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.
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.
Daphne wants nothing more than to marry and raise a family. As the fourth child in the Bridgerton clan of eight and the first girl, she knows a lot about men – from her three older brothers. Unfortunately, this knowledge makes her a pal to the men who would court her, and she has been hunting a husband for two years now without success, much to the chagrin of her mother, the widowed Lady Bridgerton.
Simon, Duke of Hastings, has returned to England after the recent death of his father, whom he despised above all else. After six years on the continent, he is ready to get back to visiting his friends and his clubs. The problem, of course, is that at the age of 28 many of his friends have married and now possess young wives who scheme to introduce the new duke to potential future duchesses.
After a significant encounter, Simon and Daphne hatch a plan. They will pretend to form an attachment. The women will stop hounding Simon, and the men will jealously pursue Daphne, finally viewing her as a potential bride instead of a best friend who happens to be a woman. The biggest problem, of course, is Daphne’s family. Her eldest brother, Anthony, is Simon’s best friend, and her remaining six siblings – as well as her mother – take an immediate shine to the idea of having Simon as a permanent fixture in their lives. Simon’s reasons for fleeing to the continent in the first place will pose a challenge as well, as his past haunts his every decision.
Julia Quinn is one of my all-time favorite writers. The Bridgeton clan, as well as Lady Whistledown and her gossip paper, are some of my favorite characters ever written, and their emotions are palpable as you read their stories. Every character is richly developed, with complicated, deep relationships between every sibling and acquaintance. Daphne and Simon’s story is one that dragged me whole-heartedly into the realm of Regency Romance and has enriched my life in ways I could never have imagined.
I first discovered this series in high school or college when I swiped it from my mother, who had, in turn, swiped it from my grandmother, and I am overjoyed to be coming back to them now. Their depth and breadth of emotion and action are just what I needed to kickstart me out of my reading slump.
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.
Evangeline O’Neill has special powers. She can see important moments in a person’s life just by holding something that belongs to them. This talent, of course, is not accepted in Zenith, Ohio. After a particularly bad evening of illegal drinking, the seventeen-year-old is shipped off to New York City to live with her bachelor uncle, William Fitzgerald, who runs The Museum of Creepy Crawlies, and his mysterious assistant, Jericho. Evie reunites with her childhood friend and the daughter of revolutionists, Mabel, as well as some new friends including Theta, a showgirl, and her brother Henry, a piano player, a thief named Sam, and a numbers runner named Memphis who might just be magical himself. Life can’t be the berries forever though, and before long Evie is called upon to use her powers to help stop a murderer before he raises the antichrist and wipes out all of man kind. Just another summer in 1920s New York, right?
I’ve heard about this book on and off since it came out in 2012, and I finally picked it up from the library in August of 2017. Definitely not disappointing! While the writing is easy to follow (except for the 20s slang, which I had to look up) and the chapters are short, the gruesomeness and maturity of the plot and characters’ thoughts definitely put this book squarely in the Young Adult category. If the reading level were a little higher I might even put it in adult, even though over half of the characters are ages 17-19.
If you can’t stand gore in your books, don’t read this. About half of the murders are detailed, and all of the bodies are described once they are discovered. If I was close to stopping my reading more the night and I knew a murder chapter was imminent, I would stop before it so I didn’t have it running around my brain all night long. Not that it really helped, because I still knew it was coming, so my brain usually decided to try and guess how it would go down *facepalm*. In that regard, I’m glad I’ve finished the book. At the same time, I’m sad to let the world go for a while until I get the next book. Bray’s version of 1920s New York City positively shines. I found myself wishing I could visit for the weekend (sans murders) to visit the theatres and clubs she describes in such vibrant detail. The buildings and the city are just as much characters as the human (and not so human) population.
If I were a cry-in-the-corner type of person, my horror-hating-soul would be doing that, because I don’t like being terrified of what’s coming, but I’m a bloody Gryffindor, and we don’t show fear, so I just marched on and kept reading. Overall, I think the horror aspects were very well balanced with the daily life in the 1920s and the mystery parts, which made me quite enjoy myself despite the demons lurking in the shadows.
Definitely pick this up if you have any interest in America’s supernatural history (I’m personally hoping one of the books in this quartet focuses on the witch trials), or if you adore 1920s period fiction, or if you liked Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, because this book is pos-i-tute-ly for you. Also, this cover is magic. I love it.
HHC Rating: 5 Stars
Other reviews in this series:
Book #2 – Lair of Dreams
Book #3 – Before The Devil Breaks You
Book #4 – Untitled – TBD
As if you all didn’t already know of my love for fairytale retellings based on my reaction to Uprooted last year, let this be a testament. In this version of the classic Russian tale Vasilisa the Beautiful, Katherine Arden reimagines Vasya as the youngest child of a wealthy trader and his late wife, who herself was the daughter of the late ruler.
Vasya is indeed beautiful, but with a wild streak. As her elder sister begins preparing to marry, Vasya’s father Pyotr realizes that there will be no women to run Vasya’s life and makes the decision to remarry himself. At his brother-in-law’s insistence, he marries a woman whose faith dictates her life, and who is nearly as young as his sons.
About this time a young priest is rising to prominence in Moscow, threatening the power of the grand duke and the tentative peace across Russia. The grand duke decrees that the priest will travel with Pyotr when he returns to the north and to serve as the regional priest.
Vasya’s new stepmother and the new priest begin implementing Christian values in place of the old traditions, threatening the ancient spirits that protect Vasya’s homeland. As the townsfolks’ faith in the old ways waivers so do the life forces of their protectors. Vasya can see and communicate with the mysterious creatures, and soon finds herself the protector of the protectors. But a greater evil lurks in the forest, and it is only a matter of time – as the old ones weaken – until it wakes and comes for it’s due.
Much like Uprooted did last year, The Bear and the Nightingale transported me to another realm, another time. The twists and turns! The intricacy of the plot! The landscape itself was so beautifully depicted that it took my breath away. Arden has succeeded in creating a future classic with a permanent place on my shelf. And it’s a series! The second book, The Girl in the Tower, was released last year and the final book in the trilogy has been announced for release sometime early next year. I cannot wait to dive back into Vasya’s world: magical, dangerous, and filled with religion and court intrigue.
HHC Rating: 5 Stars.
Other books in this series:
Book #2 – The Girl in the Tower
Book #3 – The Winter of the Witch
The fallout from the death of the Earl of Riverdale continues in the third installment of the Westcott series. Alexander Westcott, the nephew of the late Earl, has struggled since his own father’s death to bring the family estate up to scratch. With the death of his uncle and the discovery of his half-cousin Anna, Alexander’s young cousin Harry is declared illegitimate, and the family title falls on Alexander’s already heavy shoulders. Not one to give up on the people who rely on him, Alexander resigns himself to attending the marriage market that is the London season in order to catch himself a rich wife to help defray the costs of fixing up two family estates.
Wren Heyden has been a recluse for almost as long as she can remember. Abused and abandoned, she found a loving home with her aunt and uncle in the country. With their passing, however, she is alone in the great house with the servants. All she has is her uncle’s glass company and the estate she grew up in – and lots and lots of money. But all she wants is marriage. At nearly thirty, she decides to buy herself a husband. After researching and meeting with all of the eligible bachelors in the neighborhood, she settles on Alexander. But he will only have her if she agrees to a ‘real’ courtship, which includes meeting his family, attending events, and going back to the one place she hoped to never set foot again: London.
I quite enjoyed this book. The conflict of Wren’s veils and her mostly closed-off nature with her wants and desires was fascinating. Alexander, by contrast, was less developed in this, his own book, than in the others. I almost forgot the story was taking place in the Westcott universe except that one or the other or the pair would bring up money and the earldom. This book was mostly about Wren, to be honest. Alexander felt like a vehicle through which we accessed the Westcott family – how Wren got to know them and became one of them, rather than how Alexander hit a home run on the curveball that was dealt him with the death of his uncle. I loved the peek into what Elizabeth, Abby, and Harry were up to, but I really needed more from Alexander. I felt like we only scratched the surface of him as a person.
***trigger warnings for child abuse in this one***
HHC Rating: 3.75 Stars
Other reviews in this series:
Book #1 – Someone to Love
Book #2 – Someone to Hold
Book #4 – Someone to Care Book #5 – Someone to Trust
Book #6 – TBA
Book #7 – TBA
Book #8 – TBA