Books · Mystery · Young Adult

Book Review: Marina by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

17873946

My Rating:  4 out of 5 stars 

In May 1980, fifteen-year-old Oscar Drai suddenly vanishes from his boarding school in the old quarter of Barcelona. For seven days and nights no one knows his whereabouts…

His story begins in the heart of old Barcelona, when he meets Marina and her father Germán Blau, a portrait painter. Marina takes Oscar to a cemetery to watch a macabre ritual that occurs on the fourth Sunday of each month. At 10 a.m. precisely a coach pulled by black horses appears. From it descends a woman dressed in black, her face shrouded, wearing gloves, holding a single rose. She walks over to a gravestone that bears no name, only the mysterious emblem of a black butterfly with open wings.

When Oscar and Marina decide to follow her they begin a journey that will take them to the heights of a forgotten, post-war Barcelona, a world of aristocrats and actresses, inventors and tycoons; and a dark secret that lies waiting in the mysterious labyrinth beneath the city streets.

(Goodreads)

I’d never even heard of this book when I picked it up, but I knew right away that if it was written by author Carlos Ruiz Zafon that it would be a fun ride. (I highly recommend checking out the Shadow of the Wind  books, if you haven’t already) Marina was a thrilling and often unsettling read, filled with mystery and macabre events that will make your stomach do the flips.

It’s no secret that Oscar isn’t very complex or interesting on his own. Marina even cracks jokes about how simple-minded he is. That’s totally fine, however, because the story and other characters make up where Oscar lacks. Marina is a strange and serious girl living in a creepy old mansion. There’s a mysterious woman in black visiting an unmarked grave every month. A shady doctor and his daughter, washed up detectives, and sinister coachmen. Every one of them weaves a story that all lead back to a maniacal man who they should try to just forget about. Of course, Oscar and Marina can’t forget about the things they’ve seen and decide to pursue the mystery that decided to pursue them first.

As usual, the author tells this story beautifully and poetically. He transports you onto the streets of Barcelona and makes you see and smell everything that Oscar is seeing. Every twist and turn keeps you guessing and checking over your shoulder from time to time. Despite the complexity of the story, this one didn’t take me long to read at all because I couldn’t put it down. If you’re a fan of Gothic literature, you’ll enjoy this one.

Book Reviews · Books · Fiction · Middle Grade · Mystery

Book Review: The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier

18405537

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Orphans Molly and Pip have been through some rough times. When they show up at the strange Windsor manor they are hopeful that their lives are about to get easier, but instead they only get weirder. Neither the house nor the family are what they seem. The family is pale and sickly, there’s a giant tree coming out of the house, and there’s a man roaming the halls at night. Molly can’t figure out exactly what’s going on, but she knows that if she can’t figure it out soon she and her brother will be the next to fall victim to the sinister ways of the Night Gardener. 

I really enjoyed this book. I definitely would have been creeped out by this one when I was a kid. It felt like something that belonged on the pages of Grimm’s or Poe’s tales.

Molly and Pip were good protagonists. Neither of them were the “hero” type or the “chosen one,” which I appreciated. Despite the young ages of the two, Molly and Pip struggled with some very adult problems (poverty, losing their parents, disability, etc.) and, as a result, interjected some real wisdom into the story.

The tree and the night gardener were spooky and weird. I liked the way the way the “monsters” and the house were all tied together.

Overall, this one gets a thumbs up from me. The story is good, the characters are great, and it was a fun read. The only potential problem a young reader might have with this is understanding the Irish dialect.

~~~

That’s one book down for the Halloween read-a-thon. On to the next one!

Books · Fiction · Middle Grade · Mystery

It’s Halloween Read-a-thon Time!

halloween-readathon

Lauren @ Wonderless Reviews is back with another Halloween read-a-thon. As I wasn’t active in the blog world during this time last year, you can rest assured that I am partaking this year.

There are multiple challenges to try, but unfortunately I won’t have the time to complete all of them. (You know, there’s that whole full-time job thing. *eyeroll*) I’m going to try my best to do at least a couple of them, just for fun.

Coincidentally, the book I am currently reading fits the bill for the following category:

costume-party

The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier

18405537

~~~

Are you doing any Halloween reading challenges this year? 

Adult · Books · Favorites · Fiction · Mystery

Kiersten’s Favorites: Pt 3

We had a bit of a rough night last night. After getting home from work I had to rush my dog to the emergency vet. To make a long story short, his arthritis was causing him a significant amount of pain. 😥 Thankfully, he’s doing a bit better today now that his meds have kicked in. (I, however, am a tired mess, as I got up practically every hour to check on him and make sure he was okay.)

*yawns*

I could use some happiness today, so I am going to do another favorites post, as it’s been a while. (Feel free to check out Part 1 and Part 2.)

  1. Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier – I’ve been in love with Rebecca since I read it back in high school for summer reading. In a way, it reminds me of another favorite, Jane Eyre, in that it’s a filled with gothic themes of suspense, mystery, and romance. I used to have dreams about living in Manderlay.
  2. The Other Boelyn Girl by Philippa Gregory –  This book was the one that made me so obsessed with historical fiction throughout college. (Prior to that I assumed that historical fiction novels would be about as exciting as reading a history textbook.) The descriptive detail of the clothing (omg, the clothing!), the scenery, and the people of the court were enough to keep me hooked. Philippa Gregory really knows how to take history and really make it come to life.
  3. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie – Seriously, who didn’t love this book? It’s short, but kept me interested from the very first page. It’s basically Clue in book form.
  4. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova – Part historical fiction, part dark mystery, this book has the whole package. It’s basically an updated, exotic version of Dracula with more history thrown in.

 

 

Book Reviews · Fantasy · Fiction · Mystery · Sci-Fi

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

21416690

My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars 

For any bibliophile, the library is a very special place. For Irene, it is more than that: it is her entire life. Irene is an agent of The Library, a top secret group that hunts down and preserves rare books from different alternates in time. Her latest mission is to travel with her new trainee, Kai, to an alternate London and track down a copy of Grimm’s fairy tales. For an experienced librarian, the task should be simple enough, but when Irene arrives in London she realizes that the case is going to be much more complicated than she imagined.

The book has already been stolen and everyone, both human and supernatural being, is trying to get it back. What could be so special about a book that is causing a group of  Fae, werewolves, dragons, and mechanical beasts to wreak havoc on London? Irene has no idea, but she’s on a mission to find out.

I had high hopes for this book. The story was like something straight out of a Steven Moffat script, incorporating elements of both Doctor Who and Sherlock (two of my favorite TV shows, btw). The concept of The Library and its undercover agents intrigued me from the first few pages. There were so many questions I couldn’t wait to get answers to. When/where in the universe did The Library exist? Was there someone behind it all? What exactly made the books that the librarians’ hunted so special?…Unfortunately, I felt as though my list of questions only grew longer and longer as the book went on, with many of them remaining unanswered.

Overall, I enjoyed the story that was being told. The elements of fantasy and mystery blended together well without being too over the top. The characters and the setting in which the story took place were fun. The alternate London that was presented reminded me of the steampunk London that I have encountered in other stories. I enjoyed the mash up of mechanical and mythical creatures, all residing together in the same city, however, I would have liked more detail about all of them. There wasn’t much background information given regarding the Fae and the Iron Brotherhood (who seem to be responsible for all the horrible metallic creatures that showed up an tried to kill Irene). The magic used by the inhabitants of London wasn’t explained very well. The city was a danger to librarians due to it being contaminated by magical “chaos.” I never really quite grasped what this was supposed to mean. Was the chaos the presence of magic itself? Was it the presence of so many different magical beings all locked into one city? Or was it the type of magic being used? Even after having finished the book, I am still somewhat confused by the whole notion. Even more irksome, was the lack of detail about the Language that the librarians used. Whenever Irene made something magical happen, she spoke in the Language. She also mentioned that certain books The Library collected were significant in the fact that they could influence the Language. But how? What exactly was the Language? Did the librarians just acquire it over time, or was it taught to them? How was the Language different from other forms of magic?

I applaud the author for her creative story, but I hope for the sake of those who are continuing to read the series that she will clear up a few things along the way.