I go back to school this week and I’m excited for the new semester. Although, I admit, I did enjoy the break. It allowed me time to recharge my brain batteries and have a lot of free reading time.
I took advantage of the time off to visit my local library. I have four books left from the library that you will likely see in my next reading wrap up in two weeks (hopefully). After that, I will be preoccupied with piles of schoolwork. Plus, it’s starting to snow and there are books at home I want to read.
Over my winter break, I read:
Praise Song for the Butterflies by Bernice L. McFadden (library book)
I found Praise Song for the Butterflies while browsing the new additions shelf at my library. I almost did an individual review on this book, but it messed with my emotions so much I had no idea how I could write it.
Praise Song for the Butterflies is set in West Africa. Abeo Kata is the nine-year-old daughter of a government worker living a life of luxury until her father falls on hard times. Taking his mother’s advice, her father takes her to a religious shrine, hoping the sacrifice of his daughter to the gods will improve the family’s fortune. For fifteen years, Abeo endures horrible physical, sexual, and psychological abuse as a shrine slave. When a heartbreaking tragedy finally pushes her over the edge, Abeo has to find her way back into herself after being rescued and learn to trust and love others again.
The writing in Praise Song for the Butterflies was beautiful. Bernice L. McFadden doesn’t shy away from the harsh reality of shrine slavery and the brutality these women experience on a daily basis, but she doesn’t get too graphic. As for the characters, I felt they were realistic, yet I didn’t connect with any of them. Most made me angry, like Abeo’s parents and her grandmother. In fact, I think I disliked them more than the men at the shrine abusing Abeo and the other shrine slaves. There was a twist in the story that I saw coming, but they also revealed it too early. Despite the book being short, the pacing dragged in the beginning and the end for longer than it needed to.
I wanted to give Praise Song for the Butterflies 5 stars. Sadly, I still found some problems with it that bothered me.
I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak (library book)
After buying Bridge of Clay a few months back, it didn’t feel right to read it without having read Markus Zusak’s other well-known, though not as beloved, work, I Am the Messenger. And I am very glad I did.
Ed Kennedy is a wise-cracking but good-natured underage cab driver with a coffee-drinking dog named the Doorman and an unrequited crush on his best friend Audrey. After inadvertently stopping a bank robbery, he gets playing cards in the mail that lead him on various missions of helping and occasionally hurting others by an enigmatic mastermind. As he delivers each message, the identity of the person behind Ed’s mission remains a mystery.
I really, really liked I Am the Messenger. The main reason I would say is Ed himself. He’s a wise-ass, but he’s not mean about it. He has a good heart and a strong conscience. There are certain situations in the novel that he could have easily backed out of, but he chose not to, even if he was potentially in danger. He tends to see the good in most people, which made me hate his verbally abusive, spiteful mother very much. The best part was watching Ed grow as a person. He was already good; he was just feeling a little lost.
Ed and his mission carried the novel. I liked his friends, though Audrey got on my nerves for most of it. It might be my loneliness talking, but if a guy like Ed Kennedy wanted to date me, I would absolutely give him a chance. Eventually, she grew on me, like Ed’s other friends did. Lastly, I liked the overall message of I Am the Messenger.
Strands of Bronze and Gold by Jane Nickerson (library book)
Strands of Bronze and Gold is a reimaging of the fairy tale Bluebeard set in 1855 Mississippi. After the death of her father, seventeen-year-old Sophia is sent from Boston to Mississippi to live with her godfather Monsieur Bernard. Though he showers her with expensive gifts and attention, as she explores his beautiful home, Sophia discovers dark secrets of her godfather’s past hidden within the abbey.
Strands of Bronze and Gold is a book I have wanted to read for years. Only it’s been out of print for so long, you can hardly find it anywhere anymore, even on Amazon. The library came to my rescue. Turns out, while I did enjoy the book, I did not love it as much as I thought I would.
Sophia is a likeable protagonist. She doesn’t stick her head in the sand; she knows Bernard’s abusive behavior towards her is wrong and she looks for various ways to get out of the situation. The mystery was solid, with a fantasy element woven through. However, at times I was bored, even though it was a fast read.
Kiss Me in Paris by Catherine Rider (library book)
In the vein of The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon, Kiss Me in Paris follows two people, Serena and Jean-Luc, who meet by chance in Paris and spend a whole day together. Serena is on a mission to make a scrapbook for her mother and she’s on a tight schedule. But easygoing Jean-Luc intends to show her a different kind of Paris, leading her on a path she never intended to take on this vacation.
Kiss Me in Paris is one of the cutest books I’ve ever read. It was overly dramatic sometimes but fun and fluffy. While you could argue the relationship in this story is sort of insta-love, it didn’t really bother me. It was also compulsively readable and addictive; when I wasn’t reading it, I wanted to. Highly recommend Kiss Me in Paris if you are looking for something cute and easy to fly through.
The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chis Riddell (library book)
Despite owning his novel American Gods, The Sleeper and the Spindle is technically my first read by Neil Gaiman. It is a fairy tale that turns the popular tropes on their heads. The queen saves the princess and does her own thing. There is no prince or knight on a horse coming to save them. It was even written like a fairy tale. And the illustrations in this graphic novel were simply gorgeous.
While I read The Sleeper and the Spindle in less than a day, I admit I was not as blown away by it as I wanted to be. It was entertaining and had a worthy moral to it, yet I left it wanting more. Also, the plot was resolved a little too quickly, I think. Sadly, The Sleeper and the Spindle was a middle-of-the-road novel for me.
The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab (library book)
The Near Witch is my second book I’ve read by Victoria Schwab (the first being This Savage Song) and it was her debut novel. And it is a product of its time.
The Near Witch is set in a small village where children are going missing after a strange appears in the middle of the night. While magic is known in this world, it is feared and anyone that practices it is looked down upon. The main character, Lexi, is feisty, curious, and determined to get answers, even though her uncle wants her to be a good girl and stay put.
I hate to admit it, but I had to push myself to read The Near Witch. While I liked Lexi’s thirsty curiosity and the atmospheric writing, that was all that carried the book. The secondary characters, including Cole, had little to no depth in their development. The magic system was unclear. Despite being roughly 250 pages, the plot seemed to drag and took forever to resolve. Unfortunately, after a certain point, I stopped being entertained and kept reading hoping things would get better.
To be fair, given how old the novel is and it is a successful author’s debut, I went into The Near Witch with relatively low expectations. Only I was expecting more of a 3 star rating than a 2 star.
The King of Elfland’s Daughter by Lord Dunsany (library book)
I checked out The King of Elfland’s Daughter from the library after seeing it on a list of “best fantasy novels ever” while doing research for one of my final projects last semester. It follows a young lord who, at the orders of his father, marries the daughter of the King of Elfland so the people of their kingdom might have a future ruler that practices magic.
I want to ask the person who wrote that list—and Neil Gaiman, who wrote the introduction—how this was possibly a good book.
Plot? What is plot? Characters? What are those? Dialogue? That’s a thing? This book was basically one long description after another and the characters were just part of the set without any real development or depth to them. I can’t remember the last time I was so bored reading a book.
What have you been reading so far in 2019?