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taniabotes

Tania's Book Circus

I adore reading and have very wide and varied taste.  Some of my favorite genre's include historical fiction, memoirs, fantasy and non-fiction.  Some of my best-loved titles are Sandcastle girls, Poisonwood bible, Daughter of the forest, Knife of never letting go, The snow child, The glass castle and Wolf Hall.  I love Juliet Marillier, Jodi Picoult, Philippa Gregory, Deon Myer and Bill Bryson.  I read approximately 120 books a year, and I try to keep my reviews short and to the point, so you can spend less time reading them and more time reading the books you'll enjoy.  Happy reading!

Boat girl

Boat Girl: A Memoir of Youth, Love & Fiberglass - Melanie Neale
There were lots of people and lots of places, and none of them felt like home


3.5 stars. I enjoyed this coming of age story. I've never thought about what it would be like growing up on a sailboat, and what I got from this book is that it would be a different experience for each person. Some people choose this lifestyle because it would expose them and their children to more things in life, and some because you could protect yourself and your children much easier from any influences that you were trying to avoid. Melanie's parents (dad) definitely fell into the last category. Although the boating bit of the book was fascinating, for me the best part of the book was watching her grow up. I liked how honest the author was about herself and her life. I could really connect with her as a person, and I walked away from Boat girl feeling like I knew her. I highly recommend this to anyone wanting to read a well written book on an alternative lifestyle.

Source: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/519345099

a look at the publishing industry

The Salinger Contract - Adam Langer

Although I enjoyed this easy-reading thriller, I could not really connect with the characters. It was interesting to read about the current state of publishing in a novel, as opposed to non-fiction. I thought the plot was good, but it became a bit far-fetched towards the end. This is not my normal genre though, and I'm sure people who normally enjoy thrillers will love this book.

The Story: Narrator Adam Langer's quiet existence as a stay-at-home dad in Bloomington is disrupted when thriller author Conner Joyce, whom Adam once profiled in his livelier past life as a journalist in New York City, comes to town on an author tour. Soon after the two renew their friendship, Conner reveals that he's received a bizarre offer. The wealthy, mysterious Dex wants Conner to write a novel for a private collection of unpublished manuscripts from the likes of Thomas Pynchon, Norman Mailer, and, of course, J.D. Salinger. Adam becomes the bestselling author's closest confidant as Conner's involvement with Dex turns dangerous.

Source: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/703990651

Makes you think...

My Notorious Life - Kate Manning
This was an easy-reading, interesting story inspired by a real midwife who became one of the most controversial figures in Victorian New York City.
I especially loved the first half of the book, it reminded me of Angela's ashes and Gangs of New York. My heart broke for Axie, Dutch and little Joe having to beg for scraps of food, being taken from their mom and then being split up from each other, and handed out like parcels.
The second half of the book was very thought-provoking, as I've never thought about life without contraceptives. Imagine a life where you have to give up your children because you can't feed them, just to find yourself pregnant a few months down the line. So even if you are a pro-lifer it's very difficult to condemn Axie, and her patients for making the decisions they did.
I really enjoyed Axie's character, she felt very real. A true survivor, with no regard for society's expectations, she is also extremely human with loads of trust issues and an insatiable greed for money (security).
My only issues with My Notorious Life was that I thought the second half could have been a bit shorter. I also had problems with *'s being used for the swearwords, for example c**p. I found myself spending a lot of time deciphering these expletives.
All in all I'm glad I met Axie and was introduced to this aspect of Victorian life.

The Story:Axie Muldoon, the headstrong daughter of Irish immigrants, forced to beg for pennies as a child on the brutal streets on New York City, grows up to become the most successful - and controversial - midwife of her time. When she is taken in by a Manhattan doctor Axie learns the craft that she will live by - and later fight for. She rises from the gutter to the glitter of Fifth Avenue high society, and discovers that the right way is not always the way of the church or the law. As Axie's reputation grows she finds herself on a collision course with the crusading official who would be the righteous instrument of her downfall. It will take all of her power to outwit him and save both herself and those she loves from ruin.         
 
Source: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/680148751

A nice beach read

The Wishing Thread: A Novel - Lisa Van Allen
There is, of course, always a question - a question of the difference between what is real and what is true. A thing can be true without being real. You may not grasp this entirely, but don't worry. This is the nature of faith, of magic, of a good life's work.


This was a sweet, easy-reading book about knitting spells and the relationship between sisters. For me it was also about accepting your own destiny, and the different ways people try and avoid doing this. The story started strong, but unravelled towards the end. It felt like some situations where forced to a closure. There were a lot of lose threads at the end of the story. That said, I still enjoyed it. Sometimes you only need a light snack and not a three course meal when reading. The Wishing Thread is perfect beach reading.

The story: The Van Ripper sisters—Aubrey, Bitty, and Meggie—are said to knit people’s most ardent wishes into beautiful scarves and mittens, granting them health, success, or even a blossoming romance. But for the magic to work, sacrifices must be made—and no one knows that better than the Van Rippers.

Source: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17262149-the-wishing-thread

1920 Paris comes alive!

The Bones of Paris: A Novel of Suspense - Laurie R. King
when art is indistinguishable from real life, it comes alive. And when it lives, it changes the viewer.


I read the Beekeeper's apprentice many moons ago, and loved it. When I selected The Bones of Paris, I did not realize that this was the second book in one the author's other series. None the less I also enjoyed it, especially the descriptions of 1920 Paris. It felt like I could see, hear and smell the city. I also enjoyed her inclusion of historical characters like Ernest Hemingway and Man Ray into a fiction title. Although I liked the protagonist, Harris Stuyvesant, I found him to be a bit too much of a P.I. stereotype. I am quite sure I would have enjoyed this book even more if I read the first in the series Touchstone. I was especially intrigued by a character from this first book, who made a brief appearance in Bones of Paris - Bennet Grey. I have already bought the second book in the Mary Russel series, and look forward to reading it.

The Story: Harris Stuyvesant will have to descend into the darkest depths of perversion to find a killer . . . sifting through The Bones of Paris.

Source: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/652376581

An intriguing idea..

A Fatal Likeness - Lynn Shepherd
There is no problem, however intractable, that cannot be resolved by the steady application of logic and observation


I love Netgalley, it allows me to choose books I would never otherwise have read. After requesting this title, I really thought I made a mistake. Whodunit's is not really my genre, I new nothing about the romantic poets, and I belatedly noticed that this was the second book in a series. Despite all of this I really enjoyed it.

I was interested in learning more about Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Shelley and Claire Clairmont and their contemporaries. I never realized that free love was already a concept in the Victorian age. I was glad that the author explains in detail what is fact and what is fiction in her notes, as it's always difficult reading about a new spin on historical figures if you are not familiar with the basic facts.

I love how vividly she painted London in the 1800's. I thought the writing also reflected the time period very well. It was my first time reading a novel told from a 3rd person omniscient point of view. It was a bit jarring in the beginning, but by the end of the book I quite liked it.

The suspense in A Fatal Likeness was amazing. There was twists on top of twists and layers on layers. Every time you thought that all answers were now revealed, there was yet another revelation waiting in the wings. Charles Maddox (who reminds me quite a bit of Sherlock Holmes) sees the case, and possible answers, from all the suspects point of view.

Thanks mrs. Shepherd, because of your book I've now discovered a new favorite genre - Historical Crime.

The story: When his great-uncle, the master detective who schooled him in the science of "thief taking," is mysteriously stricken, Charles Maddox fears that the old man's breakdown may be directly related to the latest case he's been asked to undertake. Summoned to the home of a stuffy nobleman and his imperious wife, Charles finds his investigative services have been engaged by no less than the son of celebrated poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and his famed widow, Mary, author of the gothic classic "Frankenstein." 

Source: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/652376300

Haunting and evocative

The Storycatcher - Ann Hite
Secrets weren't nothing but untold lies


I don't think I've ever read any ghost stories, but I was captivated by this dark and mystical novel.

First of all I loved the setting - I can't think of a better place for a story about haints/spirits and hoodoo than the atmospheric marshes of the South. I also savored the many different voices and POV's. I thought they were all extremely authentic and distinct. The use of these multiple female narrators (some living, some dead) to tell a story that crosses multiple generations was brilliantly done.

While she refused to believe in mountain magic, I wholeheartedly believed in Miss Tuggle's powers. She called it science. Amanda called hers conjuring. I saw their abilities as freedom from those who would, given the chance, control them.



Although The Storycatcher never outright scared me, it had me feeling uneasy and on edge all the time. I think Pastor Dobbins was part of the reason - he is so evil, but the author's haunting descriptions was probably the main cause.

A darkness with no name or shape hung in the air, something thick and fearful, always threatening in a heavy sort of way.



Lastly, I loved how the author connected all these characters and stories in the end. The Storycatcher is definitely worth the read.

The story: Shelly Parker, a sixteen-year-old servant who works for the tyrannical Pastor Dobbins and his family, has had the gift of sight for as long as she can remember. When the ghost of Arleen Brown, a poor woman who died on the mountain during childbirth five years earlier, begins to pursue the Pastor’s daughter Faith — hell-bent on revealing a terrible secret that she took to her grave — Shelly is the only person that can help her.

Source: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/652376061

God, sex and farming

Amity & Sorrow: A Novel - Peggy Riley
Two sisters sit, side by side, in the backseat of an old car. Amity and Sorrow. Their hands are hot and close together. A strip of white fabric loops between them, tying them together, wrist to wrist.


This was a beautifully written debut novel about the ties that bind. It’s a story of God, sex and farming. Amaranth and her two daughters, Amity and Sorrow, flees from a religious sect, where she was the first of 50 wives to Zachariah, a self-proclaimed prophet. They end up in rural Oklahoma, where they live on a farmer's porch. Through flashbacks we also find out how Amaranth got involved in the sect, and how things slowly started falling apart, to the point where they find out that Sorrow is pregnant.

Although this is an easy read, it is quite a complex book. It focuses on so many different issues. For me the individual issues were the ones that really affected me. As a child it must be so difficult to condemn a way of living if this is the only life you've ever lived. What about if you were an oracle, very special and revered in your previous life, and now people expect you to be happy with being a normal teenager. And the thing is you can't even act like your normal, because you’re illiterate, and know nothing at all about the world. And worst of all your father, the mouthpiece of God, is suddenly seen as worse than evil. There is so much more to say, but I think the author says it best. I highly recommend this to everyone who enjoys a story that stays with you long after you’ve closed the book.

Not everyone wants to be saved.



 
 
Source: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/596020439

Brilliant!

The Shining Girls - Lauren Beukes
He remembers doing it. He has no recollection of doing it. One of these things must be true.



Wow, this was so different. I was expecting something similar to Zoo City, which was an urban fantasy. But I should have known to expect the unexpected from Lauren Beukes. The shining girls is a SF Thriller – who else would think about writing about a time-travelling serial killer? The closest I can come to comparing it with another book is 11/22/63. There are a few big differences. Obviously the main character is evil, and I’m talking cold-hearted, killing with a smile, type of evil. So much so that I would definitely say this is not for the squeamish. Some of the scenes left me quite unsettled. To be fair it is almost like none of this is his choice, The House (which is the time-travelling portal) called him, and governs all his actions. The two things that I enjoyed most about this book is that you get to know each victim, and as they all come from different era’s, this gives you quick but powerful insight into how people’s lives change over time, and what the main issues of that period was. Mostly though, I appreciated how Lauren played with time in this novel. It folds in on itself, and almost becomes a loop. This is the first time travelling book where the protagonist also did not know/remember what he did in the future, so everything becomes a bit mixed up.

The story: Chicago, 1931. A strange house gives serial-killer Harper the power to travel through time; to hunt and kill his "shining girls". They're bright young women full of spark - until he cuts it out of them, leaving clues from different times behind to taunt fate.

Source: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/529756543

Really scary!

The Boy Who Could See Demons: A Novel - Carolyn Jess-Cooke
One in five Northern Irish children will experience major mental health problems before their eighteenth birthday, with case studies flagging self-harm as a response to confrontation and shame for family involvement in violence.

This was an easy-reading book about a very interesting topic. It shows just how thin the line between reality and psychosis is. As a mom I can't imagine watching your child struggle with schizophrenia, there must be few things that would make you feel more helpless than seeing your baby lose touch with all things real, and moving into his/her own world. The author describes this brilliantly. I also enjoyed the characters, and especially liked Alex.

The twist right at the end of the book was excellent, I never saw it coming. BUT after the big reveal, the rest of the story was rushed of and wrapped up way too quickly. I would have wanted to read more about the how and why.

If you enjoyed You Came Back and Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend, this is for you.

The Story: The Boy Who Could See Demons follows a child psychologist who comes up against a career-defining case—one that threatens to unravel her own painful past and jeopardizes the life of a boy who can see the impossible.
Source: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/608540526

Making a stand...

The Universe Versus Alex Woods - Gavin Extence
In life, there are no true beginnings or endings. Events flow into each other, and the more you try to isolate them in a container, the more they spill over the sides, like canal-water breaching its artificial banks.

This was a very sweet coming of age novel. I enjoyed learning about meteors, tarot cards, epilepsy and Vonnegut. If you enjoyed The Perks of Being a Wallflower, I highly recommend this. My critisism is that I found Alex to be a bit one-dimensional. I realize that at sixteen you are mostly an innocent, but I prefer characters with some flaws.

The Story: Alex Woods knows that he hasn't had the most conventional start in life. He knows that growing up with a clairvoyant single mother won't endear him to the local bullies. He also knows that even the most improbable events can happen - he's got the scars to prove it. What he doesn't know yet is that when he meets ill-tempered, reclusive widower Mr Peterson, he'll make an unlikely friend. Someone who tells him that you only get one shot at life. That you have to make the best possible choices.


 
Source: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/634221453

Harry Potter all grown up?

Summer Knight - Jim Butcher
Oh my, what fun!!! I have to agree with everyone else on GR, this series just gets better as you move through the books.

Some of the things that I enjoy most about this series:
1. Harry - yes he's a bit macho, but he also knows his own weaknesses and freely admits when he's in over his head.
2. The author's sense of humour. I know it's sometimes still a bit cheesy, but Summer Knight definitely had me chuckling out loud.
3. The pace of the stories - there's almost no time to catch your breath and I'm kept guessing until the big reveal.
4. Lastly, the world creation. I love that Jim Butcherhas created such a detailed and complex world, and that he introduces you to a different part of this world in every book. In Summer Knight he acquints us with the Sidhe/Faeries. There are two different courts - summer and winter, and each court has three queens. It's amazing that he is able to share all this nitty-gritty without ever pausing the main story.

The Story: Professional wizard Harry Dresden is approached by the Winter Queen of Faerie to find out who murdered the Summer Queen's right-hand man. Soon, Harry finds out that the fate of the entire world rests on his solving this case.
 
 
Source: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/643782368

sad but beautiful

Between Shades of Gray - Ruta Sepetys
Our country is doomed, don't you see? Our fate is genocide, no matter whose hands we fall into

3.5 stars. Between shades of Gray looks at the lesser known genocide in World War II. In 1939 the Soviet union occupied the Baltic states and started with the mass deportation of all people considered anti-Soviet. Ruta Sepetys tells us this story through the eyes of fifteen year old Lithuanian, Lina. As expected it was sad and shocking, but somehow also uplifting. I know I've said this before but I can never get used to these crimes against humanity, specifically against the children. My heart broke into a thousand little pieces for the the girl with the dolly.
I loved that this book introduced me to (yet another) part of history I knew nothing about, and will definitely be reading more books on this subject.

I wanted to roll the hate up into my mouth and spit it back in his face



 
 
Source: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/385245295

Brilliant YA fantasy novel!

Shadowfell - Juliet Marillier
Okay, so if you have not read Juliet Marillier previously, here is why you should. She combines fantasy with historical fiction, folklore and mythology. Her characters are real people with real emotions, who have to deal with real every day issues like alcoholism and rape. Her magic is not of the fancy, modern, high-tech genre, but instead comes from the land and the Fair folk. I have read 16 JM titleS, and adore the way she slowly unfolds a story, and magically transports me to another country in another age. Oh, and did I mention no insta-love, even in her YA novels, the characters take their time in building relationships. If you prefer books more adult in theme, I highly recommend The Sevenwater series, starting withDaughter of the Forest. After many books, and many years, this still stays in my top 15 books read. It is definitely my top fantasy book ever!!!

If YA is your thing, I think you would enjoy Shadowfell. Neryn has the ability to see the Good folk. Unfortunately this is a curse in the current political climate of the Kingdom of Alban, as all magical abilities have been banned. The story is about her journey to Shadowfell (the rebels home ground), her relationship with Flint and her quest to pass seven tests. One of the best things about this book was some of the magical creatures JM created - my absolute favorite being the Brollachand and his pookie.

I can't wait for Raven Flight, the 2nd book in this series!!!! 
Source: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/635187128

drowning in sadness

Wave - Sonali Deraniyagala
For three years I've tried to indelibly imprint they are dead on my consciousness, afraid of slipping up and forgetting, of thinking they are alive. Coming out of that lapse, however momentary, will be more harrowing than the constant knowing, surely.


Wave was heartbreakingly beautiful. I initially wanted to read this book because of the Tsunami element, but it really is not about a Tsunami at all. It's about losing everyone you love in one moment, and how you learn to live with it. The author's descriptions of her emotions is so heartfelt and raw, you can't help feeling some of her intense pain. Her writing is delicate yet forceful. You can almost see her move through the stages of grief (over a seven year period), which is not always a linear process. She explains how you she had to mourn the loss of their history, but also the loss of their future together. She talks about her guilt at not being able to save her children, but also at having a loss so big, that it made other people uncomfortable.

These five years I've been so fearful of details. The more I remember, the more inconsolable I will be, I've told myself. But now increasingly I don't tussle with my memories. I want to remember. I want to know. Perhaps I can better tolerate being inconsolable now. Perhaps I suspect that remembering won't make me any more inconsolable. Or less




Source: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/553457368

You'll never see it coming

The Boy Who Could See Demons: A Novel - Carolyn Jess-Cooke
One in five Northern Irish children will experience major mental health problems before their eighteenth birthday, with case studies flagging self-harm as a response to confrontation and shame for family involvement in violence.

This was an easy-reading book about a very interesting topic. It shows just how thin the line between reality and psychosis is. As a mom I can't imagine watching your child struggle with schizophrenia, there must be few things that would make you feel more helpless than seeing your baby lose touch with all things real, and moving into his/her own world. The author describes this brilliantly. I also enjoyed the characters, and especially liked Alex.

The twist right at the end of the book was excellent, I never saw it coming. BUT after the big reveal, the rest of the story was rushed of and wrapped up way too quickly. I would have wanted to read more about the how and why.

If you enjoyed You Came Back and Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend, this is for you.

The Story: The Boy Who Could See Demons follows a child psychologist who comes up against a career-defining case—one that threatens to unravel her own painful past and jeopardizes the life of a boy who can see the impossible.
 
 
Source: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/608540526