“After Her” by Joyce Maynard Reviewed

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A solid coming of age story with a few flaws, I enjoyed “After Her.” The novel tells the story of two sisters growing up outside of San Francisco whose formative years coincide with a serial killer’s rampage in the hills behind their home. Maynard does a wonderful job painting vivid, believable characters, and what I enjoyed most about the book was the way she gracefully captured the narrative of her teenage protagonist then and now. (Side note: I forgot how rough it is to be a teenage girl, BTW.)

While not as heart-pounding as some of the summer’s other thrillers, “After Her” is a nice mix of character study and mystery. The few flaws I found in the book most related to the awkward re-telling of some anecdotes that seemed to be out of order. ex. A favorite restaurant is mentioned and then given more of a description/context later as if it is the first time you are going there. A little annoying and confusing, I was surprised with the inconsistencies.

Overall, a solid recommended read that is the right length for a weekend!

Available from the New York Public Library or for purchase from Amazon.com.

xo The Book Bird

Catching Up With Detective Hole

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Every summer I reunite with Harry Hole, and this summer was not a disappointment. We catch up; okay, so it’s mostly him telling me what he’s been up to.

The recently released first in the Harry Hole (pronounced holy) series, was by far a welcome respite from some of the beachy reads that have not exactly lived up to expectations. One of my favorite flawed characters, it was awesome to FINALLY be able to read the first installment in the series.

The Bat follows Detective Hole to Sydney where he is investigating the death of a Norwegian citizen. As someone who has spent considerable time in Australia, I enjoyed reading about my favorite character in a city I knew well. I could vividly imagine the neighborhoods he wanders and picture in my mind the places described.

Expect the usual exciting plot twists and turns that will keep you reading until the early hours of the morning. The only disappointment I experienced with The Bat was when I realized it was over.

Alas, see you next summer, Detective Hole.

Available from Amazon.com (where you can also find my original review).

xo The Book Bird

Night Film: A Review

Oh. My. Gosh.

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Where to start? Night Film was one of the novels I was most excited about for 2013, and boy, did it deliver.

A VAST improvement over Special Topics, of which I was not a huge fan, Pessl hits her stride in Night Film– expertly mixing media like websites, magazine articles, etc. with a story that is guaranteed to give you the creeps. I have to admit, I’m kind of disappointed that this was released in summer as it is the perfect rainy, fall weekend kind of book. Just thinking about reading it on a dark, wintry night gives me the shivers.

This is not a novel focused on character study, but I think that’s what makes it a great book. Instead, Pessl focuses on creating a rigid atmosphere that is wrought with tension and darkness. Just like the protagonist, you will find yourself slowly sleeping deep and deeper into a world that should seemingly not make sense, but yet does. It made me think of those horror-film-esque thoughts that sometimes come after dark, which you know are totally irrational, but yet make you pull the covers up higher.

Ideally I would give this book 4.5 stars: the middle lags a little bit and lacks the urgency that book ends it on either side. I should note though, that while the pace slows, I still pulled three late-nighters in a row to finish this over the weekend. The ending also tied things up a little too nicely, though you have to give Pessl snaps for the way she is able to sprinkle hints/clues through a 500+ novel consistently. It is truly impressive!

Available from Amazon.com (where you can also find this review) and the New York Public Library.

xo The Book Bird

Six Tales of Tudor England

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Call them the Kardashians of the 16th and 17th centuries- the Tudors have provided writers with a cast of scandalous personalities and characters. Over the last 10 years their legacy has been revisited in best-selling novels, feature films, and mini-series that continue to captivate audiences around the world. Who doesn’t love a good family saga? As a Tudor-obsessed pseudo-historian, Anne Boleyn, Margaret Tudor and Thomas Cromwell are more friends than historical figures. Thus, I cannot resist catching up with them whenever a new book or series that re-tells their tales comes out (though I have to admit, I have held off on The White Queen… eh).

Whether you’re a Tudor-phile or looking to learn more about this colorful family that shaped British history, here are The Book Bird’s favorite printed picks:

The Six Wives of Henry VIII (non-fiction) by Alison Weir
This non-fiction account of the six wives of the notorious Henry VIII reads like a novel. Weir, who is undoubtedly the doyenne of Tudor literature, paints a rich and vivid account of court life, and her book remains one of my favorites to this day. (However, NB, highly recommend skipping her attempts at fiction.)

The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn by Robin Maxwell
Book 2 of Maxwell’s trilogy about the Tudors, this has been a favorite since middle school. This fictional diary of the doomed Boleyn follows her from her days in France, to the royal court, and eventually to the tower. A quick read but definitely a must!

Royal Road to Fotheringhay by Jean Plaidy
Another well known historical fiction writer, Plaidy during her lifetime released some of my much-beloved works of historical fiction. While some are better than others, I have to say her series that focuses on the Stuarts (specifically poor Mary Queen of Scots) has to be one of my favorites.

A Murder Most Royal by Jean Plaidy
Plaidy makes her 2nd appearance on my list with her fictional account of the rivalry between Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn.

This one I haven’t read but it is HIGH on my list of books to hit up: C.W. Gortner’s The Last Queen which is a fictional study of the questionably not-sane Juana of Castile. Read it? Loved it? Hate it? Let us know!

Okay, and so I know it’s not a film, but you MUST check out Anne of a Thousand Days with Richard Burton.

xo The Book Bird

Havisham by Ronald Frame (November 2013)

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Havisham should be on your Fall Reading List.

Whether you’ve previously made the acquaintance of Miss Havisham before, or this is the first time you are encountering her– from the onset, you know that her tale will only end tragically. Readers who have visited her before in the pages of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, will be familiar with her adult-self, but will enjoy the depth of character that Frame’s narrative adds. The prose (which thankfully is not nearly as dreary as Dickens’) and story flow nicely, and I was grateful that Frame does not treat Miss Havisham too cruelly as he paints her past. Those who may have preconceptions about how she became a ghost of a woman wandering the halls in her wedding dress, may not enjoy this telling of Miss Havisham’s youth, I found Frame nicely walks the line between revision and adherence to canon. It was refreshing to envision Catherine Havisham not only as a slightly mad spinster, but as a young woman with hopes and dreams of her own. Perhaps that is what makes what happens to her eventually so heartbreaking?

Havisham also sheds light onto the machinations at work that transform Estella into the cool, calculating creature we meet later in GE. Though nonetheless unforgiveable, at least the reasons for Havisham’s molding of the girl into a minor sociopath become more understandable.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Havisham and  recommend it to both lovers and haters of Great Expectations, and those that have never read it.  (Personally I have never been able to stomach the full novel but have enjoyed its on-screen adaptations.) Clocking in at around 330-something pages, it’s an enjoyable story to spend a weekend with. 

Available for pre-order from Amazon.com.

xo The Book Bird

Disclaimer: An advance copy of this novel was made available for review to me by the publisher via NetGalley.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

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This is a book about which much cannot be said in an effort to keep its secrets.

(After all, loose lips sink tight ships!)

A story about friendship set against the backdrop of World War II, Code Name Verity is technically YA but I think speaks to audiences of all ages. Engaging, tragic, and in some places funny, the first (and only) word that comes to mind when asked to describe the overall experience is heartbreaking.

In this day and age, perhaps the highest compliment you can pay a book is that you purchase it in its physical form. This is one of those novels that I’m glad I own.

Deeper than a summer beach book, but not so dark that you’ll need to chase this novel with something fluffy, I highly recommend.

Available in both paperback and eBook

Welcome!

Greetings from The BookBird!

For a while I’ve been pondering creating a blog to share with others my favorite books and literary finds, and on this rainy summer Tuesday, I finally found the motivation! An avid reader, I average over 80 books a year, ranging from non-fiction, YA, historical fiction, current affairs, and the occasional short story anthology. My picks may not be for everyone, and I can be pretty oppinionated, but I hope you’ll add us to your RSS reader (may I suggest Feedly?), and follow us on Twitter.

Stay tuned for our first posts and lots of good stuff.

xo The Bird