Review: The Child Who

This book was chosen for the Opinionless Online Book Club’s March read. We also have the incredible opportunity to speak personally with Simon Lelic on a Sunday afternoon coming up the last weekend of March. You still have time to read and join! The Child Who is a quick read, and yes, it is a page burner. I do have to say I did find myself wanting to keep reading it, that sleep could wait just a tiny bit longer…

We tried to pitch it for our Wink 3 Book Club choice for March as well, but as soon as they found out it was about a child that killed another child, they wouldn’t touch it. Not a topic they wanted to read about.  However, The Child Who doesn’t really dish out any gory details and the fact that young Daniel killed a younger Felicity is really background material and not the center of this story.

So, perhaps I`ve seen too many Cold Case, Missing, or Law & Order episodes, and I`ve read many thriller, suspense, murder mystery novels, but I kind of had this one figured out from the beginning. Okay, maybe not the very last part, but kind of, sort of. But I`m not saying I didn`t enjoy this, no, not at all, because as I mentioned above, I did find myself always wanting to go back to it, to see what would happen next.

Jackie explains the story of The Child Who wonderfully in her review here. So I don`t need to go in to any explanations as to the why, who and where here. All I will say is that I struggled quite a bit with Leo. I tossed and turned my opinion of him around a number of times. I thought him stupid and foolish for some part of it- of course this case is too close to you and is destroying your family – so drop it and focus on your family and your daughter who is suffering at school, at home, with friends because of the sheer intensity and coverage this case is bringing to your home life.

Ellie was lost. Daniel was too. In failing one, Leo had sacrificed them both.

Then I would flip because I realized that Leo was the only one to care about Daniel, not the murderer Daniel, but the small, young frightened 12-year-old boy. And the reasons leading up to why Daniel did what he did.

He had been failed and failed again. That he had killed had been not just the crime but his parents`, his schoolteachers`, his social workers`, his peers`.

Personally, my opinion on this subject is that if you really want to read a fascinating story that explores and delves in to the background and environment leading up to reasons why a young kid would murder another, you should read Elizabeth George`s book What Came Before He Shot Her. I felt this was an incredible examination of how behaviour, environment and circumstances lead up to a child committing murder.

Although I didn`t anticipate fully the ending, I was very pleased with it. I liked that it was how it came to a close. But overall, the story itself was somewhat familiar and that is why I have given it the 3.5 star rating.

Read in 2011 – Another Hoarder’s Year End List

As we have been saying time and time again here on Literary Hoarders, 2011 was a banner year for books! Looking back at my “read” pile as a whole was fun– was it really only a year ago that i read Skippy Dies? Has the headache i got from all of the eye rolling while reading James Frey’s The Last Testament of the Holy Bible ever REALLY gone away? Did i really only give Glass Boys 3 stars??? hmmmmm Reflection time!

My “Read in 2011” Book Shelf:

Best of 2011: The Dovekeepers – Haunting story; most beautifully written. This is one that will stay with me for a very long time!

Most Anticipated of 2011: Dreams of Joy – The sequel to Shanghai Girls. It was great to have Pearl, May and Joy back in my life for a brief moment of time!!!

Series Read in 2011: Last year was The Millennium Series this year it was Hunger Games (you have to have SOMETHING to talk to your 13 year old about- right?). i thought that it was a pretty decent read– i can see the allure it holds for the YA audience and not a VAMPIRE in site!

Best Cover/Packaging: Gotta go with either Incantation or The Night Circus— they both scream– YOU HAVE TO READ ME! I AM SO BEAUTIFUL!

Best Book Club Book: I have to say Glass Boys. Having Nicole Lundrigan (the author) participate in the conversation was certainly a treat– hearing how she went about developing the characters and her surprise at some of our interpretations made the meeting most memorable! Apart from that, this is definitely one story that is not easily forgotten and it gets to you more and more over time. The characters were frustrating and sometimes disturbing but they were also haunting. I really do think i need to change my rating for Glass Boys to 4 stars!

Best Audiobook: Why We Suck – maybe it was more like listening to his stand up, because it was read by Denis Leary himself, but this had me in absolute stitches!!

The Stand Outs:

  • The Prince of Tides – an oldy but a goody! Ignore any remote association with the movie starring Babs– this book is EXCELLENT!
  • Skippy Dies – everyone who reads it LOVES it
  • The Homecoming of Samuel Lake – oh Ras Ballenger, Satan’s stepchild, you still haunt me!
  • The Art of Racing in the Rain – if you are an animal lover, prepare to BAWL!!! You will fall in love with Enzo the dog!
  • The History of Love – truly a surprising delight!

The Disappointments:

  • The Last Testament of the Holy Bible – Oh James Frey– you tried sooooooo hard to get another buzz book! yawn! ick! no!
  • The Night Circus – Marketing Machine gone wrong!
  • A Visit From the Good Squad and The Sentimentalists – Award winning books that made me go – WHAT? REALLY?
  • When God Was a Rabbit – Too much going on in there!

Looking forward to LOTS of reading in 2012!!!

4 Reviews: Finishing Up the Year!

OK! I’ve been so busy reading there has been no time for reviewing!! So, Here are my final 4 reviews for 2011!

The Sense of an Ending – Julian Barnes 

4 stars! A quick read that sucks you in from the start. It is a story about history– the history one thinks they remember vs the history of what actually happened. Tony is middle aged, happily divorced, gets along fine with his only daughter (really!!) and has recently inherited an artifact from his past. This prompts him to remember back to his school days, his 3 old chums and an ex-girlfriend. I thought fondly of Skippy Dies as he recounted his time in an English boarding school and could not stop reading until i discovered the secret brilliantly revealed at the end. After being disappointed at some of the recent award winning books (thinking Good Squad, Best Laid Plans and Sentimentalists) this one is FINALLY a book that was deserving (Man Booker Prize Winner 2011).

Incantation – Alice Hoffman

4 stars! A BIG thank you to fellow Hoarder Liz for shipping this one out to Windsor to re-establish my Alice Hoffman love!!! I soooo loved The Dovekeepers and was soooo let down by The Ice Queen that i had a question mark over my head about this author. Liz had to set me straight! her review said it all and i 100% agree! Click HERE to read. In addition this is one that MUST be read in hard cover only because it is BEAUTIFUL!!!

The Birth of Venus – Sarah Dunant

3 stars. This one, I listened to and I think i would have liked the main character, 15 year-old Alessandra, better had the narrator not read in such a harsh and bitchy tone. The story begins after an old nun dies. As her fellow sisters are preparing the body for burial they discover quite the sight– she has a giant snake tattoo running from her shoulder all the way down the length of her body. The explanation of the sight is the story of Sister Lucrucia– formally Alessandra Cecchi, a rich cloth merchant’s daughter from Florence, Italy during the Renaissance time period. The history part was very interesting for me as i have studied this period from an art point of view but hardly knew anything about the politics. It was a time where the famous Medici family had briefly lost their power to a fanatically religious monk called Savonarola. He did not approve of the luxurious way of life that families, such as Alessandra’s, were living and forced the people to burn their luxury items, including books and some irreplaceable Renaissance Art (The Bonfire of the Vanities). Alessandra had a passion for art and the family’s painter that would eventually get her into some trouble. She was forced to marry an older man in order to save her character but he was not all that he appeared to be! The mystery ended up being a good one so i won’t spoil it and will say no more of the story. One thing that this book did do (that makes some not like historical fiction very much) is place the main characters in the path of every famous real person of that time period. Whereas i don’t usually mind that so much, in this one when I found out who Alessandra’s painter/lover was I actually had to shout “OH PLEASE!!” to no one as I was driving in my car listening!

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake – Aimee Binder

2 stars. On her 9th birthday Rose discovers that she can taste other peoples’ emotions in the food that they prepare. The chocolate-lemon cake her mother serves her for her birthday is so full of longing and sadness that she almost gets sick. Sounds intriguing, right? Well, nothing happens but wining and weirdness after that! She pisses and moans for like 15 years as she “tastes” her mother’s affair (ew), pines for her brother’s best friend (no chance), wonders where her brother routinely disappears to when he is depressed (he can turn into furniture– ya really!) and tries to become closer to her father (who has some kind of “hospital power” that he is either too scared or too selfish to explore). In the end, after surviving on processed, factory, junk food (so that she doesn’t have to taste the feelings), she begins to work at a French restaurant where the owners/chefs are emotionally balanced enough that she allows them to to teach her to cook. She begins to be able to to eat food that she has prepared and therefore, presumably, is on her way to getting in touch with her own emotions. I say weird for the sake of being weird!

Review: Caleb’s Crossing

If you want to become smitten with the brilliant Geraldine Brooks, Caleb’s Crossing is the perfect book to choose.  Inspired by a true story, Caleb’s Crossing follows the life of Caleb Cheeshahteaumauk, a Wopanaak Native who “crosses” to Christianity, and “crosses” to the life of an English scholar in the mid 1600’s.  The story is actually narrated by Bethia Mayfield (a fictional character), an incredibly bright, hardworking and honorable girl, who desperately wishes for the levels of education that are only afforded to the opposite sex.  She therefore lives vicariously through her father’s ministry, her brother’s education, and her dear friend Caleb’s crossings.  Her mastery of Caleb’s native tongue, of Latin, philosophy, and of the classics is simply from what she is able to overhear.

“How I could have astonished him, and my brother too, even then, had I opened my mouth and ventured to say, in Wompaontoaonk, that I had troubled to know them; that I knew them, in some particulars, better than father, who was their missionary and their minister.  But as I have sat down here, I had learned early the value of silence, and I did not lightly give away the state of myself.  So I got up from the fire then, and made myself busy, wetting yeast and flour for a sponge to use in the next day’s bread.”

You quickly become attached to Bethia, as she pines for the life of an academic, only to be offered the more common stations of “the fairer sex.”  She narrates the story with affection and longing, as she follows her brother and Caleb from their home island to grammar school, and eventually to what is now known as Harvard.   To help pay for her brother’s education, she works as a servant at the college, and manages to find new depths of knowledge, true love, and advanced levels of faith.  As she grows into a remarkable young woman, Caleb becomes the first Native American graduate of Harvard College.   His crossing has a price, however, and it’s for the reader to decide whether it was worth it.

From the early colonial history of Martha’s Vineyard, to the ministry that was devoted to turning Native Americans to Christian worshippers, Geraldine’s account is full of remarkable detail.  It’s impossible to summarize her story in one review!  More than once, I was struck by her prose, which more often than not read like poetry rather than a novel.  You’ll love her characters, and will be swept away as you read how they cherish learning, friendship, faith, and nature.  I’m sorry the story had to come to an end.

4 enthusiastic stars!