have a house in Hollywood and a Pomeranian and host dinner parties. Miranda likes to draw, and she has a story that she has been working on for years. It’s about Dr. Eleven. Eventually at one of the dinner parties, Miranda realizes that Arthur is having an affair with a woman Elizabeth. She spills the beans to the paparazzo outside who eventually will be the EMT who performs CPR on a dying Arthur. Miranda and Arthur divorce and he marries Elizabeth. They have a son, Tyler, but eventually they also divorce.

Back in current time, the Symphony are heading towards Severn City to find the members they left. Severn City is also where Clark lives. Clark was on a flight with Elizabeth (Arthur’s second wife) and Arthur’s son as one of the last flights before the flu fully hit and they detoured to Severn City. Elizabeth had a hard time coping with the post-flu world, and eventually she and Tyler leave with a religious cult, believing that there must have been a religious reason for the people who were killed and who were spared. Clark remains and is the curator of the Museum of Civilization–an assortment of newspapers, cell phones, high heels etc. within Severn City as it grows into a decent running operation.

En route to the old airport, the Symphony members begin disappearing at their stops. Kristen and August are out one time and when they return, the caravan and the rest of the members have vanished. Kristen and August are terrified at this point, but they continue to head in the direction of the City. They don’t see any signs that the caravan has gone by without them, and eventually they encounter why. The Prophet has been following them because he wants the girl who stowed away. He and his followers are trained assassins and can sneak silently. Luckily Kristen and August are well trained too. They kill the men and free their friend Sayid who  explains a bit more about what is going on. Unfortunately Sayid is hurt so the Prophet easily catches up with the three of them. The Prophet, whose dog is named Luli (the dog in Station Eleven), begins quoting Station Eleven, and Kristen continues the quote which distracts him. Meanwhile, one of his men kills him because he is sick of living the way that he is, but then knowing nothing else, he also kills himself.

They manage to get back to Severn City and reunite with most of the troupe (unfortunately one of Kristen’s best friends and former love interest was killed by the Prophet). They find the two members who had been left years prior, and in general things are good. Kristen meets Clark who knows her by a newspaper interview he read of hers from a few years prior and talks to her about Arthur. They realize that the Prophet was actually Arthur’s son Tyler, but they aren’t sure what ever happened to Elizabeth. Before Kristen leaves to return to the road with the symphony, Clark takes her up to the air traffic control tower. From there, they can see a town in the far distance which has lights! Before leaving, Kristen leaves Clark one of her issues of  Station Eleven for his Museum, and she promises that she will return and switch out the copies so that one is always with her and the other in the museum.

Verdict: 3.5 stars

This book was a fun easy read and the world in the story was easy to get lost in. But I was expecting more science fiction and less people drama. I wanted to know more about the civilization and the science. I really enjoyed the section about when Clark and Elizabeth landed in the airport and how they got started rebuilding civilization, and I wanted more. I don’t know whether the book plans for a sequel, but having the Symphony go to the town with the electricity would be a really interesting idea!

Leave a comment

Filed under 3.5 stars, Book Review

Midnight Robber – Nalo Hopkinson

img_3699-1Review (Amazon): It’s Carnival time and the Caribbean-colonized planet of Toussaint is celebrating with music, dance, and pageantry. Masked “Midnight Robbers” waylay revelers with brandished weapons and spellbinding words. To young Tan-Tan, the Robber Queen is simply a favorite costume to wear at the festival-until her power-corrupted father commits an unforgiveable crime.

Suddenly, both father and daughter are thrust into the brutal world of New Half-Way Tree. Here monstrous creatures from folklore are real, and the humans are violent outcasts in the wilds. Tan-Tan must reach into the heart of myth and become the Robber Queen herself. For only the Robber Queen’s legendary powers can save her life . . . and set her free.

My Review (Spoilers!):

Executive Summary: original

I can’t recall where I got this recommendation, but it didn’t disappoint. It’s a book that is both futuristic and sci-fi but at the same time almost Medieval feeling. It is also written by a black author and has only black (Caribbean) characters. I only mention this because as a white person, I do tend to read books by white authors about white characters, and I have been trying to remedy this at least somewhat.

The main character, Tan-Tan, starts out this story as a young girl of 7. She lives on Toussaint with her mother Ione and her father Antonio. Both of her parents are sad scoundrels. Antonio is the mayor and spends much time away from his family both working and philandering. Ione eventually becomes sad and lonely and gets into some philandering of her own. Of course to Antonio, only he is allowed to have fun on the side, so he gets furious with Ione. The planet is governed by “Granny Nanny” a sort of implant which provides internet-like capability for all on Toussaint. However, Antonio gets acquainted with a group who evades the overrule of Granny Nanny. When he eventually decides to challenge Ione’s lover, a virile young man, to a duel, he solicits the help of this group to get him some contraband. He wins the fight due to the poison, however, he ends up killing the man in the process. It is discovered that he has cheated to win the fight, and he is sentenced to trial. The man who Antonio had been working with reaches out to Tan-Tan to give her a package to deliver to Antonio. She smuggles away into the trunk of the car which is escorting her father to jail, however Granny Nanny alerts everyone where she is. Still, she is placed in the jail cell with her father until her mother is able to get her. While in there, she give Antonio the package, which will allow him to flee to New Half-Way Tree. New Half-Way Tree is like the (ancient) Australia of Toussaint–it is an uncivilized natural planet where prisoners are sent. Selfish Antonio takes little Tan-Tan with him there because he doesn’t want Ione to get to keep her.

They arrive in Halfway Tree, and are greeted by a creature named Chichibud, who manages to transport them to the nearest human village (barely as Antonio very nearly got them killed by being a selfish prick) where there is a strict penal system a la Hammurabi. While in this town of Junjuh, Tan-Tan meets her half-sister who with her mother is there because of Antonio and his terrible ways. Antonio eventually remarries a woman named Janisette, and the two of them drunkenly fight all the time. Starting at age 9, Antonio begins raping and assaulting Tan-Tan because she’s so beautiful just like her mother. Awful. The story skips ahead a bit and Tan-Tan is about to have her coming of age (16th birthday) party. She and her friend Melonhead are planning to run away to a town called Sweet Pone, where things are better (and she can escape her terrible father and step-mother). Her father drunkenly catches her outside talking to Melonhead, takes her inside and beats and rapes her. As he is raping her, she pulls out her new birthday present, a knife, and kills him. Chichibud somehow finds her, stuck under her dead father, and helps her escape. They are chased into the woods by the sheriff’s dogs, but Chichibud’s wife is a bird, and she is able to help them escape by climbing into a tree. In the Douen culture, Chichibud tells Tan-Tan, “When you take one life, you must give back two.”

The next part of the story is very interesting and creative. Tan-Tan begins living with Chichibud and his family in their giant tree (a whole village lived there). Douen and Tall People (humans) have never fully existed together, and certainly a human has never lived with a douen family before. It is a struggle to understand their customs and to find something to eat as Tan-Tan doesn’t want to eat grubs and worms. Eventually she starts sort of getting the hang of things, and makes a friendship with Abetifa, Chichibud’s daughter. At this point, she realizes that she is pregnant, from her father, and tries to locate a human town where she can have an abortion (difficult concept for the Douen who are egg-layers). When they locate the nearby town, it’s a terrible place. They don’t even have a doctor. Tan-Tan decides to be her own hero and begins spreading fear, but also respect of “the robber queen” through the village with various visits, causing people to start thinking twice before doing terrible things. However, with this, the rumor of the robber queen manages to make its way back to Junjuh where Janisette has been awaiting word of Tan-Tan. She appears in a broken down old car (a car is a rare sighting on New Half-Way Tree) with a gun. She sees where Tan-Tan runs to, and follows her to the tree. The Douen are too nervous to stay, so in one night, they destroy their tree and move to a new home. They leave Abefita and Tan-Tan to find their own way. (Abefita can eventually join them, but she is on a period of growth and learning typical of their species).

The two adolescents begin wandering around the woods, learning from each other, and scoping out human villages. Tan-Tan continues playing Robber Queen in the towns they find, and she enjoys finding out that her reputation precedes her. Eventually they find the town of Sweet Pone, and Tan-Tan is surprised to find that Melonhead is there, and he has been waiting for her all this time. Tan-Tan assumed that he wanted nothing to do with her after she murdered her father, so she is very surprised by this. Melonhead is the town’s tailor, and he convinces Tan-Tan to stay for Carnival even making her a Robber Queen costume like she had a child. She is conflicted. She wants to stay with Melonhead and be with other humans, but she has been on the run for so long and Abefita is her friend. She doesn’t know what to do. While out at Carnival though, Janisette arrives in a tank (uh, ok?) and threatens her. Tan-Tan stands up for herself in front of everyone, and calls Janisette out for knowing what Antonio was doing to her and not stopping it. Janisette is defeated and leaves, and Tan-Tan takes Melonhead back to the woods to Abefita because her baby is about to come. When he is born, she names him Tubman, and realizes that she has saved two lives, just like the Douen said.

Verdict: 3.5 stars

I like the fantasy and sci-fi aspects of this book. I even like the phonetic Caribbean language. I didn’t write about them but there are few interlude sections of fables that were very curious and foreign to me which I also enjoyed. I just really hated that the “coming of age” story had to involve a rape and a baby born out of that incestual rape. It just feels cheap. It feels like the trope of female superheroes. Male superheroes just become (or are born) superheroes. The women have to overcome some great tragedy, typically rape, to be a superhero. Is that just shitty real life? Maybe, but if I’m looking for a story to escape real life, I don’t want that to be the premise.

Leave a comment

Filed under 3.5 stars, Book Review

The House of the Scorpion – Nancy Farmer

Review (Amazon): Matteo Alacrán was not born; he was harvested.
His DNA came from El Patrón, lord of a country called Opium–a strip of poppy fields lying between the United States and what was once called Mexico. Matt’s first cell split and divided inside a petri dish. Then he was placed in the womb of a cow, where he continued the miraculous journey from embryo to fetus to baby. He is a boy now, but most consider him a monster–except for El Patrón. El Patrón loves Matt as he loves himself, because Matt is himself.

As Matt struggles to understand his existence, he is threatened by a sinister cast of characters, including El Patrón’s power-hungry family, and he is surrounded by a dangerous army of bodyguards. Escape is the only chance Matt has to survive. But escape from the Alacrán Estate is no guarantee of freedom, because Matt is marked by his difference in ways he doesn’t even suspect.

My Review (Spoilers!):

Executive Summary: OK

One of the categories which wasn’t chosen in book club this year was surprisingly the young adult category. So when we had a mix-up in months, we decided to add a young adult book to our year, and this book was chosen. Unfortunately, in my opinion, it did not live up to expectations.

On the plus side, it was a light read, and it had a different setting and plot (although similar) than a lot of the YA I’ve recently read. On the negative though, I didn’t feel like any of the characters were well-developed and I felt like the plot was full of holes.

Matteo Alacrán is a clone of El Patrón, the dictator of Opium, named aptly as it’s used to grow poppies and thereby Opium. It’s a country which developed because El Patrón, a drug dealer, advised both the USA and Mexico to set up a country where any illegal would be turned into a Farmer and there was an agreement to not sell the opium in either country. Because that seems reasonable that the USA and Mexico would be like “yeah OK this drug dealer seems to have a good idea”.

Matt grew up hidden by El Patrón’s cook until he got out one day to play with some children he saw outside. When he was caught, he was treated worse than an animal (since he was a clone), stuck in a room with sawdust like a chicken coop and abandoned. Eventually his nurse and his only friend (Maria), rescue him. El Patrón is furious that someone would treat Matt this way, and the nurse who was in charge of him is turned into an eejit like the rest of the farmhands. The eejits have implants in their brains so that they are under complete control. They work until told otherwise. Most clones are also eejits since they will eventually be harvested for parts, but El Patrón did not want Matt to have the procedure done. Matt is also given a body guard, Tam Lin.

Matt turns out to be very bright, going to eschool (since no one would want to teach a clone) and learning how to play music. He goes about mostly unnoticed since people completely ignore him. He and Maria develop a friendship. She doesn’t live at the house with him, but her father is an important person to El Patrón so she comes around often.

As he grows older, he begins to understand further what is going on within the household and with himself, and eventually when El Patrón has had another heart attack, he and Maria try to flee. Unfortunately they get caught by Maria’s sister who takes Maria back to the convent, and Matt is taken to the hospital where El Patrón tells Matt that he is only to be used for his heart which he is going to give to El Patrón. Celia pipes up to say that she has been slowly poisoning Matt with arsenic just so that he can no longer be an organ donor. Tam Lin is instructed to take care of Matt but instead, he gives Matt supplies and allows Matt to escape.

Matt gets caught at the border and sent to some sort of juvenile detention center. (This is where the book really derailed for me). The prisoners are governed by older boys who it turns out are just high all the time. The front of the whole camp is that they harvest plankton, but in reality, they are trafficking drugs. For whom and why, it never says. Eventually Matt and a few of his new friends from the camp escape (after Matt and another boy are deposited in the whale bone pile (also unexplained and really bizarre) and end up in the town where Maria is at the convent.

They make their way to the convent/hospital (I was really confused by this point) and Maria and her mother are there. (This is odd because Maria learned that her mother was still alive only recently from a book of Matt’s and she presumably lived in California, but here she just mysteriously appeared). She is interested to know about the center where Matt came from because apparently people have been trying to shut down the drug trade business for years but didn’t have enough evidence to arrest them or something (despite the entire premise of building the country of Opium being that the drugs were going to be sent out of North America). Annnnyway, Maria’s mom tells Matt that Opium has been on a complete lock down for months and that he needs to go figure out what’s going on. Since he and El Patrón have identical genetics, he shouldn’t have a problem getting in.

OK no problem, he gets back into Opium to find out that El Patrón died and during his wake, Tam Lin brings out some wine which El Patrón had wanted to have at his funeral. Tam Lin instructed another of the guards to not drink it, however he and everyone else did, and everyone died. The end. Not really, but it gets even more unrealistic. Now because Matt is technically El Patrón, he becomes the new ruler of Opium. Um, what? The book ends with him speculating about how he can disable the eejits and fix the country.

Verdict: 3 stars

This book has excellent reviews on Amazon, but frankly I don’t know if I read the same book as those people. I was sorely disappointed. Some of the ideas were good, but it did not feel like the book was thought through, and it felt as though the ending was rushed and too coincidental (never resolve a plot with a coincidence; it always feels disingenuous.) There is a sequel to this book, written many years after the original, but I don’t think I care enough to read it.

Leave a comment

Filed under 3 stars, Book Club, Book Review

His Majesty’s Dragon – Naomi Novik


51erkNiutQLSummary (Amazon): 
Aerial combat brings a thrilling new dimension to the Napoleonic Wars as valiant warriors rise to Britain’s defense by taking to the skies . . . not aboard aircraft but atop the mighty backs of fighting dragons.

When HMS Reliant captures a French frigate and seizes its precious cargo, an unhatched dragon egg, fate sweeps Capt. Will Laurence from his seafaring life into an uncertain future–and an unexpected kinship with a most extraordinary creature. Thrust into the rarified world of the Aerial Corps as master of the dragon Temeraire, he will face a crash course in the daring tactics of airborne battle. For as France’s own dragon-borne forces rally to breach British soil in Bonaparte’s boldest gambit, Laurence and Temeraire must soar into their own baptism of fire.

My Review (Spoilers!!)

Executive Summary: slow

I enjoy fantasy novels, however, this was supposed to be our historical fiction for the year. It is not historical fiction. It’s definitely historical fantasy with a focus in war strategy (if that is even a thing).

British Navy Captain Will Lawrence is sailing around, doing his thing, when his ship captures a French frigate. Inside the ship is a dragon egg which is confiscated. The crew essentially draws straws to see who will be in charge of the dragon when it hatches, and to no one’s surprise, the hatched dragon dismisses that person and chooses Lawrence as his handler.

Lawrence names the dragon Temeraire after a similarly captured French ship, and they grow very close. Lawrence reads to Temeraire, who is very intelligent and absorbs all knowledge quickly. The dragon “expert” on the ship is not certain what breed Temeraire is, but they suspect he is a Chinese breed.

Upon arriving to shore, Lawrence meets with a naturalist to determine what breed Temeraire is, and Sir Edward Howe believes that he is an Imperial. He provides the pair with all the literature he has about it, and they head to their training. Typically trainers are assigned at a very young age, and Lawrence is old and inexperienced. The Aerial Corps tries to pair Temeraire with a more experienced trainer, but Temeraire refuses. Lawrence accepts his new fate rather well.

His parents on the other hand, do not. He stops in to see them en route to the training facility in Loch Laggan, and his father basically disowns him. His girlfriend of sorts (they were just expected to marry eventually) is there, and Lawrence basically tells her sorry, but this is my life now.

He and Temeraire go on to Loch Laggan, the training area, where they are to prepare for the dragon fleet for the Napoleonic War that is happening. They do a bunch of tactical training and both sort of bumble around getting offended about stuff. Temeraire though is significantly more likeable than Lawrence. Lawrence is a giant boor of a character. The whole middle of this book gets really boring with a bunch of flying practice and strategy. One key point though is that one of the dragon captains is revealed to be a double agent when he tries to kidnap one of the female captains (the Longwing breed of dragon only will have female captains). The traitor reveals that he was sent to steal Temeraire who was a gift from the Chinese to Napoleon to be his own personal dragon.

Finally, the end of the book, there’s a battle. The British have figured out that Napoleon is using dragons to ferry ships of soldiers across the sky to evade the Navy. Temeraire and the other dragons depart and there is a battle in the sky during which Temeraire realizes that he has a special skill–some sort of shockwave–which tips the scales of the battle in British favor.

At the end of the book, Sir Edward tells Lawrence that this new skill means that Temeraire is actually a Celestial dragon, reserved only for royalty.

Verdict: 3 stars

I liked the book just fine for about the first half. Then it got really monotonous with dragon training. Books about dragons are supposed to be FUN! Lawrence never became likeable, and the story just lagged. I will not be reading the rest of the series.

Leave a comment

Filed under 3 stars, Book Club, Book Review

The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/9e3/45106722/files/2015/01/img_1022.jpgSummary (Amazon):  Neil Gaiman’s intent was simple: to write a short story. What he ended up with instead was The Ocean at the of the Lane–his first adult novel since Anansi Boys came out in 2005, and a narrative so thoughtful and thrilling that it’s as difficult to stop reading as it was for Gaiman to stop writing. Forty years ago, our narrator, who was then a seven-year-old boy, unwittingly discovered a neighboring family’s supernatural secret. What happens next is an imaginative romp through otherwordly adventure that could only come from Gaiman’s magical mind. Childhood innocence is tested and transcended as we see what getting between ancient, mystic forces can cost, as well as what can be gained from the power of true friendship. The result is a captivating tale that is equal parts sweet, sad, and spooky.

My Review (Spoilers!):

Executive Summary: magical

I came about this book due to a Christmas gifting malfunction. We ordered some books for my sister-in-law for Christmas, and when they didn’t arrive, we ordered replacements. And Murphy’s law, we eventually received both sets, so we kept one.  This was one of the books. I have read exactly one Neil Gaiman book before (Stardust) which I wasn’t overly impressed by. I have wanted to read more of his as I know he is very well-liked, and I wanted to figure out what I was missing! This one I really enjoyed! Also the book has a dedication that says “For Amanda, who wanted to know”. So maybe he was talking to me? 🙂

The book begins with an adult man (unnamed throughout the book so I’m going to refer to him as “TN”–the narrator) returning to his hometown for a funeral. He has a bit of time before going to his sister’s house, so he kills a little time first by driving by the location of the house where he grew up before heading, somewhat subconsciously, to the Hempstock’s farm. Upon arriving, he meets Mrs. Hempstock, and she offers him some tea. He asks if Lettie, his childhood friend, is there, but Mrs. Hempstock says she isn’t, so he asks if he can go sit at the duck pond. Mrs. Hempstock is fine with it.

He heads down to the pond, and he remembers that Lettie always called it her ocean. And suddenly, an ocean of memories of childhood returns to him.

Shortly after his seventh birthday (which no one came to), the South African opal miner boarder who his parents were hosting after their luck had changed, stole their Mini Cooper and committed suicide in the back of it. They found the car on a dead end road near Hempstock’s farm. (At the beginning of the book, we meet the miner when he accidentally run s over the narrator’s kitten. The black kitten named Fluffy that he had gotten for his birthday was now replaced by a mean orange tomcat the miner called Monster. So I didn’t feel that bad about the miner committing suicide.) Lettie Hempstock, a little older than TN, comes down to the scene of the accident and tells the police and TN’s father that the boy can come stay at their house until they are done with the necessary paperwork.

He goes to their farmhouse, and meets Lettie, Mrs. Hempstock, and Old Mrs. Hempstock. They know more about the accident than he does, including the words that were on the note in the miner’s pocket, confirming that he had committed suicide due to gambling debts. The older women suggest that Lettie take TN to the pond where she tells him that it is really an ocean that they came across from the old country when she was just a baby. In the pond/ocean, they find a dead fish, which Lettie assures is very unusual. She guts the fish and finds that it had died from eating a sixpence, which she gives to TN. His father returns for him, and they return home.

The following day, TN’s mom tells him that he has won £25. Later that day, the gardener finds a jar full of ancient coins in the vegetable garden. TN goes to bed happy as he has more money that he ever has. He awakes choking and pulls a shilling out of his throat. He goes outside, and his sister yells at him for throwing coins at her and her friends. (He and his sister don’t really get along well.) He’s confused and begins to walk down his driveway. Just anywhere to get away. And Lettie is at the end of his driveway waiting for him. He tells her about the weird occurrences and she tells him that someone is trying to give people money, but they are doing it badly. It has to do with the opal miner somehow. Lettie invites TN over for breakfast. Old Mrs. Hempstock examines TN’s shilling, and despite the fact that it’s dated 1912, she insists that it is brand new. Lettie takes TN to go find “her”, bind “her”, and send “her” back to sleep. It seems like all the Hempstocks are old as time, but the reader never really learns anything too specific.

Lettie uses some sort of divining rod to find her. TN is instructed to not let go of Lettie’s hand under any circumstance. Of course, he’s a 7 year old boy, so when the huge ragged sort-of woman appeared in a storm and throws something toward them, TN catches it. Lettie, who has been trying to get the woman to reveal her name, knocks it out of his hand, but a pain has already appeared in TN’s foot (he doesn’t tell Lettie). Lettie continues singing her binding song, and at the end, the storm has died, so they head home considering it a success.

(This is not important to the story itself but I seriously wish this existed. On the way back to Lettie’s farm, TN sees a field of what appears like furry snakes. Lettie encourages him to pull out one, and it’s a kitten! A FIELD OF KITTENS! Squeeeee!!!)

When he arrives home, TN inspects his foot. There’s a small line and a hole. Using tweezers, he pulls a giant worm out of the hole in his foot (gross) and puts it down the drain. The following day, his mother announces that she has a new job, and TN and his sister are going to be watched by their new boarder, Ursula Monkton. When TN sees Ursula, he realizes she is the human form of the raggedy woman that he and Lettie encountered in the forest. TN’s sister loves her new friend Ursula, but Ursula has it in for TN. TN wants to go speak to Lettie, but Ursula forbids them from going outside the grounds. Every time he tries to sneak away, she catches him. He knows that he needs to talk to the Hempstocks, but he doesn’t know how to contact them, especially while Ursula is turning his entire family against him and monitoring his every move. She begins seducing TN’s dad, who becomes hypnotized of sorts by her and nearly drowns TN in the bathtub.

Finally one evening, TN realizes that she has some sort of mind connection with him due to being inside him (apparently she was the worm in his foot). He carefully sneaks out of his room and heads toward the Hempstock’s all the while sending thoughts that he is in his bedroom so as not to alert Ursula. She figures it out just as he is stepping onto the Hempstock’s property, and they know she is off to alert his parents. They quickly devise a plan to “snip and cut” TN’s garment, and Old Mrs. Hempstock begins. Shortly thereafter, TN’s parents arrive, but Old Mrs. Hempstock finishes her snip and cut just in time, so they forget why they stormed over to find TN, and they allow him to stay at the Hempstock’s.

Old Mrs. Hempstock removes the hole in his foot, and they begin preparations to get rid of Ursula. Lettie has collected a plethora of random items that she plans to use to drop around to contain Ursula so she can’t escape and terrorize a larger amount of people. She and TN go to see Ursula to give her one last chance to go home on her own accord, but Ursula likes where she is now. She’s making people happy, especially TN’s dad, and she doesn’t want to go. They know what Ursula is  (a flea), and there is another creature (a varmint) out there that she is afraid of, so they decide to summon these creatures to send her home. Ursula becomes nervous and starts to try to return home through the hole that the Hempstocks removed from TN’s foot. But she doesn’t want to go without TN. As she tries to take him with her, the varmints arrive and devour her. But once the varmints have finished, they won’t leave until also devouring TN.

Lettie tells TN to stay in the fairy ring that surrounds the tree in his backyard, while she figures out what to do. This time, TN obeys her. A variety of people appear to try to seduce him out of the ring–the opal miner, his sister, his father, Ursula, even Lettie–but none of them will step inside the ring, so he knows that they aren’t real. The real Lettie eventually returns with a bucket of water from her ocean. She instructs TN to step inside it and when he does, he realizes it is more than an ocean. Inside the ocean, he could breathe, and he knew everything about everything. The ocean in the bucket was attached to the actual ocean so when he finally, reluctantly, surfaced, he’s back at the Hempstock’s. Eventually the varmints return for TN and begin tearing out pieces of the world, leaving nothing behind. TN realizes that if he doesn’t sacrifice himself, the entire world will be destroyed. He runs off the Hempstock’s protected property, and is thrown to the ground. But not by the varmints, by Lettie trying to protect him, and she is severely injured by the varmints. Her cries awake Old Mrs. Hempstock from her slumber, and she sends the varmints home.

Lettie needs to recover, so she is placed in her ocean to heal, and TN is returned home. His mother tells him that Ursula had to leave due to family issues, and Mrs. Hempstock tells them that Lettie is going to Australia to be with her father. TN seems to have a vague memory that that isn’t what happened, but he can’t seem to recall exactly what happened.

He’s awakened from his memory as Mrs. Hempstock appears with a sandwich. He asks her why he came there, and she says that he came to get away like he always does. He says he hasn’t been there since he was a child, but she assures him that he has been back before. He came back once when he was twenty-four with two young children, and he was scared. He came again when he was in his thirties and told her about his dreams. He doesn’t remember either time, but she tells him that it’s easier that way. She tells him that Lettie is finally almost healed, and he thanks the ocean (Lettie) for saving his life. As they are walking away so that TN can head to the funeral, he has already begun to forget. He tells Mrs. Hempstock to tell Lettie hello from him next time she writes from Australia.

Verdict: 4 stars

This book is short, but there is no fluff. Every word has a purpose. Even though I didn’t have quite as exciting of a childhood as the narrator, I think that it is easy to relate to this story. We all have memories that reappear when we find ourselves in the situation where the memories were created. We also all had situations that as children seemed magical, but to any adult would be simple and foolish. But, there’s also a realization that grown-ups aren’t really all that different from children. “Grown-ups don’t look like grown-ups on the inside either. Outside, they’re big and thoughtless and they always know what they’re doing. Inside, they look just like they always have. Like they did when they were your age. Truth is, there aren’t any grown-ups. Not one, in the whole wide world.” As I’ve grown older, I absolutely believe this. The only thing that I felt was a little lacking in the book was that I never felt fully immersed in the story like I sometimes do with other fantasy stories. However, I am really glad that I gave Gaiman another shot.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under 4 stars, Book Review