March 19, 2013

I Spent Some Time With My First True Love This Week - books reviews and recommendations!

Trying to fill up the half-hour period of required typing in class is getting more difficult the emptier my head feels. I feel drained most of the time. March Break was only half-terrible, I enjoyed myself for some of it, and actually started READING again, which is something I often drift away from. Or, as has been the case, I stay with it but only re-read old favorites, and sometimes, old favorites translates to over one hundred Baby-Sitters Club paperbacks I purchase from thrift stores.

But yes, having found some mayjah love in the Kindle app on my new phone, I got down to business. All three books I read had to do with one of my favorite literary subjects: twins.

I don't have a twin, there are no twins in my family, but I knew a lot of twins growing up. I wasn't particularly close with any of them, but I still find the whole phenomena fascinating. About a month ago, I downloaded a book called Beautiful Lies, which was YA lit - something that can go either way in terms of quality, and luckily, this one was good. It had a strong supernatural element, and weighing in at 400 pages, still had me gripped right up til the end. I took a short break from reading, til I got my hands on three books over the March Break. One was okay, one was decent, and one was one of the greatest books I've ever read in my life.

Book 1: Runaway Twin, by Peg Kerhret

First of all, that link goes to the Kindle version I purchased for my Samsung Galaxy S3, not the hardcopy book.

It was a children's book, so it was very short, and a very, very easy read. It had the pacing of your typical short novel aimed at 10-12-year-olds (so basically, this was not Harry Potter-caliber by any means), but the story was good enough. It centered on a 13-year-old girl who has spent the past ten years in foster homes, wondering what became of the twin sister she was separated from when they were three. Basically, she runs away from her current foster home, and treks across the country trying to find her sister. Along the way she meets different people and different things happen, and she finds out that maybe finding and meeting her sister isn't going to be the magical experience she'd hoped for. If you like to read, but aren't particularly proficient at it, this one's for you lol and I don't mean that insultingly. A lot of really popular books that people like appear exceedingly poorly-written to me (Twilight, 50 Shades of Grey, for instance), but that doesn't take away from  their appeal to the masses. I cried more than once, so it had a real effect on me, and that's important to me in a novel.

Book 2: The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield (also a Kindle link)

This was actually the last book that I read, but I feel like saving the Best for Last is in everyone's best interest, as the manner in which I'm going to rave about the third book will be excessive.

This book is Diane Setterfield's first effort as an author, and it clocks in at a hearty 418 pages** - TANGENT TIME.

- ***AND NOW A REALLY LENGTHY ASIDE THAT HOLDS LITTLE BEARING ON THE BOOK ITSELF - ("418 pages...." - which, having been weaned on Harry Potter, and more recently the A Song of Ice and Fire  -  - also known as "Game of Thrones, to you TV-watchers - series, where the books ranged from 750-1500 pages, is a length that I require to feel like I got something out of it. Notable exception: The Hunger Games trilogy, which, although a mite bit shorter than 400pgs, still completely enthralled me - and falls under the genre of "gothic", which is not about sad teenagers with black hair and too much eyeliner and sad, believe it or not. I came across this genre (and a subgenre, Southern gothic) during my extensive book searches on Wikipedia, trying to find something to read - this was after I read The Help, which I'd seen on the big screen first and read later - I've now read it three times, as books about life in Mississippi are some of my favorites, for some unknown reason to me. This is a huge divergence from the actual point, please forgive. -

The whole "twin thing" was covered in a rather odd manner in this book, and honestly, although it's a large part of the plot, it isn't the largest. What struck me and pulled me into the story instantly was the manner it is written - the author is obviously a huge fan of literature and writing and made her characters respond similarly. Descriptions of books and writing really appealed to me, as my life's goal is to be a published author.

I don't think I can quite explain the plot itself, so I'm relying on the "Booklist" description from

Margaret Lea, a bookish loner, is summoned to the home of Vida Winter, England's most popular novelist, and commanded to write her biography. Miss Winter has been falsifying her life story and her identity for more than 60 years. Facing imminent death and feeling an unexplainable connection to Margaret, Miss Winter begins to spin a haunting, suspenseful tale of an old English estate, a devastating fire, twin girls, a governess, and a ghost. As Margaret carefully records Vida's tale, she ponders her own family secrets. Her research takes her to the English moors to view a mansion's ruins and discover an unexpected ending to Vida's story. Readers will be mesmerized by this -story-within-a-story tinged with the eeriness of Rebecca and the willfulness of Jane Eyre.The author skillfully keeps the plot moving by unfurling a new twist in each chapter and leaves no strand untucked at the surprising and satisfying conclusion. A wholly original work told in the vein of all the best gothic classics. Lovers of books about book lovers will be enthralled. 

I'm usually not one to take the words of others, but I truly have a difficult time describing this one. In the end, I enjoyed it - not SO much for the story, but for the setting, and how it made me feel when I was reading it. It was good; not NEAR as good as the next book I`m going to tell you about, but, if you're into the genre, I'd give it a shot.

Book 3: The Girls by Lori Lansens

Lori Lansens is a Canadian author who has written three books to date. The Girls was her second, her first, Rush Home Road, which was insanely popular. I downloaded this book (for free) for my phone, and when it was done, I'd loved it so much I went out and bought a hard-copy to give to my mother - who, reading the back, realized that Lori Lansens was responsible for writing the one books to ever make her cry - Rush Home Road. I get my voracious appetite for the written word from my mother, so she's read countless novels in her 40-some years, so this being the only one that made her cry is quite a distinction. This isn't relevant to The Girls per se, but it does tell you the caliber of writing we're dealing with here. Lansens' characters are so, so real.

This was one of the greatest books I've ever read. The Girls is told as a bit of an autobiography about a set of fictional twins - Rose and Ruby - who are the oldest surviving craniophagus twins, which means they're conjoined at the head. Coming up on their 30th birthday in Southern Ontario, it's told from two viewpoints: Rose's, whose idea it was to write their story down and who writes in a very poetic and learned manner, and Ruby, more reluctant to write but ultimately more frank. The two points of view are SO distinct, and the Girls themselves are so real-seeming, that when the book was over, I felt empty. Completely empty. I wanted my Girls. I wanted to keep reading their thoughts and stories. I wanted to know what was going to happen to them.

The stories they recount are really, really interesting - their life as conjoined twins, their search for their birth mother, Rose's greatest loss, their adoptive parents, their day-to-day struggles, their health issues, their goals - Rose covers most of this, whereas Ruby, not being a writer, gives us the facts - a lot of facts that Rose would rather gloss over.

As I write this, I'm getting emotional all over again, just thinking about the Darlen sisters, their family and friends, and their lives.

What it boils down to is that I could not possibly recommend this book any more. Pick it up, and you won't be disappointed.

An excerpt from the novel (the first paragraph, in fact):

Ruby & Me
I have never looked into my sister's eyes. I have never bathed alone. I have never stood in the grass at night and raised my arms to a beguiling moon. I've never used an airplane bathroom. Or worn a hat. Or been kissed like that. I've never driven a car. Or slept through the night. Never a private talk. Or solo walk. I've never climbed a tree. Or faded into a crowd. So many things I've never done, but oh, how I've been loved. And, if such things were to be, I'd live a thousand lives as me, to be loved so exponentially. 


  1. wow ... I love your blogs ... I didn't realize you owned a Kindle - did you know you can write/publish your OWN book? I think you should ... and I might even look up that book "the girls" ... the exerpt gave me goosebumps.
    BTW - I have a kindle book published - maybe next time I make it a free download, I'll send you the link - I hear it's a good read (ask Danielle ;-)

  2. I actually only use the Kindle app on my phone - I do, however, have a Sony reader (but it's 3+ years old with no backlight and a Cracked screen!). I knew about self-publishing with Smashwords and the like, but my biggest problem is seeing a story through to the end. Too many ideas, not enough focus! I wouldn't even need your book to be free - if it's affordable, I'll buy it! Support small-town writers :)


I'll read anything but as this is a personal blog, whether or not it remains is up to me.