Death of the Black-Haired Girl by Robert Stone, a Review

cover29892-mediumHaving never read any of Robert Stone’s works previously, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I started his latest,”Death of the Black-Haired Girl.” The novel tells a story of an affair between a student and her professor at an elite university. Predictably, said professor is married. And thus begins a tale that you can pretty much figure out from the title where things are going to go…. Billed as “an irresistibly compelling tale of infidelity, accountability, the allure of youth, the promise of absolution, and the notion that madness is everywhere, in plain sight,” I felt this novel was too self-important and almost gets in its own way by trying to convey “big ideas” about morality and life.

Not only was the prose overly complex, but the characters were extremely unlikeable. Maybe that was what Stone intended, and again not being familiar with his canon/style, I can’t really weigh in. But for someone like me, who loves stories that you can sink into like a comfy chair, this was more like trying to relax on a concrete bench.

Perhaps not my cup of tea, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be yours– I think it would appeal to a certain set of readers, of which I am most certainly not.

Available for pre-order, “Death of the Black-Haired Girl” hits shelves on November 5th.

xo The Book Bird 

Disclaimer: I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher via NetGallery in exchange for a fair and honest review.

The Reunion by Amy Silver, a Review

cover35722-smallGive me an “ensemble” style book that reunites a group of old friends who have been divided by a “terrible” event in the past, and I am SO there. Unfortunately, my passion for these “Secret History” / “Topics in Calamity Physics” style novels, often leads me to be disappointed… such as in the case of Amy Silver’s “The Reunion.”

As a fan of this “genre”, I typically can overlook the predictability of the characters (the rebel, the goody-two-shoes, the creative), and it’s what often draws me to these titles. However, while the group dynamic starts out interestingly, it quickly became too “Circle of Friends” for my likes. Where was the twist?

Silver does a good job of creating alternating narratives and deftly weaves in email correspondence inbetween each chapter, and I think she nicely handles the transitions between past/present. Her writing is good, and the book reads well, except for the extremely predictable plot.

Overall, a nice vacation read but not nearly exciting enough for me. Get this one from the library ūüôā

That said, I just realized this book is currently only in print in the UK– more info to come around a US release date!

xo The Book Bird 

Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided to me via NetGalley for a fair and honest review by the publisher.

A Dark Fairytale for Fall – The Kingdom of Little Wounds by Susann Cokal


This book has it all: plague ridden princesses, embroidery, random sludge filled holes in the ground, roast dolphin, strange stars/comets in the sky.

Overall, one of my favorite reads for fall, The Kingdom of Little Wounds is a beautiful dark fairy tale. Comprised of little vignette style chapters focusing on various characters (the aging queen, the wronged seamstress, the devious count), that are almost stand alone little short stories in their own right. Cokal’s prose weaves an amazing tableau for the reader; I found it easy to envision this kingdom on the verge of downfall as I devoured the pages.

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Definitely not a fairy tale for children (some violence and disturbing scenes)– think along the lines of Gregory Maguire’s Wicked trilogy, I appreciated Cokal writing something that straddled the line between outright fantasy/sci-fi and historical fiction. As I want to avoid giving away too much of the plot, but needless to say this one was difficult to put down. Don’t expect heroines who need saving, or any other predictable scenarios!

Have to admit that I was a little surprised that the Kindle price for this one is almost $15— spring for the hard cover, it’s about the same cost and you’ll be able to re-read your favorite parts.

xo The Book Bird 

What’s On Our Nightstand?

So things here at Book Bird HQ have been a little quiet lately. Why? Because we’ve got our beaks buried in some good books! (Uh, okay and some not so good books… which shall go unnamed and unfinished…) Here’s what’s currently on our nightstand:

The Kingdom of Little Wounds by Susann Cokal
If you like Gregory Maguire’s Wicked or dark fairy tales, then this one is a MUST. Things are amiss in the Scandinavian city of Skyggehavn — a mysterious illness plagues the royal family, an unknown star appears in the sky, and the halls of the palace are filled with intrigue. ¬†So glad I bought it in hardcover as I have a feeling that this is one of those novels I’m going to return to. Broken up into bite-size little chapters that almost read like short stories in themselves, this 500 page novel is totally engrossing and I find it very hard to put down.

The Queen’s Gambit by Elizabeth Fremantle
This one was on our Six Tales of Tudor England list and we’re loving it so far!

The Ghost Bride by Yangszee Choo
Just got this one out of the library and can’t wait! The story of a young woman who becomes a “Ghost Bride,” it’s been featured on several notable book lists for fall.

The Shadow Queen by Sandra Gulland
Got our hands on an advance copy of this historical novel about the woman who becomes the mistress of Louis XIV. It comes out next April (don’t worry, you’ll have our review waaaay before then).

Hoping to wrap up a few of these this weekend, so stay tuned for reviews! Can’t wait? Ping us on Twitter at @TheBookBird and we’d love to chat!

xo The Book Bird 

The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon, a Review

18007535Having ¬†found Jennifer McMahon’s novel, “Don’t Breathe a Word” to be enjoyable, I was excited to get my book-loving paws on an advance copy of her latest,¬†The Winter People.

The premise immediately caught my attention– a mysterious death in a small town in Vermont, a diary containing secrets, the past and the present intersecting. Sign me up! The novel alternates between several main voices, including the historical diarist in question, Sara Harrison Shea, Ruthie, the teenaged current occupant of Sara’s home, and Katherine, an artist who has journeyed to West Hall to get answers surrounding her husband’s death. McMahon does a beautiful job of painting a picture of an isolated Vermont town, and I enjoyed her descriptions of the wintry isolation. Where the book starts to go down hill is around the 30% mark. Somewhere, the plot jumps the shark and I found it hard to stay engaged with the rest of the novel. Honestly, I would have really enjoyed it more of the book had focused less on the present and more on the past, which I think McMahon writes about with much more excitement and zest.

That said, don’t necessarily pass this one by– ¬†so far my review seems to be in the minority on Goodreads. I really like the suggestion that another reader made about this being more YA than adult thriller/mystery. It’s a good bedside book for those evening where you’re looking to read a few chapters before sleep.

Have you read any of McMahon’s other works?

Available for pre-order from Amazon, and will be available February 11th, 2014.

xo The Book Bird

Disclaimer: I received an advance copy of this novel for review from the publisher via NetGalley.

A Dark, Mysterious Tale for Fall- Dark Angel by Sally Beauman

18467338¬†Where to start– this is definitely one of the books I’ve enjoyed most this year. A truly epic novel, Dark Angel weaves together the story of a tragedy that happened one faithful evening that will touch the lives of all of those present. Told from varying perspectives (all of which are beautifully distinct and unique), the novel takes the reader back to 1910, where a wealthy family and their friends and joined to celebrate the historic passing of a comet. What happens next will reverberate for decades as the characters’ lives intersect with one another, and is recounted to the reader via a nice combination of journal entries, recollection and third person narrative. (I am so over first person lately.)

Unlike other novels from the same genre, Dark Angel’s plot is zippy and never lulls, is very nicely paced and, in my mind, the perfect length. Clocking in at over 700 pages, it may seem daunting at first, but the hours flew by. The twists and turns were very believable, and never did I pause to question the direction the book went. The one thing I would note, is that like the title might suggest, some sections are dark, and can be a little much for the faint of heart.

Constance. Oh, Constance. She has to be one of the most wicked, brilliant, tortured characters I have ever met. Devious, manipulative, yet desperate to be loved, she is one of the most memorable characters I have encountered in a long time.

If you love getting lost in saga type novels (think more an edgier, modern Forsyte Saga, less a Dynasty/Dallas type scene), then this one is most definitely for you. While the novel focuses on the lasting effect that one night can have, I appreciated that there was less melodrama and more mystery in the plot. Just make sure you’re sitting somewhere comfy when you start, because it’s going to be a while before you get up again.

Available from Amazon.com– seriously, the Kindle price makes this book a steal! You have no excuse not to pick it up immediately.

xo The Book Bird

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for review from the publisher via NetGalley.

Cartwheel by Jennifer duBois, a Review

imagesCartwheel is the story of Lily Hayes, who at the start of the novel, is awaiting trial in an Argentine prison for the murder of her roommate. While you might assume that this novel is headed in the “ripped from the headlines” direction, somewhere along the way it pleasantly slips away. Less a retelling of a not-so-recent study abroad murder, and more of a captivating story in its own right, Cartwheel was the surprise sleeper on my Fall Reading list. Well-written and nicely edited, it clips along at a good pace, and the narrative, told from varying points of view, helps to give this novel substantial depth.

A must for anyone who has ever studied abroad and experienced what it’s like to call a strange city temporarily home, Cartwheel focuses less on the destination (Buenos Aires) and more on the relationships between her characters.¬† Each voice in this multi-narrative story is unique, and ¬†every character’s misconceptions, notions and prejudices help to¬†inadvertently¬†flesh out the other members of the cast even more.

What I loved about Cartwheel?
duBois perfectly captures what it is like to be on the cusp of adulthood in the voices of her characters, but in a way that is neither cliche or annoying.  Whether it is from the POV of Lily, her sister Anna, or even the broody Sebastien, duBois weaves together their perspectives in a believable, yet angsty way that I think most readers can relate to.  She also manages to convey the awkwardness fraught in all of the characters relationships (father-daughter, roommates, sisters, boyfriend-girlfriend), that had me reminiscing what it was like to be in my late teens again. (So glad that that phase of my life is in the rearview mirror!)

What I would have liked more of: 
Katy. The little snippets we get of her are not nearly enough, and you can’t help but want to peek into her head. Dubois does a lovely job of painting a complex “victim”. Also, there are some sentences that I’m pretty sure, after re-reading them multiple times, don’t make sense. For the most part (like 95% of the time), duBois’ prose is perfect, thus when she misses here or there it’s that much more noticeable.

Available from Amazon.com.

xo The Book Bird 

*Disclaimer: A copy of this novel was provided to me for review by the publisher- however, I had also by this point in time gotten a copy from the library!*