Mirror Gate – Enter a World of Mystery

Mirror Gate

the Harbringer series

By Jeff Wheeler

Spoiler Alert!

 

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Summary

Though relations between Princess Seraphin Fitzempress and her father have been strained, Sera’s royal position has remained unchallenged. Filled with self-doubt, she struggles to grasp the Mysteries—her greatest trial yet.

An education in the enigmatic magic is a necessary one, should Sera plan to rise in her station and invoke her powers during war. But the emperor’s death now leaves both Sera and her ambitious father eligible for the throne—a contest the prince regent intends to win. Even if it means an alliance with a rival empire.

Sera’s hope lies in Cettie, a waif raised in the world below, whose life has intertwined with Sera’s in the most unexpected ways. The Mysteries come easily to Cettie, and her studies have begun to yield new insight into her growing powers. But those same powers put Cettie in the path of those who would destroy her.

Now as the threat of war ignites and an insidious sickness spreads throughout the kingdom, Sera and Cettie will need to gather their courage and fight for each other’s lives…and for the future of their endangered world. (Courtesy of goodreads.com)

Adult Point of View

I’ve loved everything I’ve read by Jeff Wheeler, and this is no exception. I didn’t realize how the world Cettie and Sera live in relates to his Muirwood series until this book. I still think you can read the Harbringer series without having read the Muirwood books, but it will add more depth to your understanding of this world if you’ve read the series that was the springboard for all of his series. The Harbringer series also connects with the Kingfountain series, but again it isn’t absolutely essential to have read that series to understand the current.

My two favorite characters are Sera and Cettie. They’re different from each other and both learning new lessons about their roles and their limitations.

Sera and Cettie have been roommates at school, even though they are quite different and from different backgrounds. Sera has been whisked away for a meeting when her grandfather has passed away without an heir. She doesn’t feel like she’s made a very good showing in front of the council. When a threat arises at the school, everyone assumes it’s directed at Sera, as a potential heir to the throne. This dynamic combined with politics directed at Kingfountain’s prince, and the old letters Sera gave to Will, creates a set of circumstances where the hopeful princess must make a series of choices. Being naive she doesn’t always choose well, but she is honest. Through her quest for the crown she discovers her desire to rules stems from being able to help the people rather than to engrandize herself.

Cettie has always been humble, and is in awe over learning the Mysteries. She also discovers that many others support her, like teachers, her “adoptive” parents and other friends. Even with their support and her newfound knowledge it is up to her to face her fears. She is the only one who can dismiss them. Cettie worries for the future, but is ready to accept challenges. One of the problems being set up for another book, is her love life. She is sought after by one and loves another. And it’s more complicated than that, but I don’t want to spoil too much. She is of such high moral character I wonder how everything will work out. From past experience I know Wheeler doesn’t feel like he has to give us the answer we want.

I highly recommend this book along with all of the others written by Jeff Wheeler.

4 out of 5 stars

4 star

  • Michelle

 

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Carrick House – A Novelette in Shelley Adina’s Steampunk World

Carrick House

Magnificent Devices

By Shelley Adina

Spoiler Alert!

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Summary

Who said life is but a dream after the wedding?

Married eight months, Lady Claire Trevelyan and Dr. Andrew Malvern are blissfully working together on a new invention, and providing a home for a collection of street sparrows. Then Claire’s mother, the redoubtable Lady Jermyn, arrives with her family in tow and expects to stay indefinitely … Peony Churchill turns up on the doorstep with valise in hand … and raffish cousin Claude comes for a visit …

While separately any of these would be most welcome, together they are overwhelming. Claire and Andrew flee to Athena for a bit of breathing room. But the last thing they expect is to have their airship hijacked … with Claire’s little brother Nicholas still aboard …

(Courtesy of shelleyadina.com)

Adult Point of View

Wow! What a twist on characters. If for no other reason, read Carrick House to get the inside scoop on characters – and their true colors.

Is Claire as charming as you always thought? Is Claire’s mother actually a scheming money-grabbing socialite? Is Andrew devoted to his wife or science? Has Peony and her mother been honest with their charitable actions? Has Claude just been misunderstood? Answers to these trumped up questions, and more await inside Carrick House.

I’m just playing around with the questions, and one shouldn’t take them seriously – but there really are character developments which I thought changed the entire series. I don’t want to be the one to spoil your fun, and this is why you’re getting such a short review. I will add, there are chickens in this novel too, as another bonus. And there might be some gamboling. And even life changing news! Is that enough hints?

I’ve loved the steampunk work that Adina has created and pretty much love playing around in her world. I think her writing should captivate readers of historical romance, steampunk and regency novels. If you haven’t given it a try start with The Lady of Devices and then you can have as much fun as I’ve had in this one, number fourteen.

4 out of 5 stars

4 star

  • Michelle

 

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Interview with Jean Knight Pace and Jacob Kennedy, authors of Grey Stone and Grey Lore

Interview with Jean Knight Pace and Jacob Kennedy

Jean Knight Pace and Jacob Kennedy are co-authors of Grey Stone and Grey Lore. They are continuing to work together on an upcoming series.

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In Grey Stone the reader discovers the land of the great red sun where dogs sing, wolves kill, humans serve, and wolf-shifters rule with magic and menace.

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In a different time, Grey Lore brings the reader on a journey where rogue wolves begin to stalk the edges of town and a serial killer with a penchant for silver bullets draws closer; the city of Napper seems to wake up.

Michelle:

Hello Jean and Jacob,
I’ve never had the chance to interview a dual authorship before. I loved having the opportunity to read Grey Stone and am anticipating reading Grey Lore. (It’s part of my back-to-school purchases!) I couldn’t wait to hear your thoughts on the first book.

How did the two of you decide to work on a book together? And what were the challenges or advantages in your decision?

Jean:

We were friends from church and Jake had an idea for a book. He knew I was a writer and he approached me about it. I LOVED the idea, we started talking about different ideas and backstory, and Grey Stone was born. There were lots of advantages. One of the things I felt the most beneficial is that we were able to produce a book that works for boys and girls. Jake would jump in when it got too dialogue-y, and I kept it from being a series of constant battles. 🙂 So there was some gender balancing there. Also, each of us was able to find different holes or weaknesses, and that was helpful. One advantage/disadvantage is that we don’t always agree on how something should play out. The ruth is that I think in the end this is more of a strength. We might argue some points, but it makes us think harder and dig deeper about things that are potentially problematic. As far as disadvantages, when you share authorship, you have to split the cash. But since we’re making oodles of Money, this hasn’t been an issue. Just kidding – well, it hasn’t been an issue, but we’re not quite making oodles just yet.

Jacob:

One day when I woke up, my wife surprised me with an odd statement. She said, “Last night I dreamed Mr. Witten (my daughter Ella’s grade school teacher) is a werewolf.” That was the beginning of the series. That’s the short version of a long story.

I’m a physician, and obviously my career has not been focused on writing, but I have always enjoyed it. I routinely treat urinary tract infections, sepsis, and things like hip dislocations. Like most ER doctors I enjoy saving lives, and I perform life-saving and diagnostic procedures like endotracheal intubation, performing laceration repairs, and lumbar punctures. However, these things don’t allow much of a creative outlet, and so I have written a lot over the years. Having a partner like Jean allows me to work out story lines, plots and develop characters without devoting the extensive time required to publish a book, as she is very good at making the story into a finished and polished project.

The disadvantage of having a co-author is that someone has to have the last word on the finished project, and I have given that to Jean. There are times that we disagree where the story lands, and it’s different than I would have had it. However, like any good collaboration, it ends up fantastic in the end anyway.

Jean:

Haha. That’s true. Jake does give me the final word. And someone does have to have it. Which can be tricky in a co-authorship, but without it I’m not sure how co-authors would succeed. I try to be flexible and I think we mostly end up agreeing, but there are a few points that Jake has just conceded. And thank goodness he’s been cool about that (thanks, Jake).

Michelle:

I love how you’re honest with the challenges. It would be unrealistic to think that everything is always a proverbially bed of roses.

Did each of you focus on different aspects of the book to tap into your person strengths?

Jean: 

Actually, no. For Grey Stone, we would get together about once a week and hash out ideas for upcoming chapters. I would go home and write those chapters, then send them to Jake. He would give a thumbs up or say that he thought something was missing in a certain section, or that he realized we hadn’t made the most of a  plot opportunity. Then we’d re-write and re-work.

Jacob:

I tried to make sure the story had enough action, and plot twists. I like epic stories with strong themes, and characters who learn their strengths through experience, and difficulty. I think people relate to this, because we are all on such a journey to find strength through the challenges we face. I contributed to Grey Stone in our weekly meetings, and occasionally wrote out a full scene for Jean to work out. For example, there is a scene where Wittendon goes into a cave, and faces phantoms. I wrote that portion and then Jean put it in the story.

Michelle:

I can see how that streamlined the process of working together for the final product.

I’ve always said it’s a combination of characters, story and setting that sets a book apart. What are your key elements when creating a novel? Do you have a method for combining these elements?

Jean:

I love character and story. I’m not sure we have what anyone would call a method (do we, Jake?). Often in discussing the upcoming sections, things just seemed to spring up and take form. We’ve worked (and are working) on several books together, and I feel like Grey Stone was the one where this happened the easiest. One of us would propose something (be it a character or a scene) and the other would build upon it and it would kind of bloom. Then we would edit the heck out of it for four million years, but a lot of the characters and story lines we came up with in those original discussions remained true to our original concept of them, even though they got polished and changed somewhat.

Jacob:

I like a smart story that resonates with me. I enjoy reading and writing clever dialogue that helps the reader appreciate the character, and imparts real wisdom. These are some of the key elements that matter the most to me. Putting these elements in a setting that is unique makes a great book, as it helps the reader consider a world they have never conceptualized before. I think Grey Stone accomplished this.

Michelle:

In Grey Stone, I felt like Whittendon was one of the most complex characters in the book. Without spilling too big of secrets, how did his character change and were you surprised by his choices?

Jean:

It’s good this isn’t a live interview because I really had to think about this one. Wittendon is definitely a crowd favorite (from the very first draft, our boys loved him). I think we always knew that he would morph into something amazing. I’m not sure I realized how sincere and deep he would become (or how charming he would be to the girl crowd – I’ve heard several swoon over him). The scene at the end with Sarak kind of surprised me when we came into it. And it’s still one of my favorite scenes in the book.

Jacob:

I like Wittendon because he is the underdog in this story. He has many challenges, but in the end (without giving away too much) he finds inner strength, and offers himself for a greater good. I wasn’t as surprised by his choices as I was by the choice of the race of dogs. They offered mankind so much, as they do today.

Michelle:

The race of dogs were very interesting and their priorities were different than I might have expected. This is one of those details that makes Grey Stone unique.

Another interesting character is Pietre.  Frequently children are portrayed as being precocious, but he retains his naive, child-like qualities while becoming heroic. How did you make the decisions for his character? Did he speak to you?

Jean:

This in an interesting questions, and something I’ve actually thought quite a bit about. So many child characters are precocious in some way or another. There were time s I worried that we’d left Pietre too normal. But for me it was a conscious decision. I wanted him to be an every day kind of character – no magical powers, no genius. But a very big heart. I wanted the choices of the characters to be more important than what their powers were. In Pietre’s case, that meant that he remained a regular boy. With some big decisions to make.

Jacob:

I found that Pietre lived a life that was full and adventurous. I liked that he serves as a role model for young people today. I ask my kids all the time, “Why don’t you go outside and play? Fight some werewolves and run with the wild dogs.” There just isn’t enough of this going on today.

Michelle:

I just read an article about how children are so focused on screen-time that they don’t play. Exciting books are a great way for our kids to learn how to fight the werewolves again.

The first line in chapter one reads,: “Pietre watched the red sun as it hunched over the horizon like a fiery bear about to relax into sleep; he quickened his steps.”

I felt the angst Pietre felt being out when the sun was nearly set – the ominous red sun dominating the horizon. how much did you agonize over the first sentence? (Was it at the top in the four million revisions?) Did you have a check list of the items you wanted covered in the first line?

Jean:

I’m so glad you like the first sentence! It was actually the very first image that came to me after the very first time Jake and I decided to create this book. Every day, the sun is a ticking clock for the humans (who must be in their villages before it sets, or the wolves will be released to hunt them). I loved that concept and the idea of a big red sun about to go down as a human boy hurries home. I didn’t have a checklist, just a feeling for the weight of that sun.

Jacob:

I know jean did, but it turned out fantastic!

Michelle:

In the Grey Stone world there’s been a battle between which sun – the red or the white – dominates and influences the species. Did you think through the mechanics and possible scenarios of how the sun would change everything that didn’t make it into the book? Each species would obviously have a different role, but what would happen to crops, the wilderness, disease and city planning?

Jean:

Haha. I did not consider all those things actually (should I confess this?).  I did consider how it would change the characters and their relationships with one another and their posterity, as well as a few basics about the world. In Grey Lore you will read more about that. Be warned that Grey Lore is a companion book, not exactly a sequel. So the books are connected to one another, but they are quite different and set in completely different time periods.

Jacob:

I definitely imagined the world from the eyes of the four races, and what the changes meant for them as individuals and different but dependent species. The changes were cataclysmic, but in the end brought about the world we know today. While change brings challenges, it also brings great opportunities as you will se in Grey Lore.

Michelle:

Even though you worked on this project together, there is so much to be written (and doctoring to do), I can imagine you both have your fingers in multiple book projects. What are your newest projects and is anything scheduled for a  publish date?

Jean:

Jake and I are working on another series that we’re incredibly excited about. We’re calling it The Determiner series. It’s a story set in the White House. It’s near completion, and we’ll start shopping it around this year. Wish us luck! Here’s a bit about it:

When Henry uncovers an assassination plot against his father, the president, he knows he has to stop it. But as secrets held in the White House grounds begin to surface, Henry starts to wonder if it’s really the president at stake; or something even more powerful.

On a completely different end of the writerly spectrum, I also have a short collection of essays about my mother and cancer. It’s about some of the bright spots in that dark time. It’s titled Hugging Death: Essays on Motherhood and Saying Goodbye.

And on another completely different end of the spectrum, I’ve been helping a friend write her memoir about her life with drugs – using, selling, and eventually recovering. It’s a sad, then beautiful story that I hope helps a lot of people. With luck it will be published at the end of this year or the beginning of next. It’s named Four Seconds by Laura Andrade.

Jacob: 

I’m working on the Determiner series, and have been working on a few other projects that are still taking form.

Michelle:

I’m glad to hear that you’re both busy on lots of projects. I can hardly wait to read more.

What is the best advice you received as a writer, and what would you say to encourage other writers?

Jean:

The best advice I received as a writer was to write when my children nap (I know; you’re supposed to nap when they nap, but I didn’t; I wrote). Don’t do the dishes. Don’t balance the budget. Don’t watch TV. Just give yourself a piece of time every day to write. I’ve been surprised at the amount of writing I get done in a sometimes brief but consecrated time every day. And that is the advice  I would give all writers. Give yourself time to write regularly. It doesn’t have to be huge. But it has to be. Don’t feel guilty about it. And don’t worry if some thing that are less important to you fall by the way (hello, last week’s laundry).

Jacob:

The advice I would give is to read stories, and write every day. I also listen to books, and so I am excited that Grey Stone will be on audio soon so people like me can listen as well.

Michelle:

Thank you for all your time today! It’s been such a pleasure hearing more about writing together and the ins and outs of Grey Stone.  It’s great to know that there are more books on the horizon to tempt our kids into a different world, as well as for our own healing and joy.

Jean:

Thanks! 

Jacob:

Thank you.

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To keep up to date, you can check in on Jean Knight Pace on her website, where she posts updates and sales!

Jacob Kennedy, in addition to being a doctor, keeps his writing fans in the loop and has another post for you to check out.

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Grey Stone – Have You Considered How Your Life Would Change if Werewolves Ruled the World?

Book Review : Grey Stone

By Jean Pace Knight & Jacob Kennedy

Spoiler Alert!

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Summary

In the land of the great red sun, dogs sing, wolves kill, humans serve, and wolf-shifters rule with magic and menace. Pietre is a human boy who has spent the last thirteen years afraid of the sunset, the Blødguard, and the wolf-shifting masters who rule his world. Wittendon is a werewolf prince who has spent the last nineteen years afraid of his father, his inability to do magic, and the upcoming tournament he’s sure to lose. But when Pietre finds an orphaned pup in the woods and Wittendon is forced to arrest the boy’s father soon after, both of them begin to realize that keeping the rules might be just as terrifying as breaking them.

Now serf and master must learn to cut through their own prejudices and work together in order to turn their world before it turns on them. Grey Stone is a story of dogs who talk, wolves who kill, and a stone that-for better or worse-can change all that. (Courtesy of Amazon.com)

Adult Point of View

While at a writing conference, I met Jean Pace Knight, one of the authors, of Grey Stone. Even though we didn’t have the chance for an in-depth discussion on life, books or writing at the time – I look forward to interviewing her in the future.

I laughed when she told me that if you love dogs, this is a book you’d enjoy because I don’t love dogs (though rest assured, I do like dogs so long as someone else takes care of them), but I decided to read it because I haven’t read a werewolf book in a long time.

Another hint from the author explained that the hierarchy in this world:
1- The werewolves, call the Verander, are the top dog (terrible pun intended). They are NOT benevolent rulers.
2- Next in the hierarchy are the wolves. They work as the henchmen for the werewolves.
3- Wild dogs are next. They live in their packs and value their freedom.
4- And finally, the humans landed at the bottom of the heap. They are no better than slaves and live in squalor just barely surviving. Half of their crops goes to support the Verander. Their lives are without value in society.

All four species speak, which is important to know.

The Verander (wolf-shifters/werewolves) have a king, who is the embodiment of a dog eat dog world. He would definitely betray anyone to retain his power. The Verander have the ability to shape-shift between their powerful werewolf form, less powerful wolf form and finally into their weak human form. They are the only carriers of magic.

Sometimes I had to double check if it was a wolf speaking, or a Verander in wolf form, however, pretty much if a wolf is speaking it really is a wolf. Whew! The wolves might be bad, but they’re not as ruthless as the king. Even so, I don’t want to converse with either.

The wild dogs and humans are easy to keep separate. The dogs have a very playful nature in their games and speech. The poor humans mostly dwell on survival and there are really only three humans to keep track of – Pietre and his parents.

I was a little overwhelmed in the first twenty pages of the novel because they were many new terms and ideas to wrap my head around. I considered re-reading it, but felt like with the tips from the author I had a good enough grasp to continue. I’m glad I moved forward because everything became much clearer as I became accustomed to the new world. In addition to a lot of creative ideas, the characters were interesting and believable. I felt like each approached their problems in a logical way stemming from their background.

Pietre: He is a compassionate child, who rescues a dog. His family supports him in this even though they understand the deeper ramifications of doing so. I enjoyed Pietre because he isn’t too wise for his years. He truly feels like a little boy, one who has a special relationship with his dog.

Pietre’s mother speaks these words of wisdom to him before she embraces both him and Humphrey. I imagine they both draw comfort from her words.

“No matter what the color the sun might come to, I’ve never known life to be anything other than terrible and wonderful wound together in different ways.” (p. 94)

Pietre has an awakening to the potential power of humans. As part of the downtrodden race he had never questioned his position in the world.

“It was illegal for the humans to own or form weapons when not under the supervision of a Veranderen master. Pietre knew that, but until now, he hadn’t thought that the very tools for form devices and weaponry might be used as weapons themselves.” (p. 126)

Humphrey: Pietre and Humphrey develop a bond with each other quickly. Initially the dog, Humphrey, is also young as a pup, but he quickly grows into a mature dog in his thinking and actions. I thought it was interesting how Humphrey had so much angst over his father and defining himself. This added a level of complexity to his character.

Humphrey shows the advantage of being a dog, the inherit freedom.

“Humphrey did not hesitate. Pietre could feel him running – his feet pounding the ground with a freedom that seemed to surge through him – a freedom at being neither dog nor wolf, a freedom at being bound by non of their laws or restrictions.” (p. 144)

Wittendon: He is the heir to the Wolken kingdom, which had been conquered and subdued by his ruthless father. His mother passed away when he was a young child and he has a younger brother – who is more like the son the kings wants.

I felt like he was one of the most complex characters. Not only is he trying to please a tyrant father, but he is dealing with the loss of his mother, the lack of magic and figuring out his love life. The layers are slowly revealed and Wittendon’s true power is found as he discovers his past and understands the world around him. He is often walking between the accepted lines of society, which causes him to better understand the other races. As the future ruler, he has been trained to understand politics, even if he feels ill-suited for the role.

Wittendon isn’t valued by his father, he is different than the others of his race. He is more likely despised, but he exudes strength they aren’t aware of until much later.

“For most Veranderen, practicing on the hill was exhausting. Wittendon, on the other hand, found it exhilarating. The grass and sky and fresh air, even if it was filled with cracks of thunder – it worked on his nerves to make him feel stronger than he ever felt in the stone-walled pavilion below.”  (p. 55)

The prince sits on an edge of decision, and must make a choice – a choice that determines more than the kind of leader he will be, more than he knew was possible. The crux of his decision comes in a moment speaking to Sadora, the woman he loves.

“Whittendon realized suddenly that he had made very few choices in his short life and none of any importance.” (p. 156)

Whittendon stands in contrast to his father.

“If not loved, King Crespin was respected. If not honored, he was feared. And each Verander depended on the king’s strength, his cunning, and his talent in government. He was a masterful politician, a perfect swordsman, and a magician like none had ever seen.” (p.24)

I’ve tried to be careful and not include any big spoilers. There are big pieces of the puzzle that I haven’t included, and some of them are game changers. I had never considered my life if werewolves ruled, but after Grey Stone I’m convinced I wouldn’t want them as my government leaders.

I recommend this book, it would be considered a clean fantasy and you’ll never look at your dog the same.

4 out of 4 stars

4 star

  • Michelle

I would love to hear your thoughts on Grey Stone, did you find it convincing? Were you surprised with the twists?

If you liked Grey Stone I would recommend trying:

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman – she has a new take on dragons in this book.

A Cast of Stones by Patrick W. Carr – he has a new way for prophecy to be revealed.

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The Great Passage – How Can A Dictionary Change Your Life?

Book Review : The Great Passage

By Shion Miura
Translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter

Spoiler Alert!

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Summary

A charmingly warm and hopeful story of love, friendship, and the power of human connection. Award-winning Japanese author Shion Miura’s novel is a reminder that a life dedicated to passion is a life well lived.

Inspired as a boy by the multiple meanings to be found for a single word in the dictionary, Kohei Araki is devoted to the notion that a dictionary is a boat to carry us across the sea of words. But after thirty-seven years creating them at Gembu Books, it’s time for him to retire and find his replacement.

He discovers a kindred spirit in Mitsuya Majime—a young, disheveled square peg with a penchant for collecting antiquarian books and a background in linguistics—whom he swipes from his company’s sales department.

Led by his new mentor and joined by an energetic, if reluctant, new recruit and an elder linguistics scholar, Majime is tasked with a career-defining accomplishment: completing The Great Passage, a comprehensive 2,900-page tome of the Japanese language. On his journey, Majime discovers friendship, romance, and an incredible dedication to his work, inspired by the bond that connects us all: words.
(Courtesy of goodreads.com)

Adult Point of View

I picked up The Great Passage as part of my summer reading to try more foreign authors. It’s been interesting to read from perspectives other than the American point of view. For some reason, I did not expect to find this book from Japan to be humorous. Too often humor doesn’t seem to translate across cultures. However, I was proven wrong and was laughing so hard at different moments through this book – for that reason alone I would recommend it.

This is one of those silly moments where Majime is reading the instructions for making noodles:

“Five hundred liters of water will reach the boiling point.” “You should break noodles after throwing them in.””Enjoy eggs, green onion, ham, and so forth.” Five hundred liters of water seemed altogether too much, but Majime liked the earnest tone of the instructions, and lately he’d been eating a lot of Nupporo Number One.” (Page 24)

Here is another funny moment that tickled me:

“Of course he’d never been a junior high school girl, so this was pure supposition.” (Page 63)

The overarching theme of The Great Passage would be passion. What is our passion? How does our passion change us? What is life without passion?

“Reading the dictionary could awaken you to new meanings of commonly used words, meanings of surprising breadth and depth.” (Page 2)

“A dictionary is a ship that crosses the sea of words,” said Araki, with a sense that he was laying bare his innermost soul. “People travel on it and gather the small points of light floating on the dark surface of the waves. They do this in order to tell someone their thoughts accurately, using the best possible words. Without dictionaries, all any of us could do is linger before the vastness of the deep.” (page 20)

Several people discover passion while working on creating the new Japanese dictionary. Majime connects with others through the power of words which drives his quest in finishing the new dictionary. His wife loves him because of his passion for the dictionary, while he also respects her for her passion in becoming a chef.

Human being had created words to communicate with the dead, and with those yet unborn. (page 200)

They had made a ship. A ship bearing the souls of people traveling from ancient times toward the future, across the ocean rich with words. (page 200)

The salesman, Nishioka, who didn’t seem to fit in the dictionary department, discovered it had changed him and even when he was sent to a different department, he retained the desire to help the dictionary in anyway possible. He left a “guide” for the next person, had exerted pressure – some would say blackmailed – contributors and marketed the project when it was ready from his new department. I didn’t like Nishioka at first because he seemed so shallow, so it was interesting to see how he changed, but retained his core personality.

“No woman had ever praised Nishioka for his sincerity. He lied when the occasion called for it, and he was tender, or not, depending on his mood. Wasn’t that being truly sincere,” (page 74)

The newest member of the team, Midori Kishibe, who arrives after Majime has worked on the dictionary for over 12 years, doesn’t believe she is the right person to help. Over time, she too discovers a passion for the work. Perhaps one of the lessons learned is that when working with passionate people we discover more about ourselves and want to emulate them in discovering our own passion to live.

I loved The Great Passage for it’s quirky nature, delving into multiple meanings of words, the intense descriptions of working on a dictionary with such dedicated passion, the people who find their life’s purpose and the funny moments that made me laugh. It was like I had stepped into a different world. I recommend this book because it is intelligent and thoughtful.

There are discussions about how to include definitions of love, and how to be politically correct with gays, there are a couple of love scenes, but not graphic and a little cursing.

5 out of 5 stars

5 star

-Michelle

If you want more fun and quirky books to read try:

The Hawkman, A Fairy Tale of the Great War By Jane Rosenberg LaForge

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie By Alan Bradley

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate By Jacqueline Kelly

Moon Over Manifest By Clare Vanderpool

The Lost Book of the Grail By Charlie Lovett

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

 

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The Oddling Prince – What Happens When the Fey Fall In Love?

Book Review : The Oddling Prince

By Nancy Springer

Spoiler Alert!

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Summary

In the ancient moors of Scotland, the king of Calidon lies on his deathbed, cursed by a ring that cannot be removed from his finger. When a mysterious fey stranger appears to save the king, he also carries a secret that could tear the royal family apart.

The kingdom’s only hope will lie with two young men raised worlds apart. Aric is the beloved heir to the throne of Calidon; Albaric is clearly of noble origin yet strangely out of place.

The Oddling Prince is a tale of brothers whose love and loyalty to each other is such that it defies impending warfare, sundering seas, fated hatred, and the very course of time itself. In her long-awaited new fantasy novel, Nancy Springer (the Books of Isle series) explores the darkness of the human heart as well as its unceasing capacity for love. (Courtesy of goodreads.com)

Adult Point of View

I received an ARC from NetGalley for my honest review, all opinions are my own.

Historically the fey are nothing but trouble for humankind. In this case, the fey started the trouble, but didn’t necessarily end it. Why do the fey always cause problems? Because they’re immortal and we’re not is the simple answer. Maybe the more complex answer is that they can’t really understand love. So, the moral is when the fey fall in love, mortal better watch out. The whole time while reading The Oddling Prince, I felt like I was hearing a dream while underwater. In other words, it’s strange, but I liked it.

It has a mystical quality from the very beginning when we realize the king is dying not because of a war, assassin or other plague, but from a ring on his hand – a ring that won’t come off and we can guess that’s because it’s from another place, the fairyland.

I love to talk about characters in books, because the most interesting setting will still cause us to yawn if we don’t have someone to read about. I guess we’re fundamentally egocentric and want to read about ourselves in a book by identifying with the characters.

The two young men are different from one another, but fully accepting of each other. Aric, the protagonist, has been raised to be the heir. He feels unprepared to carry on the role with the demise of his father imminent. When he sees a supernatural event, which brings him a young man – obviously someone more than from this world because he is too beautiful – Aric must decide if he should allow the stranger to see his ailing father. The stranger frees the king from the vice-like hold the ring has held over him, but  the king of Calidon doesn’t know who the young man is and dismisses him from his mind. Aric, on the other hand, feels profoundly grateful and seeks out this misplaced youth. He learns that Albaric and he have a strong connection, and he would be willing to die to preserve his life. What could cause such an intense reaction?

Warning!!! Big Spoiler Alert – do not read this short paragraph if you want a surprise!!! ———–I enjoyed their relationship, because they are willing to try to understand each other and express loyalty to each other as brothers. There was nothing sexual in their relationship. It is a very simple relationship, but complicated by their raging father, the king of Calidon. Both brothers are completely transparent and honest. The one is worldly and the other is naive.

Spoiler alert is finished.

The queen also recognizes the value that Albaric brings to the kingdom. Not only has he saved Calidon, the king, but he supports Aric as the heir. He proves his loyalty time and again without expecting a reward, but hopes that the king will remember him. The king of Calidon is obtuse and refuses to acknowledge Albaric and his goodness, but instead, sees him as a threat to his son. The king not only sees Albaric as a threat, but also other shadows and ghosts from the past – including his own son, Aric, as a potential enemy. The madness that shapes the king of Calidon defines this book as being different than other tales about fairies. If the father had just accepted and loved Albaric for all the good he had done the story would have been flat.

It is more of a psychological fantasy than an action fantasy. There are action scenes, arrows and swords, political maneuvering, but I think these are all overshadowed by the psychological exploration of characters between Aric, Albaric and the king of Calidon.

It’s very small complaint, but I thought the word “troth” was over used. Springer uses some beautiful language that adds to the other-wordly feel. Just too much troth for me.

Aric does mention casually that he could visit the girls in the kitchen to fulfill his desires as needed. There isn’t really much more than that in a sexual nature in the book.

I ended up liking this book and recommend it.

3.5-4 out of 5 stars

4 star

  • Michelle

 

If you would like to read more books with a surreal or fairy-like quality try:

The Hollow Kingdom byClare B. Dunkle

Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones

Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley

Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale

The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson

 

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The Hawkman, A Fairy Tale of the Great War – When Do Men Become Beasts?

Book Review : The Hawkman
A Fairy Tale of the Great War

By Jane Rosenberg LaForge

Spoiler Alert!

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Summary

A great war, a great love, and the mythology that unites them; The Hawkman: A Fairy Tale of the Great War is a lyrical adaptation of a beloved classic.

Set against the shattering events of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, at the tale’s heart are an American schoolteacher—dynamic and imaginative—and an Irish musician, homeless and hated—who have survived bloodshed, poverty, and sickness to be thrown together in an English village. Together they quietly hide from the world in a small cottage.

Too soon, reality shatters their serenity, and they must face the parochial community. Unknown to all, a legend is in the making—one that will speak of courage and resilience amidst the forces that brought the couple together even as outside forces threaten to tear them apart. (Courtesy of goodreads.com)

Adult Point of View

I received an ARC from NetGalley for my honest review, all opinions are my own. Thank you NetGalley for the opportunity to read modern literature! I would consider The Hawkman a modern classic because of the use of classic literary themes like forgiveness and redemption.

The Hawkman focuses on two characters, with only a few minor characters entering the scenes. Known as the Hawkman, the Irish musician suffering from the after-effects of the war, Mr. Michael Sheehan, and Miss Williams, the American teacher dominate the fairy tale.

Even though the novel introduces the Hawkman first, I’m going to focus on Miss Williams as my introduction. She is faced with prejudice against women, is seen as an old maid and yet, she continues to extend kindness. I felt like she had a backbone and would do the right thing under any circumstances. She seemed like a person to be admired, though she would never be famous or important by the standards frequently eschewed by the world. Even though her mother had warned her as a child to never touch a bird, she feels prompted to extend her kindness to the broken man on the street. After she chose to reach out to him, she realizes that she needs to continue because he is now dependent on her.

Through the trauma of WWI, and his reception back in polite society of Great Britain, Mr. Sheehan has been transformed from a man to a beast. His eyes are yellowed, his hands like claws and his steps mincing and uncertain like a bird. He is feared and hated by his fellow men. I had to ask myself, when do men become beasts? Is it when they are no longer seen as human? Does the transformation take place internally or from external forces. I feel like Mr. Sheehan became a beast because of the way he was treated by others. Miss Williams is the first to see him as a broken man rather than a creature to be shunned. Once he is adopted by Miss Eva Williams, she becomes his entire world and he will do whatever he must to protect her.

I enjoyed reading The Hawkman with its beautiful prose and veiled hints. If I were to make an editorial change, it would be to break up some of the scenes where the reader learns the history of both Mr. Sheehan and Miss Williams. I was so intent on what was happening in their current situation, I desperately wanted to know more and receive the background a little more slowly. With that said, I can’t remember more poignant and stunning descriptions of war. How can one write something so beautiful about something so awful? Both of their backstories are critical to understand the motivation behind each of the characters. Even minor characters, like Christopher Thorton being reticent, receive a quick fleshing out. Each person felt like they had a full life backing up their actions.

It was interesting to view this story as a fairy tale. The moment I finished the epilogue, I returned to the prologue to link the scenes together. It was within the last few chapters and the very beginning where I felt the connection to a fairy tale. It was surreal and sublime.

Here are a few quotes for your enjoyment:

“But she had not found the England she expected when she arrived. The place and its people were impenetrable in all aspects: the tart curve in their speech, the defeated fabric of their clothes, the sallow nature of their complexions.” (Loc. 202)

“His fingers were like leaves, their reach toward the sun and meaning. She saw no harm in touching him, although she knew the danger of touching birds, particularly hatchlings.” (Loc. 233)

“Their bodies could be next on that pile. He resolved, if not for himself, then for Altman, to never alter his appearance. If he lived to grow out his hair, a beard, his fingers and toes to claws, until he was ape, or bear, or anything more natural than he was.” (Loc. 813)

“He could provide each note with the isolation it deserved, before it was grafted onto the next; he could make way for the slip of an instant, so the phrase could be savored, without his crushing it. This was a compromise, between music and vacuum, and he would jeopardize neither if he could keep what his hands and body had suffered away from the instrument.” (Loc. 912)

“She was about to leap from underneath the blankets the nuns had piled atop her when she was suddenly in a larger room – the dormitory in the children’s asylum. She had been stripped of her blankets, and given an anemic substitute that did nothing to keep out the consuming winter temperatures.” (Loc. 1628)

“Sheehan jammed the letter his mother had written into his fist, and then he picked it apart, as if dressing a chicken.” (Loc 2315)

I recommend The Hawkman, and look forward to more books by LaForge.

4 star

  • Michelle

I would love to hear your thoughts on The Hawkman, did you find it convincing, surreal or obtuse?

 

If you would like to read more books with a surreal quality try:

The Gray House by Mariam Petrosyan

Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

Unwind by Neal Shusterman

Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones

Trick of the Eye by Dennis Haseley

The Girl In Between by Laekan Zea Kemp

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