Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Julie's Review: Dracula

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Author: Bram Stoker
Series: None
Publication Date:February 20, 2012
Publisher: Audible Studios
Length: 15 hours and 28 minutes
Narrators: Alan Cumming, Tim Curry, Simon Vance, etc
Obtained: purchased via audible
Genre:  Classic, Horror
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: Really can't go wrong with this one
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab!
Summary: Because of the widespread awareness of the story of the evil Transylvanian count and the success of numerous film adaptations that have been created over the years, the modern audience hasn't had a chance to truly appreciate the unknowing dread that readers would have felt when reading Bram Stoker's original 1897 manuscript. Most modern productions employ campiness or sound effects to try to bring back that gothic tension, but we've tried something different. By returning to Stoker's original storytelling structure - a series of letters and journal entries voiced by Jonathan Harker, Dr. Van Helsing, and other characters - with an all-star cast of narrators, we've sought to recapture its originally intended horror and power. ~audible.com

Review: So, I finished this at the beginning of the month and my intention was to originally finish it in October but there's a little thing called life and more simply work. That didn't stop me from enjoying this audio version immensely. To say that it transports you to another time and place would be cliche, but it does. You can feel the drafts in the castle and you can feel the fear and horror as the characters uncover what is going on.

As I listened to the story, bits and pieces of it came back to me. Now I have no clue when I read it but I'm sure I did and what struck me as the most noticeable was how the Count wasn't the main character. He was the catalyst for the horror and was in the peripheral but never the main focus of the novel.  It's funny how Hollywood changes the story and since that's what most people know, they never get the true depths of the novel.

What Stoker does so well is create a great sense of foreboding that keeps building and building until the very end of the novel when it explodes. I love that the entire novel is based on journals/diaries of all of the main characters. It is through this that we get a well rounded view of the characters and the horror they experience.

My favorite character has to be Dr. Seward. Perhaps it's because one of my favorite actors narrates his sections but I found him to be refreshing and even having a little humor at times. He also seems to be the rock that keeps them from becoming completely unhinged. On the other end of the spectrum was Lucy, she was just the most annoying character. So shallow and vain. It's a wonder her and Mina were even friends.

The ending of the novel happens furiously and rapidly. I had to pause it and start it again several times, afraid I was going to miss something important. I also enjoyed having an epilogue to see where the characters ended up and how they got on with their lives.

If you've never read Dracula, then I highly recommend this audio version. You can't really go wrong with Simon Vance, Alan Cumming and Tim Curry each playing a part.


Continue reading the review...

Monday, November 24, 2014

Jenn's Review: The Iron Trial

Author: Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
Series: Magisterium #1
Publication Date: September 9, 2014
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Pages: 299
Obtained: purchased
Genre:  YA Fantasy
Rating: 3/5
Bottom Line: A school for magicians or a school for magical warriors?
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Just get it at the library
Blurb: Most kids would do anything to pass the Iron Trial. Not Callum Hunt. He wants to fail. All his life, Call has been warned by his father to stay away from magic. If he succeeds at the Iron Trial and is admitted into the Magisterium, he is sure it can only mean bad things for him. So he tries his best to do his worst - and fails at failing. Now the Magisterium awaits him. It's a place that's both sensational and sinister, with dark ties to his past and a twisty path to his future. The Iron Trial is just the beginning, for the biggest test is still to come . . .

Review:  Lots of people reviewing this are comparing it to Harry Potter, but a more accurate comparison might be The Magicians by Lev Grossman in that it is darker and more despairing. Unfortunately, that's not a favorable comparison for me.

One of the many things I find enchanting about Cassandra Clare's work is her ability to weave a plot.  This, however, felt more like a story outline that the authors did their best to go back and obscure with layers of extranea.  Unfortunately, I knew where we were headed from the outset of the plot exposition.  That can be okay if you love the characters and enjoy the journey, but I couldn't seem to invest in any of it.  The big reveal was supposed to be shocking, but it wasn't in the least for me.

Another thing I love about Ms. Clare's novels is the her depth of characters.  None of that was evident here. It wasn't that I didn't like the characters, just that I never connected to any of them. While the potential was there for all of the characters we never really get to know them, making them all feel archetypal.  This made it hard for me to invest in any of the characters.  Are we supposed to like Cal?  Probably as it's his story, but I think not being able to invest in him was the main reason this story didn't work as well for me. The authors actually start the novel by laying the groundwork for distrusting Cal and continue to chip away at him.   Every time I felt close to getting behind him something would happen to distance me from him again.

I adore Cassandra Clare's work and have heard fabulous things about Holly Black as well so I went into this novel with huge expectations.  Perhaps that is why I was so disappointed with this book.  Will I continue on with this series?  Maybe.  But only because I have great faith in Cassandra Clare that if anyone can salvage this series, it will be her.  However, it won't jump to the top of my TBR pile when the next installment is released.


Continue reading the review...

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Jenn's Review: Undeniably Yours

Undeniably Yours  (Lucy Valentine, #5)

Author: Heather Webber
Series: Lucy Valentine #5
Publication Date: July 1, 2014
Publisher: Blue Dandelion Press
Pages: 448
Obtained: purchased
Rating: 4.5
Bottom Line: Another fabulous Lucy novel
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab!

While still recuperating from injuries sustained in her previous case, the last thing psychic investigator Lucy Valentine wants is to dive into another job. But when Detective Lieutenant Aiden Holliday comes calling for help in finding a missing woman, saying no is not an option. 

TV journalist Kira Fitzpatrick has vanished without a trace. There’s little for Lucy to go on except picking up Kira’s current investigation where she left off. The fearless reporter had been close to cracking one of the year’s biggest cases: the disappearance of a two-year-old boy. 


Now Lucy must use her abilities to find both of them. As she follows a twisted trail of lies and deceit, she uncovers a shocking twist to Kira’s exposé that someone is desperate to keep secret. It’s a race against the clock as Lucy struggles to discover who’s telling the truth…and who’s willing to kill to keep her from solving the case.

Review:  Whenever I'm looking for a book that I know I will love I turn to Heather Webber/Heather Blake.  I actually try to save her books, especially the Lucy Valentine seriesfor when I need a reading lift but Julie's review of the fourth novel, Perfectly Matched, left me craving a visit with LucyD.

Perfectly Matched had a significant twisty cliffhanger at the end and it was marvelous that Undeniably Yours picks up right where things were left off.  The supporting cast is more in the background this time around but they are still supportive and present in the story.  (Most of Lucy's friends and investigative team are out of commission after the last case so Lucy has to go this one with just Aiden.)  The case is intriguing and personal for everyone.  I had an inkling of where things were headed and I was not disappointed to be right, but I certainly wasn't completely right; Heather Webber always has good twists up her sleeve.

The only thing I wish there had been discussed more was her unusual predictive link with Sean.  Has it disappeared completely? Will it resurface?  Last book spent a lot of time dealing with Lucy and her abilities and while she did use them, I felt like I wanted a little more continuation with the exploration of this.  However that was a small shadow over an otherwise sunny novel.

There was no cliffhanger this time, but as always things were tied up just enough to leave you craving more time with Lucy and her family.  I love all of Heather Webber's books, but Lucy Valentine will always be my favorite, so I will patiently await her next adventure.

Continue reading the review...

Monday, October 27, 2014

Julie's Review: Saving Grace

Author: Jane Green
Series: None
Publication Date: December 30, 2014
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Pages: 352
Obtained: Vine
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, women's Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: Another solid Jane Green novel with the focus on mental illness
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab!
Summary: Grace and Ted Chapman are widely regarded as the perfect literary power couple. Ted is a successful novelist and Grace, his wife of twenty years, is beautiful, stylish, carefree, and a wonderful homemaker. But what no one sees, what is churning under the surface, is Ted’s rages. His mood swings. And the precarious house of cards that their lifestyle is built upon. When Ted’s longtime assistant and mainstay leaves, the house of cards begins to crumble and Grace, with dark secrets in her past, is most vulnerable. She finds herself in need of help but with no one to turn to…until the perfect new assistant shows up out of the blue. To the rescue comes Beth, a competent young woman who can handle Ted and has the calm efficiency to weather the storms that threaten to engulf the Chapman household. Soon, though, it’s clear to Grace that Beth might be too good to be true. This new interloper might be the biggest threat of all, one that could cost Grace her marriage, her reputation, and even her sanity. With everything at stake and no one to confide in, Grace must find a way to save herself before it is too late. Powerful and riveting, Saving Grace will have you on the edge of your seat as you follow Grace on her harrowing journey to rock bottom and back. ~amazon.com

Review: Here is where I say that we never know what goes on behind doors. Grace and Ted seem like the perfect couple. She's a wonderful wife and keeps things running so her very famous author husband can spend his days working on the next great novel. Saving Grace is a novel about what happens behind closed doors, how trying to figure out the next steps in your life aren't sure of what path to travel on.

As with all of Ms. Green's heroines, Grace is easy to like. She's pretty close to perfect but her life is anything but that. Her husband is a bit of an egotistical manic and not the easiest man to live with at all. Does he love Grace? I think he does but he's so used to how she runs their life, I'm not sure he'd know what to do without her. I don't think that counts as love but as dependence. Grace has her own fears which stem from her childhood.

Ted needs a new assistant since the one that has been with him for 20 years is leaving to take care of her ailing mother. So when Beth enters their lives at just the right time, Beth thanks her lucky stars. Almost immediately, Grace gets an uneasy feeling around her but pushes it aside because Beth has become instrumental in making their lives run easy.

Slowly Beth begins to metamorphose in front of Grace, just as her life begins to spin out of control. The question becomes is Grace truly going crazy or is she just going through some changes?

It isn't too hard as a reader to see where this one is going. As always Ms. Green has written the journey to be interesting even if you figure out part of the plot. Grace's plight is one that many women will be able to identify with. What happens when your body and your mind betray you? When you start to feel so not like yourself but you have no idea how to fix it? These are all very powerful questions.

I found the ending to be exactly what I wanted but with a nice little twist. Saving Grace is another Jane Green classic.

Continue reading the review...

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Julie's Review: Bitter Greens

Author: Kate Forsyth
Series: None
Publication Date: September 23, 2014
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press
Pages: 496
Obtained: publisher
Genre:  historical fiction, fairy tale
Rating: 4.5/5
Bottom Line: A wonderful historical fiction novel interwoven with the orgins of a classic fairy tale
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab!
Summary: The amazing power and truth of the Rapunzel fairy tale comes alive for the first time in this breathtaking tale of desire, black magic and the redemptive power of love. French novelist Charlotte-Rose de la Force has been banished from the court of Versailles by the Sun King, Louis XIV, after a series of scandalous love affairs. At the convent, she is comforted by an old nun, Sœur Seraphina, who tells her the tale of a young girl who, a hundred years earlier, is sold by her parents for a handful of bitter greens. After Margheritas father steals parsley from the walled garden of the courtesan Selena Leonelli, he is threatened with having both hands cut off, unless he and his wife relinquish their precious little girl. Selena is the famous red-haired muse of the artist Tiziano, first painted by him in 1512 and still inspiring him at the time of his death. She is at the center of Renaissance life in Venice, a world of beauty and danger, seduction and betrayal, love and superstition. Locked away in a tower, Margherita sings in the hope that someone will hear her. One day, a young man does. Award-winning author Kate Forsyth braids together the stories of Margherita, Selena, and Charlotte-Rose, the woman who penned Rapunzel as we now know it, to create what is a sumptuous historical novel, an enchanting fairy tale retelling, and a loving tribute to the imagination of one remarkable woman. ~powells.com

Review: I love dual point of view novels but this one takes it another step and adds one more point of view. I loved all three views in Bitter Greens but I think I found Charlotte-Rose the most fascinating. She was a strong-willed woman who would not let the constraints of society hold her back. Unfortunately, in the court of Louis XIV, unless he was the one in scandal it was forbidden. Charlotte-Rose was also a gifted storyteller. She could weave a tale for the court that would delight. It is this talent that gave the world Rapunzel as we know it.

Charlotte-Rose's life was one of love, adventure, stories and indulgence. Being on the court of the Sun King was interesting. You were either in favor or out of favor. For someone like Charlotte-Rose who needed her income from being on court, it was important to stay in favor. It's also hard for someone like Charlotte-Rose to be demure when she wants to seize life. Oh and boy did she ever. She led quite the scandalous life.

It is these scandals that cause her to be banished from court and sent by Louis XIV to a convent. Can you imagine being sent to a convent and it's not your choice? How hard would that be to adapt to a life of piousness when you were used to a life of extravagance?  Lucky for her she meets a nun who opens up her creative juices.

The other two stories of Selena and Margherita are intertwined. It is these stories where we get into the darkness of the tale. Fairy Tales didn't originate as happy/cheery stories but rather they were dark. They often detailed the macabre and dark magic. I loved this aspect of the story. I loved that Ms. Forsyth gave the evil witch her own story, it added depth to the story. It was her story, after Charlotte-Rose's, that I found intriguing. Her life wasn't easy but it also didn't excuse her treatment of Margherita.

Ms. Forsyth takes historical fiction to a new level here. This isn't a fairytale retelling, it is the history of the tale and the story of the woman who wrote the story. The details of the time period are phenomenal and it's evident that she did her research.

Each character had their own voice and each was distinctive which was key in moving from chapter to chapter. I enjoyed the time that I spent with each of these women. Each was fascinating and strong in their own way. Each of them overcame and persevered in their life.


Continue reading the review...

Friday, October 17, 2014

Book to Movie Review: This Is Where I Leave You

Summary: The death of Judd Foxman's father marks the first time that the entire Foxman clan has congregated in years. There is, however, one conspicuous absence: Judd's wife, Jen, whose affair with his radio- shock-jock boss has recently become painfully public. Simultaneously mourning the demise of his father and his marriage, Judd joins his dysfunctional family as they reluctantly sit shiva-and spend seven days and nights under the same roof. The week quickly spins out of control as longstanding grudges resurface, secrets are revealed and old passions are reawakened. ~amazon.com

Book to Movie Review: Earlier this week you saw my book review of This Is Where I Leave You and today I bring you my movie review. Usually I don't like to read a book so close to seeing the movie, but this time it couldn't be helped. I loved that Jason Bateman was the face and voice of Judd. The way he is always understated in his expressions lends itself well. Plus I've kind of been a sucker for him since The Hogan Family days. The rest of the casting was brilliant too. I mean Jane Fonda is the perfect Hilary. She really had a lot of the laugh out loud moment. I loved the relationship between Judd and Wendy. In the book you could tell they were close but in the movie you truly felt their love for each other. They seemed to understand each other the best.

The entire cast was pretty perfect. I think it helped the Mr. Tropper wrote the screenplay as well, which kept it pretty close to the novel. While there were definite changes and some plot points left out; it didn't change the tone of the story. In fact, I found myself laughing more and crying more through different parts of the movie. Somethings work better in a novel and wouldn't translate well to the big screen. For example, most of the book we are in Judd's head and while it still is Judd's point of view, we aren't privvy to his every thought.

This is definitely dark humor but with lots of heart. There are some very funny moments and for those of us who read the book, the big twist/reveal is still there. Which made me happy to see. I felt it was essential to the book and to the family. This might be a movie that I have my husband watch with me when it comes to DVD; I think he might enjoy it.

Book To Movie: 4.5/5


Continue reading the review...

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Julie's Review: This Is Where I Leave You

Author: Jonathan Tropper
Series: None
Publication Date: July 6, 2010
Publisher: Plume
Pages: 352
Obtained: via friend
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: Dark humor bliss
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab!
Summary: The death of Judd Foxman's father marks the first time that the entire Foxman clan has congregated in years. There is, however, one conspicuous absence: Judd's wife, Jen, whose affair with his radio- shock-jock boss has recently become painfully public. Simultaneously mourning the demise of his father and his marriage, Judd joins his dysfunctional family as they reluctantly sit shiva-and spend seven days and nights under the same roof. The week quickly spins out of control as longstanding grudges resurface, secrets are revealed and old passions are reawakened. Then Jen delivers the clincher: she's pregnant. This Is Where I Leave You is Jonathan Tropper's (One Last Thing Before I Go) most accomplished work to date, and a riotously funny, emotionally raw novel about love, marriage, divorce, family, and the ties that bind-whether we like it or not. ~amazon.com

Review: This Is Where I Leave You is hilarious and brilliant. Although if you don't like swearing and lots of talk about sex, then this probably isn't the book for you. I love reading about families that are slightly off kilter because frankly all families are dysfunctional to a degree. Let me tell you the Foxman family takes the cake on dysfunction but I think underneath it all they do love each other. They just happens to show it by beating the crap out of each other and teasing each other incessantly. Judd is our narrator and boy is he angry. Not only is he angry but he's depressed, bitter and horny. What a combination for a 30 something man. It is with this that he tells us the story of his family sitting shiva after the passing of the patriarch, when they can barely stand each other for 24 hours. Each of the siblings is dealing with their own issues: Wendy is married to a inconsiderate man and has three young children that she pretty much raises by herself; Paul is the oldest and still harboring ill-feelings for something that happened years ago; Phillip is the baby and while he might be trying to go down the better path in life, he only really knows how to travel down the wrong path.

Sometimes where there are mulitple characters in a story, I wonder how the story would feel if another character had given us their perspective. With This Is Where I Leave You I didn't really care to know, because Judd was the perfect narrator.

Here's the thing about a book like this, if you don't like dark humor you aren't going to find anything remotely funny about it.  I find that sometimes life is dark and that even being snarky about it can help you maintain some part of your sanity. I found myself laughing out loud at certain parts, stunned at others and tearing up as well. While they might not be the most emotionally healthy family, I throughly enjoyed spending some hours with the Foxman family. They showed me that even the most dysfunctional of families do love each other, even if they show it differently than the rest of us.

I know I am late to the love fest for the novel but you should seriously pick up it up. Yes, the movie is out and I can't wait to see it but even with the stellar cast, the book has to be better.

One Last Thing Before I Go is on my TBR shelf and let me tell you, it just moved up a few pegs.


Continue reading the review...

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Jenn's Review: Made for You

Author: Melissa Marr
Series: none
Publication Date: September 15, 2014
Publisher: HarperCollins
Pages: 368
Obtained: publisher
Genre:  YA thriller
Rating: 3.5
Bottom Line: Good page turner but lacking depth
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Just get it at the library...
Blurb:  When Eva Tilling wakes up in the hospital, she’s confused—who in her sleepy little North Carolina town could have hit her with their car? And why? But before she can consider the question, she finds that she’s awoken with a strange new skill: the ability to foresee people’s deaths when they touch her. While she is recovering from the hit-and-run, Nate, an old flame, reappears, and the two must traverse their rocky past as they figure out how to use Eva’s power to keep her friends—and themselves—alive. But while Eva and Nate grow closer, the killer grows increasingly frantic in his attempt to get to Eva.

For the first time, New York Times bestselling author Melissa Marr has applied her extraordinary talent to contemporary realism. Chilling twists, unrequited obsession, and high-stakes romance drive this Gothic, racy thriller—a story of small-town oppression and salvation. Melissa’s fans, and every YA reader, will find its wild ride enthralling

Review:  I wanted to love this book but I just didn't. It was enjoyable with a real page turner of a mystery, but...  I didn't love it. Actually the more I wrote this review, the less I liked the book.

I would have to say one of the things that held me back was that I never identified with any of the characters. As a matter of fact they were all so flawed that there wasn't a single overly likeable character.  Eva was a little shallow and complacent which I suppose describes many teens, but none that I want to read about. Her friends Nate and Grace were interesting characters but we only get to know them on the surface. 

When it came to the whodunit of it all the reveal wasn't a great 'A-ha!' moment, more of an 'Oh'.  As a matter of fact it seemed a little unrealistic.  After Eva and Nick figured it out, their actions were unnecessarily risky to the point of ludicrous.  Maybe it's just the mom in me but I had a very hard time with the excessive amount of danger they placed themselves in at the end of the novel.

Honestly, I kept hoping for more.  I have read three books by Melissa Marr and that seems to be how I feel after all of them. While I enjoy them, I am always left wishing they were deeper. 


Continue reading the review...

Monday, October 13, 2014

Julie's Review: Inferno

Author: Dan Brown
Series: Robert Langdon #4
Publication Date: May 14, 2013
Publisher: Random House Audio
Narrator:Paul Michael
Hours: 17 hours 12 minutes
Obtained: purchased via Audible
Genre:  Mystery, Thriller
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: Classic Langdon
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Library
Summary: In his international blockbusters The Da Vinci Code, Angels & Demons, and The Lost Symbol, Dan Brown masterfully fused history, art, codes, and symbols. In this riveting new thriller, Brown returns to his element and has crafted his highest-stakes novel to date. In the heart of Italy, Harvard professor of symbology, Robert Langdon, is drawn into a harrowing world centered on one of history’s most enduring and mysterious literary masterpieces: Dante’s Inferno. Against this backdrop, Langdon battles a chilling adversary and grapples with an ingenious riddle that pulls him into a landscape of classic art, secret passageways, and futuristic science. Drawing from Dante’s dark epic poem, Langdon races to find answers and decide whom to trust...before the world is irrevocably altered. ~audible.com

Review: One thing that I love about Robert Langdon books is Robert Langdon. How can you not? He's smart, debonair and well traveled. I appreciate that each chapter is about 10-12 minutes in length, so it makes for easy listening at work. This format also lends itself to the pace of the book. As with all Robert Langdon books, there is action and a lot for Professor Langdon to figure out. Robert Langdon continues to know a lot of information about a lot of different subject matters. :) Regardless, he's still my favorite professor in modern literature.

No, I haven't read Dante's Inferno and I don't plan to but that doesn't make Inferno any less intriguing. You don't have to have an understanding of Dante's because Mr. Brown walks you through the gist of it.
I am always interested in how Mr. Brown weaves the history, literature and a moral implication into his story. Although, I'm not sure there were any truly "bad" guys in this one. Which of course begs it's own questions about the morality of someones actions. Can one person truly determine what is good for the entire human race?

As always, this novel is action packed but also intelligent. It kept me on my toes listening to it. There were a couple of times that I had to go back to ensure that I heard something correctly. There are a lot of characters in the beginning of the story and frankly you don't know who is on the side of Robert and who is against him. I always find the slow reveals in these kind of books to be great. I love it when authors can turn a novel on its head and as a reader you don't see it coming. Mr. Brown is a master at that.

Paul Michael is a fine narrator for Inferno and captures Landgon well along with the other characters in the novel. His inflection and accents are well done and not overdone.

Inferno is a solid read/listen. If you are a fan of the Langdon books then you will want to continue the series with novel. My favorite is The Lost Symbol and if you haven't read it I highly recommend it.


Continue reading the review...

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Julie's Review: Island of a Thousand Mirrors

Author: Nayomi Munaweera
Series: None
Publication Date: September 2, 2014
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Pages: 256
Obtained: publisher
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: A short but powerful book that everyone should read.
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab!
Summary: Before violence tore apart the tapestry of Sri Lanka and turned its pristine beaches red, there were two families. Yasodhara tells the story of her own Sinhala family, rich in love, with everything they could ask for. As a child in idyllic Colombo, Yasodhara’s and her siblings’ lives are shaped by social hierarchies, their parents’ ambitions, teenage love and, subtly, the differences between Tamil and Sinhala people; but the peace is shattered by the tragedies of war. Yasodhara’s family escapes to Los Angeles.But Yasodhara’s life has already become intertwined with a young Tamil girl’s. Saraswathie is living in the active war zone of Sri Lanka, and hopes to become a teacher. But her dreams for the future are abruptly stamped out when she is arrested by a group of Sinhala soldiers and pulled into the very heart of the conflict that she has tried so hard to avoid – a conflict that, eventually, will connect her and Yasodhara in unexpected ways. Nayomi Munaweera's Island of a Thousand Mirrors is an emotionally resonant saga of cultural heritage, heartbreaking conflict and deep family bonds. Narrated in two unforgettably authentic voices and spanning the entirety of the decades-long civil war, it offers an unparalleled portrait of a beautiful land during its most difficult moment by a spellbinding new literary talent who promises tremendous things to come. ~amazon.com

Review: Island of a Thousand Mirrors is a coming of age in the time of war novel and it is so much more than that. It is about remember where you are from while trying to forget what you saw. It is about trying to keep your head down and still being pulled into a war that you did not cause and do not want.

I found myself in the midst of Yasodhara and Saraswathie stories so easily. It was like was I was transported via Ms. Munaweera's words to war torn Sri Lanka. Most of the first part of the story surrounded Yasodhara's family history and then her young life in Sri Lanka. I loved learning about her grandparents and then her parents.  Growing up Yasodhara plays with Shiva, a young Tamil boy who's family rents the upstairs of their house. As kids, they don't understand the differences between Tamils and Sinhala's but the country is starting to separate based on these ethnicities.

Yasodhara and her family flee the war torn country to Los Angeles, where they encounter a whole host of difficult situations. I can only imagine how hard it is to be ripped from the only home you've known and thrown into a different country and different culture.

The second part of the novel focuses on Saraswathie and her family's struggles during the civil war between the Tigers (Tamils) and the Sinhalas. Her life growing up is a stark contrast to Yasodhara, her daily life is affected by war. Children disappear off the street, young men go off to fight to give their people a land of their own. Saraswathie's own brothers have gone off and given their lives to the cause.

It is what happens to Saraswathie and drove her to the path she chooses that ripped my heart out. It is these stories of civil war that broke my heart. It is the story of the innocent trapped in a war that they don't fully understand or want.

Island of a Thousand Mirrors is a rare find in a novel and I don't think my review has done it the justice it deserves. It is a beautiful and heartbreaking story. The way that Ms. Munaweera weaves their two stories together is amazing. As a reader you see it coming and you can't do anything about it; it rips your heart apart.

Ms. Munaweera's prose is elegant and harsh all at once. She wants the reader to feel the pain that the girls are feeling, along with the joy. Her writing pulls you immediately into their lives. I can't wait to see what she writes about next.

If you read one book for the rest of 2014, make it Island of a Thousand Mirrors. You won't regret it.


Continue reading the review...

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