Life After Life
By: Kate Atkinson
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase
What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right?
During a snowstorm in England in 1910, a baby is born and dies before she can take her first breath.
During a snowstorm in England in 1910, the same baby is born and lives to tell the tale.
What if there were second chances? And third chances? In fact an infinite number of chances to live your life? Would you eventually be able to save the world from its own inevitable destiny? And would you even want to?
Life After Life follows Ursula Todd as she lives through the turbulent events of the last century again and again. With wit and compassion, she finds warmth even in life’s bleakest moments, and shows an extraordinary ability to evoke the past.
Oh my goodness, you guys, I finally got around to reading this book! As some of you may know–either from various discussion posts or from seasonal TTT TBR lists–I had been meaning to read this. I picked up the paperback some two years ago, having been wanting to read this book since I first heard of it. The premise sounded really cool, like the movie Sliding Doors or, a book I read more recently, Cynthia Swanson’s The Bookseller (sort of, anyway; review). After sitting on my TBR pile for as long as it has, I finally picked it up to read 🙂
By: André Alexis
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase
— I wonder, said Hermes, what it would be like if animals had human intelligence.
— I’ll wager a year’s servitude, answered Apollo, that animals – any animal you like – would be even more unhappy than humans are, if they were given human intelligence.
And so it begins: a bet between the gods Hermes and Apollo leads them to grant human consciousness and language to a group of dogs overnighting at a Toronto veterinary clinic. Suddenly capable of more complex thought, the pack is torn between those who resist the new ways of thinking, preferring the old ‘dog’ ways, and those who embrace the change. The gods watch from above as the dogs venture into their newly unfamiliar world, as they become divided among themselves, as each struggles with new thoughts and feelings. Wily Benjy moves from home to home, Prince becomes a poet, and Majnoun forges a relationship with a kind couple that stops even the Fates in their tracks.
I first heard of this book when it was shortlisted for the Giller Prize 2015 and then again when it won. The premise of the novel sounded interesting so I kept on the lookout for it, snatching it up immediately shortly after it won the prize before they ran out of stock or anything (in short, prevent a repeat of what happened with Sean Michaels’ Us Conductors (review)).
And here we are, first batch of mini book reviews for 2016! Sort of…granted, the reviews featured below were from titles I’ve read in 2015, but no matter, it was an interesting assortment of titles I read towards the end of last year 😛 Included in this batch of reviews are:
So without further ado…
The Last Witness
By: K.J. Parker
Format/Source: eBook; my purchase
When you need a memory to be wiped, call me.
Transferring unwanted memories to my own mind is the only form of magic I’ve ever mastered. But now, I’m holding so many memories I’m not always sure which ones are actually mine, any more.
Some of them are sensitive; all of them are private. And there are those who are willing to kill to access the secrets I’m trying to bury…
I’ve been eyeing the Tor novellas for some time; the stories sound interesting and the artwork for them are fantastic. I decided to pick up this novella first as the premise sounds really interesting and holds a lot storytelling promise and direction. Suffice to say it didn’t disappoint; I found myself really gripped to my eReader, chest tight with anxiety as I read this unnamed narrator’s story as a man who could wipe your worst, most unwanted memories away. It’s eerie what he can do–and why he can be such a dangerous person and/or weapon–and his dubious morals makes him a rather fascinating character to follow. Despite of his faults, which he freely admits to, I found myself strangely rooting for him, hoping that his shady dealings doesn’t catch up with him, even as some of the things he had done were pretty =S
The novella was also interesting in that the narrator finds himself contemplating about memories, how they define us, how they are tied to truth, etc. I really appreciated how these themes weaved in and out of the story, not necessarily on the fore, but it’s there, especially as our narrator proves to be terribly unreliable. The story can be dark, the character flawed and dubious, the worldbuilding interesting enough with a lot of political changes happening in the backdrop, but overall it was a fantastic novella. Definitely worth checking out!
So You Want to Read… is a new monthly feature here on eclectictales.com in which I recommend books by particular authors to readers who have never read a book from certain authors and would like to start. I’m always happy to recommend books and certain authors to my fellow readers and bloggers! 🙂
Happy New Year! And with a new year comes a new post for So You Want to Read… 🙂 For this month I decided to go with Sarah Addison Allen. I love her books, they’re like my comfort books whenever I’m feeling blah or I need a break from some heftier read or RL matters. To date I’ve read all of her books except her latest, First Frost, as I’m waiting for it to hit paperback 😉
- The Girl Who Chased the Moon (review) — Hands down my favourite book by her. I love everything about it–the small town feel, the magical realism elements, the characters, the family aspect, of following your dreams, of second chances at life and love–yeah, this is usually the first book by her that I recommend to other people 🙂
- The Sugar Queen (review) — Another wonderful read by her, I actually read this book a little later from the others. Definitely has a seasonal feel to it with the snow and everything, but I think readers can relate to the Josey’s plight in stepping out from her mother’s shadow and being comfortable with herself. But all the female characters felt very well-rounded and their respective stories were interesting.
- The Lost Lake (review) — I consider this her most maturest book to date, probably because of the things that were happening in her personal life at the time before writing this book. But it still has all the hallmarks that make her books so wonderful: that of family, of friendships, of rediscovering yourself and what perhaps you thought you had lost or left behind.
I hope this list helps if you’re interested in checking out Sarah Addison Allen’s books for the first time! What’s your favourite novel by Sarah Addison Allen? Which would you recommend for first-time readers? Or which of her books have you been meaning to check out?
Everything Is Illuminated
By: Jonathan Safran Foer
Format/Source: Mass market paperback; my purchase
With only a yellowing photograph in hand, a young man — also named Jonathan Safran Foer — sets out to find the woman who may or may not have saved his grandfather from the Nazis. Accompanied by an old man haunted by memories of the war; an amorous dog named Sammy Davis, Junior, Junior; and the unforgettable Alex, a young Ukrainian translator who speaks in a sublimely butchered English, Jonathan is led on a quixotic journey over a devastated landscape and into an unexpected past.
I first read this book around…2009/2010 perhaps? I was definitely in grad school at the time–hence why I never wrote a proper review on it (correction: I wrote a brief blurb about it in 2010)–but I had greatly enjoyed it then (especially as I was studying Ukraininan history about the same time). I had always wanted to revisit the book since and reading Aloi’s review at guiltless reading prompted me to finally pick up the book again, reading it during my breaks at placement 🙂