Title: The Shadow of the Wind
Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Genre: Literary Fiction/Mystery/Historical Fiction
Source: I won a copy in a blog hop (yay!)
Barcelona, 1945: A city slowly heals in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, and Daniel, an antiquarian book dealer’s son who mourns the loss of his mother, finds solace in a mysterious book entitled The Shadow of the Wind, by one Julián Carax. But when he sets out to find the author’s other works, he makes a shocking discovery: someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book Carax has written. In fact, Daniel may have the last of Carax’s books in existence. Soon Daniel’s seemingly innocent quest opens a door into one of Barcelona’s darkest secrets–an epic story of murder, madness, and doomed love.
The Shadow of the Wind is on many lists from must-read lists to books-about-books lists. It’s been on my TBR list for quite a while so when I heard that I’d won a copy from the blog, Booklover Book Reviews, I was thrilled!
In education there is a form of teaching that is often called “spiral curriculum”. The idea is that you introduce concepts, move on to new concepts, and then spiral back around to the original concept teaching it again but on a deeper level. The curriculum will continue moving/spiraling on in this way, similar to a spiral staircase. The Shadow of the Wind is very much like this but instead of starting from the bottom of the staircase, we begin from the top and spiral down into the story.
This is a novel of many characters, Daniel, Julian, Penelope, Bea, Fumero, Fermin, Fortuny, Nuria, and many more. Zafon takes on his spiraling staircase to slowly (sometimes painstakingly slow) reveal each of their backstories. Many of the stories interconnect yet Zafon’s writing was able to keep each character’s story separate in my mind.
The Shadow of the Wind is a dark story, full of ghosts and murders, but it is also a story of love and of hope. Zafon touches on both the darkest areas of the human soul and then turns and shows us what love and acceptance can do to heal age old wounds.
Zafon has written one of the most heartbreaking death scenes that I have ever written. Heartbreaking and devastating because similar deaths have probably occurred in real life to real girls. But I think he’s also written one of my new favorite scenes towards the end of the book. A scene that makes you questions what is right and what is wrong. Is a wrong thing still wrong if it hurts no one and brings happiness and peace to a lost soul?
A large part of The Shadow of the Wind is set in a mansion on the Avenida Tibidabo. Zafon’s description of the mansion and its rooms truly brought the location to life in my mind. After finishing the book, I decided to look up “Barcelona mansions” and lo and behold, I found a mansion on the very Avenida Tibidabo that fits much of the description. Looking at the photos of the rooms of this “home” that is for sale, I can visualize many of the scenes from the book.
Title: Bellman & Black: A Ghost Story
Author: Diane Setterfield
Genre: Literary Fiction/Historical Fiction
Source: Digital ARC from netgalley
Bellman & Black is a heart-thumpingly perfect ghost story, beautifully and irresistibly written, its ratcheting tension exquisitely calibrated line by line. Its hero is William Bellman, who, as a boy of 11, killed a shiny black rook with a catapult, and who grew up to be someone, his neighbours think, who “could go to the good or the bad.” And indeed, although William Bellman’s life at first seems blessed—he has a happy marriage to a beautiful woman, becomes father to a brood of bright, strong children, and thrives in business—one by one, people around him die. And at each funeral, he is startled to see a strange man in black, smiling at him. At first, the dead are distant relatives, but eventually his own children die, and then his wife, leaving behind only one child, his favourite, Dora. Unhinged by grief, William gets drunk and stumbles to his wife’s fresh grave—and who should be there waiting, but the smiling stranger in black. The stranger has a proposition for William—a mysterious business called “Bellman & Black” . . .
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield is one of my favorite books. I read it around the same time that I read The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton and Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger. All three books were similar yet very different and I loved all three. I’ve been waiting for a new book by Diane Setterfield and this month, I got my wish!
Bellman and Black is a beautifully written dark tale. I’ve heard some readers complain that the story is slow moving but I found I enjoyed the slow pace. Setterfield’s writing drew me into her setting like few authors have been able to do. Her setting was unmistakenly English but still so magical. The time period was a little more vague (something I’ve seen other reviewers complain about) but that didn’t bother me. I felt like the book was set somewhere in the early to mid 19th century, and that was precise enough for me. Everything was just so dark and beautiful. I can still conjure up the little village and also the interior of Bellman & Black in my mind.
I was in love with this book up until the very end. I have to say that I was a little disappointed with the ending..at least the last 20-30 pages or so. It was enough to make me dislike the book but it was enough to keep me from rating Bellman & Black a full 5 stars.
I do recommend Bellman & Black to anyone who enjoys a well-written character driven novel and doesn’t shy away from the macabre. ;)
Title: The Fault in Our Stars
Author: John Green
Genre: YA/Contemporary Fiction
Source: Kindle purchase
Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.
My son introduced me to John Green (& his brother, Hank) about a year ago when he was studying for a middle school chemistry exam. He had somehow found the Green Brothers’ video series, Crash Course, in which John and Hank take all that “boring” stuff that teachers teach and make it interesting and memorable. If you have never watched a Crash Course video, go watch one now! So, even though I have been a fan of John Green’s for a year, The Fault in Our Stars is the first of his novels that I have read.
I’ve known about this novel since soon after it was published but have avoided it because a friend had told me she cried through the entire books. I don’t like sad books so avoided this book like the plague. Yet, as a John Green fan, I felt like I had to read this book and finally gave in and purchased The Fault in Our Stars when it was on sale for the Kindle.
A day and a half into this novel, I was feeling pretty cocky about the fact that I had yet to cry and then it happened…the tears came and came and came. Yes, this is a tearjerker but it is a beautiful tearjerker and it is worth the read. The Fault in Our Stars reminds us how fragile life is and how short it can be.
When I lived in Phoenix, I donated my photography skills with Flashes of Hope by photographing children at Camp Rainbow. Camp Rainbow is a sleep away camp for children who have either had or currently have cancer. It is a place for them to get away from everything (even well-meaning parents) and just be kids. I photographed children who had lost limbs to cancer, children who had lost their sight to cancer, and children who would not make it to the next camp. It was heartbreaking but it was also amazing. These were kids, who had either fought for their lives or were fighting for their lives. It made my complaints and the complaints of every other adult I knew seem so insubstantial in comparison. It has been 4-5 years since I last photographed at Camp Rainbow yet I still remember all of the different stories, the smiles, the dreams and whenever I start to complain about something in my life, I remember that there are worse things than flat tires or not being able to go to Europe or having a kid with ADHD…there is cancer and having to watch your child in daily pain from chemo or radiation or surgery and still not knowing if your child will survive .
I’m sorry, this was supposed to be a book review and I went off on a tangent…go read this book and count your blessings. Now, I know why so many people have deep feelings about this story…I guess I do, too, now.
Author: Kat Falls
Genre: YA/Dystopian/Science Fiction
Source: Digital ARC from netgalley
In a world ravaged by mutation, a teenage girl must travel into the forbidden Savage Zone to recover lost artifacts or her father’s life is forfeit.
America has been ravaged by a war that has left the eastern half of the country riddled with mutation. Many of the people there exhibit varying degrees of animal traits. Even the plant life has gone feral.
Crossing from west to east is supposed to be forbidden, but sometimes it’s necessary. Some enter the Savage Zone to provide humanitarian relief. Sixteen-year-old Lane’s father goes there to retrieve lost artifacts—he is a Fetch. It’s a dangerous life, but rewarding—until he’s caught.
Desperate to save her father, Lane agrees to complete his latest job. That means leaving behind her life of comfort and risking life and limb—and her very DNA—in the Savage Zone. But she’s not alone. In order to complete her objective, Lane strikes a deal with handsome, roguish Rafe. In exchange for his help as a guide, Lane is supposed to sneak him back west. But though Rafe doesn’t exhibit any signs of “manimal” mutation, he’s hardly civilized . . . and he may not be trustworthy.
I’ve read a number of zombie, vampire, and werewolf novels but I have to say that Inhuman is the first “manimal” story that I’ve read. Now, before you react to the word “manimal”, remember that this is a book geared towards the middle school to teen crowd and I actually liked it.
Inhuman is being marketed as the book to read for fans of The Hunger Games and Divergent series. The main similarities are an American dystopian setting with a strong female character. I don’t think Lane is as strong or believable a character as Katniss or Tris, but she is likeable enough. Kat Falls uses different moments in the book to show the change and growth in Lane as she morphs from being pampered and naive to courageous and informed. One thing I liked about Lane is that even though there is a love triangle introduced into the story, the book ends with Lane making her own decisions regardless of what either boy wants.
I think Inhuman would appeal to a wide age range but am not sure if it would be a good match for my almost 11 yr old (oh my goodness, will she really be eleven in THREE days???). Not that it is inappropriate, although there is some very slight suggestiveness, I just think some of the scenes would be too intense for her at this age. Depending on the child, I would recommend Inhuman for 7th grade and older.
*I received a complimentary copy of this digital ARC from the publishers and netgalley.com My review is my honest opinion.