AnaStar13’s #CBR5 review #5: The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

snowAny book that is a retelling of a fairy tale is already going to rank high in my list of favorites, even if I haven’t read it yet.  Luckily, The Snow Child is absolutely gorgeous and worth all the love.

The Snow Child is set in Alaska in 1920, a harsh and desolate place to be.  Jack and Mabel are inexperienced farmers who have lost their child and went as far as they could from home in an attempt to pull themselves back together.  Jack is unable to deal with the hardships of a farmer’s life in Alaska and Mabel can’t get over the death of her baby.   She does a lot of moping.

One night, after the first snowfall of the season, Jack and Mabel finally have a moment of lightness and play, and they build a snow child.  The next morning, the snow child has gone but the couple find that there is a little, wild girl with a pet fox hiding in the woods.  Lives are changed, broken hearts are mended and broken again and again, and a story is told that stays with you for days.

The Snow Child is heartbreaking, beautiful, haunting – all the things a good fairytale should be.

Anastar13’s #BDR5 review #3: Diary of the Displaced by Glynn James

ImageDiary of the Displaced is a free Kindle download right now and I say get it while the gettin’s good!!  This one, folks, is really good.  The title, in its entirety, goes like this:  Diary of the Displaced Omnibus 1 Parts 1 – 4, The Journal of James Halldon.   It’s a lot and thankfully, the story itself is far less clunky.

James Halldon is a lost man, waking up one day in a grey, unfamiliar world with no memory of how he got there.  He’s the only human there, as far as he can tell, but there are zombies and demon dogs aplenty.  James records what he finds (and how he feels about it) and the result is a great story set in a fascinating world.

The story ends neatly but is set up for a series and I’m looking forward to reading more about the adventures of of the displaced.

AnaStar13’s #CBR5 review #2: Ten Days in a Mad-House by Nellie Bly

ImageNellie Bly was a remarkable journalist, industrialist, and charity worker.  She was the first person to travel around the world in less than 80 days, inspired by Jules Verne’s novel, and in 1887, she pretended to be insane so that she could investigate an insane asylum from the inside.  This book, Ten Days in a Mad-House, is her exposé.   It was originally published in the New York World and soon after, was made into a book in response to the overwhelming demand for the story.

The book is less than a hundred pages and it is riveting.  The first half describes what she had to do to get herself committed and it’s surprisingly funny.  That’s why I was totally unprepared for the brutality and abuse described in the second half of the book, when she is locked up in the Women’s Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell’s Island.  It’s an absolutely terrifying account of how people who were judged insane were treated.  There were several women in the asylum whom Bly believed to be completely sane but their protests were dismissed as lunatic raving.  There were at least two others whose ‘insanity’ was that they didn’t speak English and could not plead their own cases.  For that crime, they were locked away for the rest of their lives. The women were tortured, beaten, starved or given spoiled food.  One woman that arrived with Bly and seemed to be fine was literally driven mad by the nurses in the asylum. 

Ten days after her arrival, the newspaper Bly was writing for pulled her out of the asylum, her story was published, the world was shocked, and she was a star.   An investigation was launched by a grand jury and the Department of Public Charities and Corrections received an increase of $100,000 to its budget.

Ten Days in a Mad-House was a fascinating read and I don’t know why this isn’t a movie yet.


AnaStar13’s #CBR5 Review #1: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

This isn’t just my first Cannonball Read, it’s my first book review, ever.  I’m the type of person who won’t purchase a thing online unless I’ve looked up every review on the interwebs and if there’s one negative review in a thousand, I will find that review and pore over it, determined to find out what, exactofficialcoverly, is going to go wrong.  The Cannonball Read is, for me, a way to help make a charitable donation by doing something I’d be doing anyway:  Reading all the books I can get my grubby little hands on.  It’s also a way for me to stop being such a mooch about reviewing things and give a little back.

Rachel Hartman’s debut novel is a smart, well-written YA fantasy set in a world where humans and dragons share an uneasy alliance.  Humans hate and fear dragons and dragons are a lot like Vulcans – coldly intellectual and both confused and horrified by emotional displays.  They are able to assume human shape and live, treat with, and even mate with humans, much to the disgust of everyone not doing the actual mating.    Seraphina is the product of one such mating.  Her dragon parentage is kept secret and she lives a quiet, lonely life until BLAM!! She’s in the middle of a murder mystery and there is a handsome guy and a cranky, but well-meaning tutor and a cute kid and mysterious goings-on are happening all over the place.

It started out really well.  Hartman is a solid writer, sophisticated and smart – I even had to look up a few words.  I love when that happens and it happens so rarely in YA novels.   Hartman’s version of dragons was great- the good ones are hilariously confused (like Spock in The Voyage Home!  So funny!) and all the rest of them are creepy or frightening.  Another group of characters called the grotesques are wonderfully imagined and I’m looking forward to reading more about them in the sequels.  Seraphina is less likable.  Her self-imposed isolation is reiterated so often, and used as an excuse for so many stupid decisions that after a while, I stopped caring about her sads and just wanted to get on with the story.

The most disappointing part of the book was the end.  It’s set up for a sequel but for all that, the ending feels rushed and thrown together.  It’s like the author wasn’t sure if she’d be able to write a second one so she just sort of tidied up the ending of this one and called it a day.  Things that were made out to be Very Big Deals are wrapped up in a paragraph or two in the last chapter.  It’s startling and annoying.

Hartman has created a fascinating world filled with interesting people in Seraphina and while the novel can stand alone, I’m glad there will be sequels to look forward to.