2014 bookshelf update: part 5

It feels like forever since I wrote my last bookshelf update. September and October have been absolutely crazy-packed! Between work, weekend vacations, and (let’s be honest) the start of the fall television season/the arrival of Gilmore Girls on Netflix, I’m actually kind of impressed at the amount of books I managed in the last two months.

The Bone Season, by Samantha Shannon
I technically finished this one in August, but I wrote Update 4 too early to include it, so here it is! Check out my full take on TBS here. (TL;DR It’s gonna be the next.big.thing in YA. Read it now and be a hipster about it in two years)

The Mangle Street Murders: The Gower Street Dectectives, Book 1, by M.R.C. Kasasian
TMSM features a Holmes and Watson-esque duo in 1882 London (though a man and a woman in this incarnation) investigating the murder of a young woman whose husband is the only suspect. I wanted to love this book so terribly much. The online reviews were glowing, and the cover was bright red and enticing. But, alas, it was not to be.

As sharply-plotted as the book was purported to be, I just couldn’t bring myself to like or understand the characters enough to pay close attention to the plot. The main detective, Sidney Grice, is arrogant, snide and all-around unpleasant. And while some books feature unfavorable main characters (Gone Girl springs to mind), they at least frame it in a way that tells you, “Yes, you are not supposed to like these people.” TMSM seemed to want you to be intrigued by Grice, but I couldn’t get past his aggravating persona.

I finished the book, and maybe I’ll read it again at another time, but for now I’m not a fan. Sorry, M.R.C. Kasasian.

Peace Like a River, by Leif Enger
The prose in this book, oh my goodness! I’m not usually one for underlining and dog-earing in books, but I absolutely had to for some of the lines in this book.

“I remember it at October days are always remembered, cloudless, maple-flavored, the air gold and so clean it quivers.”

“Look at the Milky Way. It has that pattern, doesn’t it, of having been cast there by the back-and-forward sweep of His arm?”

“I laughed in place of language.”

Honestly, the beauty of the prose in this book made me so giddy I squealed a few times. Shea will serve as my witness.

Other than being beautifully written, I really enjoyed the plot. The characters were incredibly different from the ones I’ve been encountering recently, and there were a lot of positive faith elements as well. The story is told from the perspective of a young asthmatic boy who believes his father can work miracles. When his older brother is charged with murder and then escapes jail, the boy, his father, and his sister take off across the north to bring him back. The back cover blurb describes it as “at once a heroic quest, a tragedy, and a love story,” which pretty much sums it up. While the plot did not go anywhere I expected it to, I sincerely liked and appreciated this novel (and the beautiful words didn’t hurt it one bit). I highly recommend it.

Rosehead, by Ksenia Anske
I heard about this one through a YouTuber I follow. The author is independent, so I ordered the book from her website. I thought about getting the ebook version, but the cover was just too pretty not to have on my shelf. Besides, since Ksenia ships the books herself, she also signed it, which was a nice touch.

The plot follows a preteen girl named Lilith Bloom to her family’s big reunion at her grandfather’s large estate in Berlin. While there, she discovers her grandfather’s world-famous rose garden is carnivorous and must find a way to save her family from being eaten by the garden. Crazy, right? I was hooked immediately by the blurb, though it took me about halfway through the book to really get into the full story, mostly due to pacing. In my opinion, some things got too much explanation while others were glossed over too quickly, but the book as a whole was still enjoyable. I’d love to lend you my copy if you want a silly, ridiculous read (it also features a talking dog, if that’s a selling point for you).

Mercy Snow, by Tiffany Baker
This may be my favorite that I read the last two months. A school bus accident which kills the daughter of a local family provides the impetus for the novel’s mystery, which is set in the small paper mill town of Titan Falls, New Hampshire, along the banks of the twisted and nasty Androscoggin River (which is a character all in itself).

The book cycles through the focuses of four women and girls in the town: June McAllister, the wife of the local paper mill owner and de facto “first lady” of Titan Falls; Mercy Snow, whose brother is accused of causing the accident; Hazel Bell, a sheep farmer and wife of the bus driver; and Hannah Snow, Mercy’s younger sister with a thirst for knowledge and an unusual connection the spirit world. All four women have secrets to protect, and as the town comes closer and closer to solving the mystery of the bus accident, their worlds threaten to unravel.

This was such an excellent book, and I loved every moment within its pages. Baker’s writing is tight, but with just the right amount of color. The small town came alive in my mind, full of secrets and social hierarchy. It’s a great fall/winter read, so definitely pick this one up with a cup of hot chocolate and roaring fire beside you.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman
How Neil Gaiman creates such intricate worlds within so few pages is a magic I’ll never understand. Ocean manages to be both creepy and childlike, exacting and wild, all at once. In fact, I’m not going to summarize the plot for you because I’m not sure I could do it any justice whatsoever. Grab a copy for yourself and fall into Gaiman’s web of masterful storytelling. It’s an absolute treat.

I’ve just started Laura McHugh’s The Weight of Blood, but I’m a pitiable way into it so far. I’ve progressed a bit further in The Handmaid’s Tale, though I expect I’ll need a few months more to finish it up as it doesn’t keep my attention very long at any one time. Additionally, I’ve got Amy Poehler’s just-released memoir Yes, Please on ebook hold at the library (!!!), so you can expect to see a gush about that one in the next update.

I’m also beginning to work on my reading goals for next year, including getting more classics and non-fiction into my literary diet. Let me know if you have any suggestions!

Please let me know if you want any more info on/want to borrow the books above or if you want to swap recommendations. My heart is always open to new stories!

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