Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Orchid House

by Lucinda Riley
September 24-October 17, 2012

And with that, the book hangover is finally cured! Or maybe I just had a really long string of so-so books? Either way, The Orchid House was a delight to read. I was lucky enough to receive a FREE copy from Simon & Schuster when I joined their fan club. What a treat to find it in my mailbox! (If you aren't a fan, I highly recommend it.) In the welcome letter, S&S claims that The Orchid House is a fan favorite, and they were 100% correct. I first gave my copy to my mother who decidedly has much more time to read than I do. She devoured the whole thing in less than a week, even claiming that she forced herself to slow down because she didn't want it to end. When it was back in my hands, my mother made me swear to read it post haste.

I'm glad I did! The Orchid House weaves between present day, World War II and the 1930s, in places from England to Thailand, and boasts an enchanting cast of characters. When Julia, a concert pianist mourning the tragic death of her husband and baby son, returns to Wharton Park, the estate her grandfather worked when she was a child, she discovers a diary that leads her back in time. As Julia learns the history of the home and the generations who lived in it, she begins to heal with the help of the current heir of Wharton Park, Kit Crawford. Together they learn secrets from the past and develop their own special relationship. Each character who came along was fantastic. The story continued to develop and get so much better. I can see why my mother didn't want it to end. Riley has the ability to bring to life characters and inanimate objects alike. My only issues were with the description of Julia's husband and child's death. While it was a bit too graphic, and the after effects were slightly campy, Orchid House found its way back quickly and in a satisfying way. Phew!

I most definitely recommend this one when you're looking for a refreshing break from the everyday mundane.
"Through the pain and the joy of the journey I have made in the past two years, I have learned the most important lesson like can offer, and I am glad of it.
 The moment is all we have."

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Saturday, November 24, 2012

Shadow of Night

by Deborah Harkness
July 7-October 21, 2012

Diana and Matthew are back! Back in time that is; 1591 to be exact. The second book in the All Souls Trilogy, I was eagerly awaiting its release. I was also excited to hear Jennifer Ikeda reading the audiobook version again. She has such a knack for creating authentic-sounding men and women of any age as well as voicing a myriad of accents.

At the end of Discovery of Witches (Which, by the way, I loved. So romantic, so intriguing, and so descriptive that it actually had me craving wine.), Matthew and Diana were stepping back into Elizabethan London with the help of Diana's limited time-traveling capabilities. Shadow opens at that exact moment with a slew of characters, some historically accurate, and from there the complexity of the plot never ends. In truth, I had quite a hard time following it, and even started over after five completely confusing chapters. I'm glad I did because it made more sense the second time. But, between the highly detailed historical information and the character development, I missed the "magic" from the first book. This second installment seemed to be more about the experience of living in 1591; Matthew being a devout Catholic in Protestant England, witches being burnt in Scotland, the founding fathers of the School of Night; than the charm of a love story between a witch and a vampire. The most interesting part for me was when Diana met her tutor/witch, found out she's a Weaver, and really began learning how to perform and understand her magic. Meeting Matthew's father Phillipe, who we heard so much about in the first book, was equally enjoyable. Matthew and Diana's love deepens while they are in the past and future occurrences are forever changed. But the copious details and shift from what we had in Discovery was what had me lost most of the time. When Matthew and Diana finally came "home" to the present, I found myself reinvesting in the story and eager to see where the reader will be led in the last book. Shadow, too, ends with a cliffhanger, much like Discovery.

I found a great interview with Harkness where she claims that, "These are not your children’s vampires and witches." So true! Reading the first book, all I wanted was for our couple to consummate their relationship. Well I got my wish in Shadow of Night! But I wonder if actually reading this book as opposed to listening to it would have enhanced my experience? I heard that there is actually a glossary of characters in the printed version! I could have used that. I think I will reread both books before the third and final book is released.

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