0

Book Review: The Taxidermist’s Daughter

Title: The Taxidermist’s Daughter

Author: Kate Mosse

21530082

1921, Sussex. Connie lives with her father, who used to be a successful taxidermist with his own museum of stuffed animals. He had to close the museum after Connie’s accident when she was twelve years old. Connie doesn’t remember what happened at the night of the accident but since then, her father was not the same. They sold the museum and moved to Fishbourne Marshes.

Since then, her father seeks consolation in alcohol and Connie is the one who’s trying to continue the family business. However, taxidermy is no longer popular as it used to be and they’re having a hard time. Besides that, her father’s behavior is stranger every day and Connie is not sure anymore if it’s only alcohol to blame. Besides, she’s having a hard time also, getting into a strange condition where she remembers fragments of her accident which she can’t connect. Things get even worse when they find a body of a murdered woman near the house and her father goes missing.


Oh, Kate Mosse. How I used to love her books. I was obsessed with Languedoc Trilogy! She really can conjure the gothic obscure atmosphere in her books. She didn’t disappointed with this book either because she has chosen a truly perfect place for a mysterious storyline of this book – the misty marshes of England. Kate Mosse truly knows how to invoke a horror of the place, so reader can easily imagine being there.

This book was full of charming details, including the details of taxidermy. There were many descriptions of animals, particularly birds. Honestly, maybe this book would impress me even more if I would understand everything completely. But because I read this book in English, I was too lazy to check every word in a dictionary (there were too many unknown words).

The story itself was interesting. It was tense, despite the fact that I have soon found out, what’s going on and what’s behind the disappearance of men’s. Notwithstanding this, I still enjoyed reading. There are actually two stories in one plot, the one from present days and the one from the past. Which of course, connects at the end.

The characters were unremarkable. Connie is a nice young lady who takes care of her father and has found her solace in taxidermy. She was helpful and nice to everyone. But that was pretty much everything. There were many other characters – too many sometimes because I was often confused about all the names. Moreover, one of them were named after birds (ugh!).

Certainly, I expected more, especially more refined plotline. The writing style is superb and I could read Mosse’s writing every day. Descriptions of the landscape, the weather, all the details exceeded my expectations. But sometimes this just ain’t enough.

Rating: 3/5 stars

Advertisements
0

Book Review: To Kill a Mockingbird

Title: To Kill a Mockingbird

Author: Harper Lee2657

The story takes place in the 1930′ in South America when racism and oppression of black people were still highly prevalent in society. The story is told through the eyes of the youngest member of Finch family, Scout. She lives with her father Atticus, older brother Jem and their nanny Calpurnia. During the school holidays, their friend Dill joins them. All together, they’re discovering the hidden corners of the Maycomb and its residents.

Scout’s childhood seems really idyllic. But things change when her father who is a lawyer gets a new case. He’s defending Tom Robinson, a black man, who is convicted of raping a white girl. Atticus knows that Tom is innocent but he’s also aware that he can never win in court.


I had this book on my tbr for so long and I really don’t know why I haven’t read it before. This book is just amazing and I know certainly, that I will read it again.

I would say, that To Kill a Mockingbird is a children’s book, but it’s so versatile and beautifully written that it’s obvious why so many adults love it. The story is told from a perspective of a six-years-old Scout, which is a perfect choice. Scout is curious, eager for knowledge and adventurous but at the same time, she’s unconcerned about the rules which are set in a world of adults. And this perspective makes this book so special – when you read about racism, oppression and injustice through the eyes of a child, who doesn’t understand anything about those things and can only wonder how the world can be so depraved, you realize how twisted adults can be and how absurd rules we are following sometimes. And this creates something extra in a book: it shows a word through eyes of children and the world through the eyes of adults.

The counterweight to young characters (Scout, Jem, and Dill) is Atticus Finch. A single parent, lawyer and besides Scout, my favorite character in this book. His calmness, fairness, and commitment to justice were impressive. I really liked his approach to upbringing and how calm he was in any situation. Other adult characters were a reflection of that time and image of situations and contrasts between people. All the characters were interesting, even the ones I didn’t like for obvious reasons. I would have to say, that characters were presented one-sided and a reader can sense from the beginning, who are the good and who are the bad guys. But again, if I assume correctly, that this is a book, written for children, it becomes understandable.

If at first, I had a great time while reading about children descriptions of town residents, later I was losing my mind while reading about Atticus case with a clear disantanglement before it even comes to a court. Tom Robinson, who is convicted of raping and beating a white girl, was guilty in the eyes of almost everyone. A handful of people who thought opposite were too passive to stand for him. Atticus, however, took the case and accepted a challenge, although he knew how it will end. Probably I knew it too, but I still hoped (like Scout and Jem), that maybe I was wrong and people would see what a farce this trial was. I was so angry while reading about it, about blindness and denial of people and their passivity. I felt furious and helpless and if a book makes me feel this way, I know, it’s a great book.

This book and its message are timeless. To Kill a Mockingbird presents issues that we should already leave behind but unfortunately is not like that. Book is beautifully written, understandable and simple, but nevertheless with a strong message. Of course for those, who want to see it.

Rating: 5/5 stars

Is To Kill a Mockingbird mandatory reading in your school system? If so, did you read it just because you had to, or it was your decision? What are your thoughts about this book?

3

Book Review: Max

Title: Max

Author: Sarah Cohen – Scali28231016

Max is a fetus inside a blonde and blue-eyed German mother. His father is also German and influential figure in the German army. However, there was no love between them, they served to one purpose only – to conceive a child in a Nazi program “Lebensborn” (Fountains of Youth). The purpose of the program was, to conceived as many purebred Aryan children who will become the future leaders of the Third Reich.

Already as a fetus, Max is aware of this and he’s not attached to his parents at all – he thinks that Germany is his mother and Hitler his father. Since his conception, he wants to become a concept of the Aryan race and he’s successful in this – he’s a first child born in a Lebensborn program and later he’s always an example to other children.

His unconditional trust in Reich begins to crumble when he become friend with Lukas – blue-eyed and blond Polish boy, who must hide he’s a Jew. Max starts asking questions and he’s beliefs begin to crumble.


I was attached to the story from beginning because of certain real historical facts and narrator of the story. I didn’t know much about Lebensborn program and I was drawn in this book because of this subject immediately.

Another thing which fascinated me was the narrator in this book. The story is told from Max’s point of view and he’s only a fetus in his mother’s abdomen when a story begins. And… how can somebody so small and who’s barely a fetus, can be so wicked already? However, in some strange way, I actually sympathized with him and felt sorry for him despite the fact he clearly showed signs of malice and that he was obviously brain-washed even before he was born!

Max is a perfect product of Lebensborn program (even before his birth). Even when he was still in a womb he was planning to become the best and one of those who will, in the future, help Hitler with his projects and their realization. I felt sad but in the same way it was somehow funny, reading about that kind of thoughts from an unborn child. And after his birth, Max was relieved because he was true Aryan not only by heart but he also looked like one. Blonde, blue-eyed, beautiful complexion and physically fitted all the measurements that were performed in the program. And precisely because of his physical qualities and deeply sympathizing with Nazism, Max is the one, who, from an early age helps in Reich.

If I was shocked at times, reading about all malicious thoughts that Max has as a fetus, I was even more shocked later, when he was a child participating in different actions. It’s hard to read about a child who enjoys in cruelty and is proud of himself and the things he’s doing, despite the fact, that innocent people are dying because of him.

Therefore, I was actually amazed by his immediate attachment to Lukas. Max has noticed Lukas because of his appearance but I was surprised that their friendship lasted even later when Max found out who Lukas really is. Nevertheless, Max still needed a lot of time to begin doubting in his Nazi beliefs and  realizing that many things they’re doing are wrong. In a way this is logical – you can’t change your beliefs and ideas over night especially not about something that you believed in it even before you were born.

Although, I found their relationship unusual and it didn’t convince me like it should. I didn’t understand why they are so attached to each other and what dragged them together. Their friendship made me confused.

I would definitely recommend this book to readers who want to read more about the history, about a Lebensborn program but they are not interested to read nonfiction. You still can learn a lot by reading this book.

Max is a book, which is, despite its difficult topic, written in a humorous way and it can be a quick read. Certainly, the most interesting part of this book is, that it’s written from a perspective of a little Nazi fanatic which fascinated me the most.

Rating: 4/5 stars

If you read this book, please, share your thoughts with me in comments! Or, if you have any other similar book recommendations.

0

Book Review: Laika

Title: Laika

Author: Nick Abadzis

1641695

This graphic novel intertwines stories about Sergej Pavlovich Korolev, Yelena, and Laika.
Korolev was released from a Siberian gulag. While wandering around the deserted countryside, he heard a dog barking. Following a sound, he found a village and that saved his life. After a few years, he becomes a leader of the Soviet Space Program and he is the one, who chooses Laika to be the world’s first space traveler and to enter into orbit on Sputnik 2.
At first, Laika was just an abandoned puppy that wandered around through Moscow streets. Until she was put into a shelter and from there to laboratories where animals were prepared for space missions. On the same day, that Laika arrived at the laboratory, a young woman named Yelena started working there.
Yelena becomes very attached to Laika through all the preparations. And finding, that Laika was chosen for a particular mission, breaks her heart.


I must admit, I don’t know much about this particular period in history and reading about it was interesting. I’m aware that reading a graphic novel is not the most reliable material for learning a history but you have to start somewhere.
Space program itself was interestingly described – rivalry between the Soviet Union and America, competition for dominance in the space program and desire to succeed no matter what were all interestedly illustrated.
Nevertheless, I expected that Laika would have a bigger role in this graphic novel. I’m aware that everything about Laika’s life is fiction but still I think that she should be in front, not everyone else. I wanted to read about her, not about other characters. Who are, in my opinion, in the foreground.
Also, the illustrations were not appealing to me and I just couldn’t get into the story.

Otherwise, an interesting read but nevertheless I had felt that something was missing and, unfortunately, this book didn’t convince me as much as I thought it would.

 

Rating: 3/5 stars

Do you have any other graphic novel recommendations? I would really like to read more of them but I just don’t know which are worth reading.

2

Book Review: The Monk

Title: The Monk

Author: Matthew Lewis

93157

Spain, 18th Century. The charismatic monk, Abbot of the Capuchins, Ambrosio, is well known and valued among Madrid’s worshippers. The monk in his thirties is achieving undreamed success and everyone wants to listen to his sermons and meet him. But he lives a strictly ascetic life within the monastery walls. Until he succumbs to a temptation of Matilda, a beautiful girl disguise as a novice. Ambrosio can’t resist and Matilda seduces him, but soon, she’s not enough for him. Ambrosio lays eyes on beautiful, young and innocent Antonia. But her heart is already promised to handsome Lorenzo.

However, Lorenzo overlooks, what plans has a monk with his beloved one because he’s too busy with helping a friend, Raymond, who must rescue his fiance (Lorenzo’s sister) from an evil plan, created against her by nuns from the monastery where she lives.

During this, Ambrosio has time, to plot his evil plan how to win Antonia and because she resists his seduction, he resorts to black magic, where Matilda helps him.


The book shows a situation in Spain in the 18th century. People clung to the Christian values and church representatives have had a tremendous impact on society. But despite this devout piety, there was also a lot of hypocrisy – they all defended the values and Christian principles while they also violated them. And Lewis excellent demonstrate all this hypocrisies and lies.

The hypocrisy is most apparent at monk Ambrosio. In society, monk enjoys a great reputation, his status almost verges on divinity. However, he’s aware of his sinful side and once he crosses the border, he cannot stop. The first time he succumbs to temptation, he becomes the biggest sinner among all. No crime is an obstacle for him, to achieving his goals and desires. And I felt bad for him because whenever he got what he wanted, the thing was no longer interesting to him and he needed something new to long for.

Antonia, on the other hand, is the exact opposite. She’s the image of innocence and naivety and because of her beauty, she becomes the object of admiration. And Ambrosio’s admiration later grows into obsession. In general are women in the book presented as naive, not to mention a romantic side of the book. Of course, I have always tried to keep in mind the time period in which the book was written, but I still think that relations were too idealized and sappy.

At times, this book was funny, because of situations in which characters found themselves. Some situations were almost comical. On the other hand, it was also sad. Certain things didn’t develop according to my expectations and some characters had suffered a tragic fate, which I surely didn’t expect. And many situations where shocking – no worries, there were no explicit descriptions but still Lewis knew how to write about sex (rape, incest) and violence (murder) to shock a reader.

Also, for my taste, there was too strictly separation between good and evil. The characters who were considered good were shown almost like saints. Others were shown as opposite extreme. Ambrosio was the worst pervert and criminal, who is hiding behind his good name and status. Just like nuns from the monastery who imprisoned Raymond’s fiance. And it’s pretty obvious to me, why this book was called “poison of youth” and was banned – Lewis writing style is truly scandalous and provocative. And by criticizing and attacking the church representatives so openly, I can just imagine how many enemies he had.

Conscious that among those who chanted the praises of their God so sweetly, there were some who cloaked with devotion the foulest sins, their hymns inspired him with detestation at their hypocrisy.

I was also glad, that I read this book in Slovenian language, despite the fact that I own an English copy. However, I would probably never read more than one page if I would read this book in English. The language is very specific and writing style dated. Already in Slovenian language, it was strange to read some things. Otherwise, the text is beautifully written and really poetic, yet it is necessary to  consider a time in which The Monk was written. Certain terms are old and conversations of characters very lyrical.

I can say that this book is a wonderful read, especially for those who loves gothic novels with black magic, intrigues, and horror.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Did you read The Monk? What are your thoughts about this book? Do you maybe have any other suggestions for a good gothic novels?

0

Book review: The Little Stranger

Title: The Little Stranger

Author: Sarah Waters

6065182

Dr. Faraday is called to a patient at Hundreds Hall, where family Ayres lives. Ayres family owns Hundreds mansion for over a two centuries and before the war they were wealthy and powerful. And mansion Hundreds Hall is a reflection of this – magnificent and full of wealth and luxury. Or such it was before the First World War. After the war, Ayres family lost their influence and wealth, and this also reflects in Hundreds Hall.

Before the war, Hundreds Hall was also a place where doctor’s mother worked as a maid. Once she took him with her and mansion thrilled him. This is also a reason why he gladly accepts an invitation to the mansion when he’s called there due to illness. However, he’s shocked when he sees the condition of Hundreds Hall and how few residents live there – Mrs. Ayres, her son and daughter Caroline and their maid. The Hundreds Mansion is only a faint shadow of what it once was, it slowly collapses, and the family does not have the resources to maintain it.

Dr. Faraday starts visiting mansion more and more often and reasons for visiting the mansion are not just because he becomes a family doctor. He’s particular interested in unexplained and strange accidents that happen and that nobody knows how to explain it.


Too bad that the book from the beginning is very slowly read. Well, at least, I had problems with that. In the first half of the book nothing much happens. It’s mainly only description of Hundreds Hall and people who live there and, of course, Dr. Faraday. And for sure there is nothing creepy about it as it’s promised on the cover of the book: “Be prepared for a scary reading…”.

The story slowly unfolds and I was rewarded for my patience in the second half of the book. I still wouldn’t call it scary but it was quite a suspense and I couldn’t wait for the unravelling of events.

Ayres family thinks they are superior, which is often reflected in their behaviour, especially to other people. They also show this to Dr. Faraday. For me, it was interesting how they cling to the times that no longer exists, rather reconcile with the current situation and live and work in a way to improve it. There’s nothing in the world that would persuade them to get rid of the Hundreds Hill, even if it’s clear that it leads them into gradual destruction – in a physical and psychical way.

I was attracted to descriptions of the post-war era in England when great families had fallen into decay. Families who before that have great impact and later they were exposed to a new world, which they don’t understand. Some were able to adapt, others didn’t – among them was Ayres family.

I was also expecting a little more action and unexpecting mysteries. But I was left down – there is actually not much going on and also, there are just a few mentions of evil spirit or ghosts. The reader has to explain things on his own which of course is not bad, but everything is really uncleared and confusing at the end.

Rating: 3/5

Did you read this book or any other book by Sarah Waters? What do you think about it and her writing?

If you read the book, what do you think actually happened? As always you can leave comments down below!

2

Review: And the Mountains Echoed

Title: And the Mountains Echoed

Author: Khaled Hosseini

16115612

I wanted to read this book since it came out. But I was never lucky enough to get it in my Library and I was more than happy when I could borrow it. And I hoped that Hosseini won’t let me down.

It’s really hard to write what this story is actually about because there are so many narratives and their stories are creating integrity of one story. Each of those characters is having an important role in this book and all of them are somehow connected. But the main theme is a story of a brother and sister, Abdullah and Pari. They live in a small Afghanistan village, where life is incredibly hard and each day is a struggle for survival. And those hard conditions are also a reason why brother and sister have to separate. In this separation are involved several various people and their stories are creating a bigger story of this book.
Their stories are different because they belong to different social classes. There are narratives who are extremely poor and some who have all the power and wealth. The story also doesn’t take place in the same time period, but skips between different periods varying from 1949 to 2010.


Hosseini knows how to write a beautiful book that will surely break reader’s heart. Language is beautiful and his descriptions of scenes, events, as well as people and their tragic fates, are breathtaking.
The first thing which really attached me in this book was a multitude of different narrators and their stories. Descriptions of a hard life, embedded in a completely different culture and reflections of different individuals. How at times people can be completely devoted to fate and accepting (current) situations. But mainly the tragic separation of Abdullah and Pari. Pari, who was, as a little girl, sold to wealthy family, where she should had better life and conditions to live in. And on the outside she really had everything. At first when she lived in wealth and later when she avoided war when her “mother” took her to Paris. Yet, at the end her life was no better than Abdullah’s, who stayed in Afganistan and later fled from the war. Each of them has had a hard life.
At first, I had some problems with jumping between different time periods and life stories of different narrators but this also makes this book more interesting and genuine. It seemed interesting to me how Afganistan changed through time, from the time when it was on it’s highest point and later when it was destroyed by war. And how people were looking on this when they found themselves under certain conditions. And how did the poor and wealthy people comprehended the time before and after the war.
Certainly, Hosseini is master of relationships between people. I can’t name any other author who would be able to outline relationships within families and between people in this way like Hosseini does. Love, hate, disappointment, hope, all this emotions, and feelings are beautifully poured into a story. And his characters become so alive and real.
Despite everything, I would just add that this is my least favorite Hosseini book so far. I liked The Kite Runner or A Thousand Splendid Suns more but, of course, that doesn’t mean that I didn’t absolutely loved this one also and I can’t wait for next one to be published.

Rating: 4/5