Monthly Archives: July 2015

All The Light We Cannot See

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“Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.”

All The Light We Cannot See is one of the most beautiful novels I’ve ever read about WWII. Doerr has an amazing knack of capturing morality and humanity and holding it in his palms while things play out. You can tell that he meticulously researched this novel and yet it’s so incredibly readable. The chapters are short and oscillate between the two main characters, Marie-Laure and Werner. The oscillating keeps the story in constant motion and keeps the reader on their toes. Through the flashbacks and switching of years and characters, the story begins to emerge in starts and stops. You get to see the growth and stagnation of certain characters and the impact they have on this story.

Both brutal and beautiful, All The Light We Cannot See made me think, wonder, and cry. I became so attached to the characters I couldn’t put the book down. I had to know how the story was going to play out and how the two main characters lives were going to interconnect. At first I thought the characters were going down one specific path but, as it turned out, I was wrong. Their certain paths seem almost predetermined but Doerr throws in some surprises. Werner, the mechanical genius with the need to belong, fights his basic nature to be part of the Hitler youth movement until a major event shocks him back to himself. Marie-Laure, a young Parisian girl who has lost her sight, relies exclusively on her father until he is turned in by a neighbor and arrested. Then Marie-Laure must figure out how to navigate life without him. When these two incredible people connect it’s wondrous. The scenes still bring tears to my eyes as I type this.

This review can’t be complete without mention of the Sea of Flames, the diamond that perhaps caused all the ruckus? I loved how Doerr toyed with the idea of fate and our perceptions of objects and how that perception can change worlds. This diamond is said to be cursed. Anyone who holds it will live forever but the people around him will perish. “That something so small could be so beautiful. Worth so much. Only the strongest people can turn away from feelings like that.” Men fight wars over this diamond and this diamond is the glue of this story.

Rating: 5/5 Please go out and find a copy of this novel.

Stay tuned for the next installment of Book Battle 2015. Happy reading!

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Award Winners

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Next up in Book Battle 2015 is a Pultizer Prize winning book. I had such a hard time picking the next category. My categories are dwindling which is both exciting and little sad. At first I was going to read Larry McMurty’s Lonesome Dove but the book was checked out at the library so I thought I’d move on. And then while at work I heard about All The Light We Cannot See, the 2015 award winner. One of my co-workers was reading the novel and he couldn’t stop gushing about it. He was saying how readable it was and that it was an incredible story. I immediately put the book on hold at the library and was finally able to pick it up. I cannot wait to see what this story has in store. It’s been more than a month of waiting for this novel so my expectations are fairly hight.

From the back of the book jacket it’s a story told in two viewpoints and set during WWII. The main characters are a blind French girl and a mechanical prodigy from Germany. The two stories are supposed to collide in the town of Saint Malo, France and I can’t wait to see how.

Stay tuned for the full review of All The Light We Cannot See. Happy reading!

The Bird’s Nest

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“Elizabeth, Beth, Betsy, and Bess, they all went together to find a bird’s nest. They found a bird’s nest with five eggs in, they all took one, and left four in.”

This refrain from a children’s rhyme reverberated throughout the story of Elizabeth, being oft repeated by Betsy, one of the four personalities. Betsy often speaks in riddles and rhymes from children’s books that I’ve never heard of. This particular rhyme stuck with me so I looked it up and found this. A rhyme about four little girls who all appear to be the same person. They all took the same egg and are able to leave four. Each of the personalities thinks that they are completely autonomous when the opposite is true.

Shirley Jackson’s The Bird’s Nest takes a bit to build up but when it does the story packs an eerie punch. Watching Elizabeth’s slow descent into madness as she’s being torn apart by her warring personalities is terrifying. It starts out with small little instances, Elizabeth doesn’t remember a few hours at a time or ends up in a place she doesn’t remember going. Then the differing personalities begin to wage war on one another with the introduction of Bess, the penny pinching fourth personality. She shows up in New York and wages a war with Betsy, the imp, that puts Elizabeth into the hospital.

To try and figure out what’s going on Elizabeth’s Aunt Morgen has her seek help from Dr. Wright, or Dr. Wrong as Betsy calls him. He’s soon able to figure out what’s going on with Elizabeth but doesn’t quite know if he’s up to the task of trying to put these four disparate pieces back together again. After Betsy’s trip to New York Dr. Wright refuses to take her case up again until called back by Morgen.

There’s one scene during the warring stage in Elizabeth that really struck me. Elizabeth herself is taking to Morgen about the other personalities and is expressing her fear about Dr. Wright’s wanting to combine them all together. She fears that combination of the four very different girls will mean a death for them all. Their thoughts, likes, and dislikes will be erased and in their place will be an entirely new consciousness. There will be no shy Elizabeth, caring Beth, impish Betsy, or rude Bess. Just a new person with no name.

And in a way Elizabeth’s fears come true. Her past life becomes more like a shadowy dream when her new self arises. She has bits of each of the four girls in her but they’re more like ghostly forms of something that once was. And for me, this was almost more terrifying than watching Elizabeth fall to pieces. I truly don’t know if her new situation is better or worse. Dr. Wright and her aunt are feeding off her now. Using her for their own ends. When Dr. Wright speaks of sacrifice at the end of the novel I couldn’t help but think of Elizabeth. Perhaps she was the sacrifice so that the doctor and her aunt could have what they’ve always wanted, a family life.

Stay tuned for the next installment of Book Battle 2015. Happy reading!

Top Ten Tuesday: New books, new worlds

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This week’s Top Ten Tuesday, a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is ten recently acquired books. I just started working at a bookstore for the summer and have acquired a few new books with my new employee discount. I am so excited about these books I can’t even tell you. Without further ado, here are the top ten, in no specific order.

1. Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? by Henry Farrell

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2. The Spiral Staircase and The Lady Vanishes by Ethel Lina White

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3. Hangsaman by Shirley Jackson

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4. Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith

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5. A Double Death on the Black Isle by A.D. Scott

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6. PopCo by Scartlett Thomas

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7. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

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8. Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

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9. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

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10. Fables: Storybook Love by Bill Willingham

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From the Master of Atmosphere

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Next up in Book Battle 2015 is a novel by a female author. I had so much trouble picking a book for this category that I wanted to write a review for. There’s just so many options out there. I felt a bit overwhelmed by my choices. I even picked up a few books and began reading them but they just did’t feel right for the Book Battle. Finally, I was able to decide on a novel I’m really excited about. I decided to read Shirley Jackson’s The Bird’s Nest. I’ve never actually heard of this one so I can’t wait to read it. Shirley Jackson is a master of things that go bump in the night. She can stir up fear with the smallest change to the atmosphere. We Have Always Lived in the Castle remains one of my all time favorite novels.

The Bird’s Nest, from the back cover, is a novel about a woman’s descent into madness. Before Sybill there was The Bird’s Nest. Elizabeth begins to be tormented by multiple people she does not know and cannot control. Each personality becoming more wild and wicked.

Already from just that description this novel sounds terrifying. I can’t wait to see what’s in store and what psychological scares Shirley Jackson has cooked up. Stay tuned for a full review of The Bird’s Nest. Happy reading!

Into the Wild

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“I now walk into the wild” are the last words that Chris McCandless sent his friend Wayne Westerberg before trekking into the Alaskan wilderness. It’s hard not to be touched in some way by McCandless’s story. Yes he was impetuous, naive, and heedless of the dangers he was facing, but he was also an idealist searching for some kind of meaning in life. Like many people before him, John Muir most notably, he was searching for an answer in nature. Being young myself, I can identify a lot with McCandless. Death seems so remote you don’t even consider it. There’s no way anything bad could ever happen to you. You’re young and have everything ahead of you.

I’m sure in some ways this was McCandless’s thought pattern as well. He was so convinced of his own intellect and knew that he could make it. He had never failed at anything he had tried before and had always been praised for his intelligence and unwavering beliefs. He was a self made outcast. He shed society’s layers as best as he could only to realize that “happiness is best when shared.” I’m a firm believer that it’s the people around us that help us lead a full and satisfying life. It’s people that push us to grow and change in ways that we might not left to our own devices.

One of my favorite aspects of this novel was how thoroughly Krakauer looked into the history of travelers like McCandless. I couldn’t believe that so many people have walked into the wild never to walk out again. There are tales of teens disappearing in the desert, a climber vanishing in the mountains of Alaska, and British soldiers from the 1800’s dying in the arctic. I think in some way everyone is interested in what’s out there. That’s why we travel to other places to discover new things, people, and cultures. Most of us just travel from city to city instead of into the wilds. But we’re all bitten by some kind of wanderlust, an interest in things outside of ourselves.

There are many decisions that McCandless made heedlessly, as many before him had done. Yet, he was not one of the lucky ones. He didn’t survive his trek into the wild. The odds were stacked against him. Yet he made an impact on the world through what he left behind. After reading Krakauer’s novel I feel like I got to personally know McCandless and see a bit into his heart.

Rating: 5/5 Such a compelling, albeit tragic, story.

Stay tuned for the next installment of Book Battle 2015.