The Vanishing Act by Mette Jakobsen – Book Review

The Vanishing Act by Mette Jakobsen
Published by W. W. Norton & Co

Minou lives on a little island with her Papa (a descendent of Descartes and philosophy fanatic), a priest, Boxman the magician, and a little dog named No-Name. For most of her life, Minou’s mother lived on the little island with them, but recently she disappeared; Minou is convinced that she is still alive and may come back some day. When a dead boy washes up on the beach, Minou is certain that somehow her mother’s disappearance is connected to the appearance of the boy, and that her mother will want to know everything she has observed since the boy washed up on shore.

The Vanishing Act is a slight novel, but a magical one. It could almost be mistaken for a middle grades novel, with its young narrator, its child-like wonder, and even its brevity. The way the themes of love and loss are handled, though, are definitely more suited to an adult – or perhaps older teen – audience.

The Vanishing Act is a book that is difficult to talk too much about without revealing spoilers. There isn’t a particularly lot of plot, being instead more about Minou’s thoughts, feelings, and ideas, as well as her perception of the few people around her. It is however lovely and engrossing, and will stay with you for much longer than it takes to read.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Publisher, via Edelweiss.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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Among Others by Jo Walton – Book Review

Among Others by Jo Walton
Published by Tor Books, an imprint of MacMillan

Once upon a time, Morwenna – known as Mori – did magic. She and her twin sister Mor played with fairies and closed down factories by simply each throwing a flower into a pond. Now Mori alone is in England with her all-but-unknown father and his three spinster sisters who, unsure of what to do with her, send her to a local boarding school. Here she doesn’t know anyone, and the fairies barely speak to her, it is not like Wales at all. Her loneliness is more than just being in a place without friends, though, it is also the memory of what she left behind, and what she will never quite be able to recover.

Among Others is an incredibly engaging book. What is perhaps most interesting, is the confluence of science fiction and fantasy. With Mori’s belief in her ability to do magic and her discussions with fairies, the story itself is absolutely fantasy – or, also plausibly, Mori’s disturbed childhood has caused her to live in a fantasy world, and she is an unreliable narrator of the things happening around her – but much of what informs her daily life is her love of science fiction novels.

Fans of classic science fiction – Among Others is set in the 1970s – will particularly enjoy Mori’s thoughts about what she is reading, and the scenes set in her science fiction book club at the library. The truly magical thing about Among Others, though, is the fact that Walton manages to so thoroughly infuse her book with science fiction without alienating those readers who don’t have much familiarity with the genre (and I would know, considering my experience with classic science fiction is limited to a single Heinlein novel read in high school).

Among Others is a lovely, complex coming of age novel, and one that I highly recommend.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Library.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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Little Gale Gumbo by Erika Marks – Book Review

Little Gale Gumbo by Erika Marks
Published by NAL Trade, an imprint of Penguin

In 1977, Camille Bergeron fled New Orleans and her abusive husband with her daughters Dahlia and Josie. A Creole woman willing to work a little voodoo didn’t exactly go over well on Little Gale Island in Maine, but the Bergeron women made it work for themselves, made at least some of the inhabitants of the town love them – enough to bring them into the fold a bit, as well as to get them into trouble. Now, in 2002, their pasts have caught up to them and suddenly their father is dead and the man they always thought of as their father is in a fight for his life.

Dahlia and Josie are rich, complex characters who lead very interesting lives as fish out of water in Maine. They are mostly accepted by townspeople, but truly welcomed by very few, even after having lived on Little Gale Island for 25 years. Marks draws them realistically, especially considering that their present selves are only the stars of half of the book, since the other half deals with the time from when Camille met her husband up through the girls’ lives in Maine. In addition to having wonderful characters, the plot of Little Gale Gumbo pulls the reader right along, trying to figure out what really happened between the two men, as well as what might still happen for the sisters and their love interests.

A quick and satisfying read. Recommended.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Publisher.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.
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The Twelfth Enchantment by David Liss – Book Review

 The Twelfth Enchantment by David Liss
Published by Random House

Ever since the death of Lucy Derrick’s father, she has been as maligned as the most unfortunate of Jane Austen’s heroines. Her near elopement four years earlier left her with her virtue intact, but her reputation somewhat worse for the wear. It seems lucky, really, that Mr. Olsen seems to want to marry her, for all that he is incredibly dull and the two of them have nothing to talk about. At this point, anything to get her away from her Uncle Lowell and his malicious housekeeper Mrs. Quince.

Everything changes for Lucy, though, one day as she uncomfortably makes conversation with her intended. Suddenly, there is an unknown voice screaming her name, and a disheveled man tells her that she must not become Mrs. Olsen and she must ‘gather the leaves’ before vomiting pins and losing consciousness. In her attempts to help the mysterious man, who will soon be revealed to be the scandalous Lord Byron, she comes across a woman who will soon be her friend, a Mary Crawford who has some minor skill as a cunning woman, but who recognizes great skill in Lucy. Suddenly, Lucy is embroiled in something larger than herself, something that involves the Luddites and perhaps the entire fate of England.

It isn’t every 400+ page book that can be read in just slightly over 24 hours, even on a holiday weekend. The Twelfth Enchantment is that book. Lucy is an immediately compelling character. She is downtrodden, but determined. She is marrying Mr. Olsen because it is her only option, but she is making that conscious decision because she knows she must eat and her Uncle Lowell will not consent to feed her forever, marriage is, odd as it mean seem in Regency England, a means to a greater measure of independence, as well as escape from her past reputation.

A great character begs for a great plot, and Liss has created that in The Twelfth Enchantment as well. Lucy is thrust into a world she has never known, but one she seems to understand to a degree that surprises even her. The stakes are high, and only get higher, and Lucy must discover who she can and cannot trust in a world where hardly anyone is what they seem.

Magic and historical atmosphere abound, for an incredibly compelling read. Highly recommended.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Publisher.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.
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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – Audiobook Thoughts

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling, narrated by Jim Dale
Published in audio by Listening Library, published in print by Scholastic

Synopsis:

What more is there to say about Harry Potter, particularly the first book in the series? Harry is terribly mistreated by his relatives and has a generally miserable life, until he finds out he is a wizard. The discovery is slightly bittersweet when Harry finds out that his parents were brutally murdered by the now-disappeared evil wizard Voldemort.

Thoughts on the story:

It may be that I’ve finally just read this series too many times. I’m starting to see things that don’t quite line up throughout (I blame Michelle for pointing out inconsistencies in book 7 when we watched the movie). I was also struck on this reread at just how ridiculous the opening scene with the Dudleys really is. They might as well have been tying Harry to a railroad track and twirling their mustaches. Honestly, it sort of annoyed me a little. Eventually I was able to get back into the book, but it took longer than usual.

Thoughts on the audio production:

I’ve listened to the rest of the series in audio narrated by Jim Dale before and been impressed, but at times during Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone I distinctly heard Dale make mouth noises, such as lip smacking, which sort of disgusted me and turned me off.

Overall:

I was all excited about going through the series again, but now I’m feeling sort of blah about it. Anyone up for convincingme?

Buy this book from:
Powells: Audio | Print*
Indiebound: Audio | Print*

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And now from a brief word from our friends over at Audiobook Jukebox:

Are you a blogger who reviews audiobooks? Whether you review them regularly, occasionally, or exclusively, there’s a new place to find free review copies for your perusal. The site is called Audiobook Jukebox and we’ve recently started a new program called Solid Gold Reviewers.

The idea is to have a place where audiobook publishers can offer titles for review and reviewers can select those titles which interest them the most. At the beginning of this month, 9 publishers helped us get started by offering 42 titles and over 100 copies for review. I’d like to invite you to check out the guidelines and then take a look at the titles listed.

I hope you’ll see something interesting to listen to and review. If not, check back next month (we already have some additional publishers who’ve said they’ll contribute). If we all participate, more publishers will contribute more of the audio we love. In turn, we’ll have the chance to tell others about more great listens!

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I’m launching a brand-new meme every Friday! I encourage you to review any audiobooks you review on Fridays and include the link here. If you have reviewed an audiobook earlier in the week, please feel free to link that review as well. Thanks to Pam for creating the button.

Source: library.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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