Slaughterhouse-Five is a lively, if strange, jaunt across time through Billy Pilgrim’s life. In the middle of World War II, Billy Pilgrim becomes unstuck in time. Although the rest of the world experiences Billy’s life linearly, Billy himself – his soul, if you will – hops around his own timeline. Sometimes he is in the forests of Germany, sometimes he is at his daughter’s wedding, sometimes he is on the alien planet of Tralfamador, and sometimes he is in his bunk inside Slaughterhouse Five just before the bombing of Dresden.
The overarching theme of this book seems to be the question of whether Billy is actually unstuck in time like he seems, or if he is suffering severe PTSD from the bombing of Dresden that makes him feel that way. The reader is never given an explicit answer. Whatever the actual reason for Billy’s obsession with the Tralfamadorians, there is no denying that this book is written in a confusing way. Billy even has a run-in with the author which just lends to the meta-filled non-plot.
I’ve been hearing about this book in school and in the book world for years, but I didn’t pick it up until a friend of a roommate recommended it based on what he saw on my shelves. I think I had a look of consternation on my face the entire time I was reading it, and ultimately I think I got exactly nothing out of it except for the fact that I can now say I’ve read it. If unreliable narrators are your jam than you might like it, but I can’t steer you in any particular direction regarding it.
Thornton Woods has always lived in the small village of Highglade, where he assists his father, Olson, in their forge. On a routine trip into the neighboring town of Lusk, Thornton and his best friend, Miera, barely escape from black-clad thugs who claim to want something other than money from the pair. Their return trip moves even more dangerous, and by the time they reach Highglade, Thornton’s father is nowhere to be found. Convinced the thugs have kidnapped him, the young apprentice will stop at nothing to find the only family he has. With the help of Ynara and Kethras, two of the near-mythical cat-like race known as Kienari, Thornton and Miera set off on the thugs’ trails. Along the way, they make discoveries about their world, it’s creation, and the parts they must play in it’s continued existence.
I first discovered this book through Instagram, of all places. The author had reached out to me about a book we mutually loved and later offered to send me a copy of Gift of the Shaper. I became wrapped up in the semester’s coursework, but we’ve stayed in touch and I was able to read his book during my Christmas break. You guys. This book is really well done. And I’m not just saying that because I’ve become friends with the author. Sure, there are a few moments where I’m pretty sure I missed a character walking into a room or mounting/dismounting a horse or two, but those are tiny things that probably only I would catch.
Gift of the Shaper is a debut, high fantasy novel, set in a world where select groups of people can channel the magic of creation or destruction to do their will. Into the middle of this conflict are thrust a young blacksmith’s apprentice and his childhood best friend, completely unaware of the danger lurking just out of sight. The world building is smoothly done, the reader learning about the land through characters and their actions, rather than being info-dumped on. The characters themselves are strong stock, each one an individual with physical differences and personality quirks that make this book one of the most racially and culturally diverse that I’ve read in a while.
In addition to the rich world and cast, Jennings implemented some of my most favorite tropes, which I won’t discuss here to avoid spoilers. There were characters I loved, and characters I loved to hate, like Captain Durakas, who may be in the running for the most sexist person in Gal’Dorok. But every single person had a purpose and a connection to the story, and that’s what made me love every second of it. Now I just have to wait for Jennings to finish writing the sequel.
Anthony Bridgerton has always known he would die young. He has no plans to fall in love because he can’t bear the thought of leaving someone like his father left his mother – alone. He will marry, of course, to bear an heir for the family line, but he knows he won’t live to see the child grown. As the head of the Bridgerton family since he was 18, Anthony is a hardened man with a healthy appetite for women. He just needs a young, pretty thing to raise his children and make his mother happy.
Kate Sheffield has been the head of her small family since her father’s death. She loves her stepmother and half-sister more than life but is overly protective of them, especially when her stepmother convinces them both to have a London Season. Overshadowed by her younger sister, the diamond of the season, Kate is happy just to attend the parties and make a few friends before they return to the country for good. Then Anthony Bridgerton, a Viscount and pronounced rake, not to mention the catch of the season, begins angling for her sister’s affection and Kate smells trouble. Her efforts to prevent Anthony from sullying her sister’s reputation or breaking her sister’s heart have an entirely unintended effect, however, when Kate quite suddenly becomes engaged to the man herself after he loses his composure in the presence of a bee.
This book is cheesy and adorable, and to two main characters are just like puzzle pieces looking for each other all their lives. I always start this series thinking I could never love anyone more than Daphne, and then along comes Kate, who completely turns Anthony’s world upside down and confounds him to no end. Kate is the kind of character who sticks with you for years and years after reading. She is quiet and calm, but also aggressive and outspoken when the moment demands it. She is no wilting flower, but even heroines need saving some of the time.
I return to The Bridgerton Saga again and again because it has the trifecta of great writing: magnificent world-building that doesn’t overwhelm the reader, vibrant characters that are interesting on their own but shine in the presence of each other, and plots that are personalized to each character’s unique personality and position in the world, drawing everything together with a little bit of the magic of fate.
HHC Rating: 5 stars.
Other reviews in this series: Book 1 – The Duke And I Book 3 – An Offer From A Gentleman(Review available 2/12) Book 4 – Romancing Mister Bridgerton(Review available 3/5) Book 5 – To Sir Phillip, With Love(Review available 3/26) Book 6 – When He Was Wicked(Review available 4/16) Book 7 – It’s In His Kiss(Review available 5/7) Book 8 – On The Way To The Wedding(Review available 5/28)
Kate Matthews has lived in Brixton, London, for a year and knows no one. She’s a writer for the local paper, and she loves interviewing people, but she’s yet to be assigned anything she can sink her teeth into. Rosemary Peterson has lived in Brixton all her life. She’s seen the neighborhood change as wars, love, and businesses came and went, and every day she swims at the lido (an outdoor pool), where some of her dearest memories were made. Kate and Rosemary’s worlds collide the day it is announced that the lido will close. Kate has been assigned to write about the closure and it’s effect on the town, and she starts her story by interviewing Rosemary. A single meeting changes both of their lives, and the two women come to realize they will do everything within their power to keep the lido from closing.
I picked up this book by accident. My friend Hannah and I went to the movie theater to see Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again, and they were handing them out for free at the ticket counter. Why, I may never know. Hannah and I went home and devoured the book. It was heartfelt, deep, and shockingly real. Rosemary deals with the loss of her husband, and Kate deals with crippling anxiety. They both find their focus and community by swimming at the lido, and it’s threatened closure sets their lives in downward spirals. The two women find meaning in their mutual friendship and build new lives in a town they thought was falling apart around them. I still can’t believe Page is a debut author. Her writing speaks of years of experience, and the way she gets into characters’s heads is enchanting. I had trouble putting this book down and nearly started it over again when I finished, it was that good. I for one can’t wait to see what Page writes next. Stay tuned for a live video discussion between Hannah, myself, and our friend Hallee once she finishes reading it. We’ll talk plot, writing style, and marketing strategies.
Lucy and Oliver Tinker live with their father at his clock repair shop, scraping by selling antiques ever since their mother passed away. When the rich Mr. Quigley walks in at closing one day and offers Mr. Tinker a fortune to fix a giant clock at his home in Rhode Island, they can’t say no. Blackford house is situated in the middle of nowhere, falling apart at the seams and without electricity. The forest around the house is barren and quiet despite it being the height of summer, but Lucy is determined to make Blackford house home. Then the wooden animal statues she finds around the house start talking, and Oliver meets a mysterious boy who lives in the dark woods. Before long the Tinkers are drawn into a centuries old war between light and dark, and the fate of Blackford house hangs in the balance.
I received an ARC of Watch Hollow from the author in exchange for an honest review, but this is something I would have eventually picked up anyway. The characters are lovable and yet complex for a middle-grade book, and I love how the world itself is alive. The plot moved well and I was quickly swept up in the Tinker’s adventures. Funaro plans a sequel, making this a duology, and The Maze of Shadows is sure to be just as good when it comes out next year.
My favorite part of this book was definitely the clock animals. The whole idea of light and dark being incarnate in them, balancing the powers and powering the clock and providing electricity for the house, not to mention the naming conventions – Torsten Six, Fennish Seven, Tempest Crow – Everything about them is just fantastic. My second favorite part was obviously the shadowood vs. sunstone debate, and the ash-acorns. At ~250 pages, this book was the perfect length to get wrapped up in. I would have loved to read this as a child, and it’s still great as an adult! I will definitely be picking up the sequel next year.
Available from January 12th wherever books are sold!
HHC Rating: 5 Stars.
Other reviews in this series: The Maze of Shadows(Available 2020)
Viola Kingsley has suffered a lot in the three years since the death of the man she thought was her husband. True, there has been much happiness as well; she has gained friends, a son-in-law, grandchildren, and found real love from a family she wishes she could claim as her own. But she still feels isolated in her misery, unable to process and move past the horrific events that she has been forced to live through. So she runs. She meant to go straight home and hide out alone for a month or so, but fate had other plans.
Marcel Lamarr is a haunted man. After the death of his young wife, he took up a life of frivolity and womanizing, unable to look after his two young children for more than a few days at a time. Over the past seventeen years, he has hidden from his obligations in every way he knows how. Until he runs into Viola, the woman who spurned his love fourteen years earlier. He tries to leave her in peace but instead finds himself running away with her, fleeing their lives entirely. As Marcel and Viola find their true selves again, their lives start to creep back in, and a split moment’s decision might cost them everything they’ve ever wanted.
Mary Balogh does a wonderful job bringing Marcel and Viola to life in this fourth book of the Westcott series. Whereas I felt disconnected from everyone in the last installment, I felt the emotions acutely in this volume. Viola and Marcel’s problems run deep. This is not a simple miscommunication mix-up. They have both glimpsed happiness and had all they hold dear taken away from them in the blink of an eye. These are not wounds that can be healed through any of the common methods, and Balogh goes above and beyond to bring the characters to the roots of their problems.
I am thrilled that Viola’s book went so well, and I can’t wait to see how Elizabeth fares in the next installment, due out at the end of this month.
The Collector’s Apprentice takes readers into the whirling world of art collecting in the 1920s. Paulien Mertens is only nineteen when she meets the dashing George Everard, but when things mysteriously fall to pieces she finds herself exiled to Paris alone and nearly penniless. Drawing on her education and previous work in the art world, Paulien pieces together a new life as the assistant to Edwin Bradley, an up and coming American art collector who seeks to open a museum near Philadelphia. As she weaves her way through Parisian society, Paulien meets wonderful people like Gertrude Stein, Henri Matisse, and Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald. When George finally turns up, things are not as they seem, and Paulien is sent into a tailspin that nearly ruins everything she has built.
Shapiro’s new work tells the story of how one girl came back from the brink stronger, smarter, and braver than ever. It is part coming-of-age, part mystery, part heist novel. Paulien and George provide intriguing lenses through which we discover the events of the story. Indeed, all of the characters’s colorful descriptions paint a picture of Europe and America in the 1920s that is lush and many-layered. The plot thickens gradually, and the shocking finish does not disappoint.
I thoroughly enjoyed this foray into the art world and adored returning to 1920’s Paris, which, if you’ve read my reviews for Therese Anne Fowler’s Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald or Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife, you’ll know I have a bit of an obsession with. While it did not always grip me the way Z and The Paris Wife did, I simultaneously identified and sympathized with Shapiro’s characters, and her storytelling is top notch. The nuggets of information are there for you to guess the ending, though I must confess that I did not, which a refreshing turn of events! I would recommend The Collector’s Apprentice to anyone who enjoys a good historical coming-of-age story or enjoys con artists as main characters.
HHC Rating: 4.75 Stars
The Collector’s Apprentice hits shelves today, and Shapiro will be on tour through December promoting it. You can find the local stops on her tour schedule below, and find the book on Goodreads as well. A huge thanks to Brittani at Algonquin books for thinking of me when it came time for reviews and provided me with an e-ARC to read in exchange for my honest opinions. I loved it! But don’t just take my word for it. Here are some of the advanced praises for The Collector’s Apprentice:
“Shapiro delivers a clever and complex tale of art fraud, theft, scandal, murder, and revenge. [Her] portrayal of the 1920s art scene in Paris and Philadelphia is vibrant, and is populated by figures like Alice B. Toklas and Thornton Wilder; readers will be swept away by this thoroughly rewarding novel.”
“Dazzling and seductive, The Collector’s Apprentice is a tour de force—an exhilarating tale of shifting identities, desire, and intrigue set between 1920s Paris and Philadelphia. Shapiro is a master at melding historical and fictional characters to bring the past alive on the page, and in The Collector’s Apprentice she has forged an exquisite, multilayered story that maps the cogent and singular fire of a young woman’s ambition and the risks she will take for the sake of art.”
—Dawn Tripp, bestselling author of Georgia
“I was engrossed in every twist and turn in this compulsively captivating page-turner, all the way until its astonishing denouement. Shapiro has done it again!”
—Thrity Umrigar, bestselling author of The Space Between Us
B. A. Shapiro is the New York Times bestselling author of The Muralist and The Art Forger, which won the New England Book Award for Fiction and the Boston Authors Society Award for Fiction, among other honors. Her books have been selected as Community Reads in numerous cities and have been translated into over ten languages. Shapiro has taught sociology at Tufts University and creative writing at Northeastern University. She divides her time between Boston and Florida along with her husband, Dan, and their dog, Sagan. Her website is www.bashapirobooks.com.
The Collector’s Apprentice Press Tour
Stops in New England
Tuesday, October 16 — 7:00pm
279 Harvard St.
Brookline, MA 02446
Wednesday, October 17 — 7:00pm
9 College St.
South Hadley, MA 01075
Thursday, October 18 — 6:00pm
4869 Main Street
Manchester Center, VT 05255
Friday, October 19 — 7:00pm
82 Central St
Wellesley, MA 02482
Wednesday, November 7 — 7:00pm
RJ Julia Booksellers
768 Boston Post Rd
Madison, CT 06443
Thursday, November 8 — 7:00pm
273 Congress St.
Portland, ME 04101
Tuesday, November 20 — 7:00pm
Point Street Reading Series
71 Richmond St, 2nd Floor
Providence, RI 02903
Monday, November 26 — 3:00pm
432 Route 6A
East Sandwich, MA 02537
Tuesday, November 27 — 7:00pm
An Unlikely Story
111 South Street
Plainville, MA 02762
Wednesday, November 28 — 7:00pm
Savoy Bookshop & Café
10 Canal St.
Westerly, RI 02891
Thursday, November 29 — 7:00pm
79 Leonard St
Belmont, MA 02478
–Author Bio, Advanced Blurbs, and tour dates courtesy of Michael McKenzie and Brittani Hilles at Algonquin Books.