The Swan Keeper by Milana Marsenich – BOOK REVIEW

38336382Title & Author: The Swan Keeper, Milana Marsenich
Publication Date & Publisher: April 2018, Open Books
Genre(s): Historical Fiction, General (Adult) Fiction
Length: 245 pages
ISBN: 9781948598033
My Rating: 4.0/5.0

Description (from Goodreads):

Girlhood, courage, nature, and flight from a tyrant’s hand in post-frontier Montana.

The Swan Keeper is an historical, coming of age novel set in Northwest Montana’s Mission Valley in the late 1920s.

Lillian Connelly loves trumpeter swans and vows to protect them from a hunter who is killing them and leaving their carcasses for the wolves and coyotes to ravage.

On her eleventh birthday Lilly’s family visits the Cattail Marsh to see the newly hatched cygnets. The family outing turns tragic when Dean Drake shows up with his shotgun and fires on not only the swans, but on Lilly’s family. Unable to prevent tragedy, Lillian witnesses Drake kill her father, injure her mother, and slaughter the bevy of trumpeter swans.

The sheriff, Charlie West, thinks that Lilly is reacting to the trauma and blaming Drake because of a previous conflict between Drake and her father. Lilly’s mother, sister, and her best friend, Jerome West, the sheriff’s son, all think the same thing: that Lilly is trying to make sense of a senseless accident.

Left alone to bring Dean Drake to justice, Lilly’s effort is subverted when Drake woos her sister, courts her mother, and moves into their home.

My review: 

This book really surprised me!

I loved the way it started out:

Lilly told three lies to go with her father one stormy afternoon when she was ten, the afternoon that she first learned about the swan killer. She said she’d done her chores, she forgave Pa for fighting with her mother, and she wasn’t afraid.

I’m not sure what it is with me picking books featuring liars lately, but I seem to be addicted to them. (Lies that Bind Us, All That’s Left of Me, The Irrationalist, Truth Seer)

It turns out that Lilly is good not just at telling lies, but she can also tell when others are lying – her mom, dad, sister, her mortal enemy – Dean Drake… but it doesn’t seem to occur to her that they must know when she’s lying too. She’s growing up, but even with her “tiny” lies, there’s still so much innocence left in her – even after her father is killed.

So much is thrown at her, and yet she faces every challenge in her life head on. I love her stubbornness and her deep drive to see justice carried out even when it means putting herself in danger! Being someone who loves children deeply, I connected with Lilly on such a deep level that my husband had to remind me that she wasn’t a real child… twice!

(I just wanted to be able to hug her, let her know I was there for her, and that everything was going to be okay. That’s totally normal when we’re talking about a fictional character…)

The Swan Keeper is divided into four parts – White Swan, Dark Swan, In Flight, and Landing. In each section Lilly changes and grows spiritually and emotionally. True to life, she’s not the same person at 10 as she is as a 12 year old at the end of the book. But her journey is FAR crazier than what most preteens experience.

And amid all the craziness happening around her, she’s experiencing her first crush on a boy. She’s known Jerome West her entire life, but suddenly he’s becoming something else to her entirely and she has no idea what to do with those emotions. I found Lilly’s interactions with Jerome as her feelings for him started changing absolutely adorable!

Just when I thought I couldn’t love Lilly anymore, I think I may have found a new favorite bookish quote from her in this book as well…

Books were full of information. She’d learned to consult books and thank God. It was a good system.

Read that and pretty much screamed in my brain, “Me too, Lilly!  Me too!!!” (Again, it’s totally normal to have imaginary conversations with fictional characters… Stop judging me!!!)

As much as I ended up loving this book, I wasn’t so sure about The Swan Keeper when I first started reading it.  There were a couple of pages before the first chapter that I assumed was a prologue. It didn’t make sense to me until the end of the book, when I realized it was basically excerpts from the last part. I really wish I had just skipped it and gone straight to Chapter 1… if you pick it up, I suggest you do the same!

My only other complaint is that there are a couple of times where people speak and it doesn’t seem completely normal to me. For instance, a character that uses the word “‘specially” for “especially” would use “isn’t” instead of “is not.” That might not throw other readers, but things like that stick out to me and drive me batty if it happens too often. Thankfully, it only happened a couple of times in this book so it wasn’t a deal breaker for me.

I received a review copy of this book from the author. This in no way influenced my review.

What do you think of my review of The Swan Keeper? Have you read it or are you planning on reading it in the future? Have a suggestion for my next read? Leave me a comment below!

Planning on purchasing The Swan Keeper? Please use my affiliate links: Amazon, Book Depository

 

 

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The Sun King by Allison Lee Palmer – BOOK REVIEW

the_sun_king_by_allison_lee_palmer_200Title & Author: The Sun King, Allison Lee Palmer
Publication Date & Publisher: October 2017, Open Books
Genre(s):  General (Adult) Fiction
ISBN: 9781370072774
My Rating: 4.0/5.0

Description (from Goodreads):

A mother, her son, and mania.

In this fictionalized memoir, a mother recounts the emotional journey she and her son take when he becomes mentally ill.

Jack is known as the Sun King because as a child he resembled the illustrated boy in his mother’s deck of tarot cards. Already on the verge of madness, Jack leaves for college in Ohio but secretly decides not to take his medicine. When Jack becomes manic, his mother must retrieve him from a psychiatric hospital and bring him home to Oklahoma. She and Jack spend the next year dealing with court hearings, doctor appointments, and counseling sessions precipitated by his bipolar disorder and resultant psychosis.

Guiding Jack back to sanity leads his mother to a fateful decision—one that brings about her own emotional unraveling. In the end, it is the Sun King who must save his mother.

My review: 

This book started out absolutely amazing!!! By Chapter 3, I was beginning to send out texts and Snaps to my friends letting them know they NEED to read this ASAP! It’s a story about a very serious issue and situation that’s told in a way that’s sometimes hilarious, other times serious or sarcastic, and always deeply emotional.

The Sun King tells the story of the narrator and her only son, Jack, who is suffering from mental illness. The story begins with his latest stint in a mental hospital after he’s stopped taking his meds (again.)

When Jack’s mom discovered he wasn’t taking his medicine, she began searching for ways to help her son. She searched the internet and tried, unsuccessfully, to help with the herbal remedies she bought at the local health store.

The entire story is told from Jack’s mother’s perspective. I found myself laughing often at her view of the days when Jack’s illness was just starting to manifest itself. Having a daughter who recently graduated high school and began her first year of college with extreme, almost crippling anxiety, I related to her a lot. At times, she seemed to be too close to the situation to recognize the signs that her son was ill. I know I’ve been in that same situation… too close to my daughter to see clearly that she’s about to break down on me.

So I was emotionally attached to both Jack and his mother very early on in this story! When I read this:

In retrospect, I would argue that not only should the purchase of copious amounts of aluminum foil and cardboard be a warning sign at least mentioned in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, but the constant need for high drama should also be noted in the DSM, because all together they can only lead to the building of this spaceship that matches the criteria for Bipolar Disorder I. But I didn’t know that until later.

I knew this mother and I were the same… I could hear my daughter explaining the need for the materials and my response being “Yeah, that seems legit, baby. Of course… here’s some more foil.”

Despite Jack being the one with the illness, his mom’s life is also flipped completely upside down and she herself begins to spiral out of control. At times, she thinks she’d be happier if Jack had cancer or was missing an arm instead of suffering the way he is. What makes it even harder to bear, is the fact that she’s doing so much and constantly sacrificing for son, and he doesn’t even seem capable of caring or understanding what she’s going through herself.

To give you some kind of an idea on how much I loved this book, let me explain how my reading speed varies between books… Basically, the speed at which I read is entirely dependent upon my enjoyment level of the material being read. So a book I’m kinda into, but not exactly thrilled with might take me weeks to read, while the same length book that I AM thrilled with might take a day or two…

I read  The Sun King in about 6 hours… a good indication that I LOVED the book! But…

the end… it…

Let me down.

HARD.

I’m not completely sure what I expected, or what I wanted, or how I saw things ending, but the way it actually ended was definitely not satisfying for me. I still want to know what happened…I feel like without that knowledge, the story just isn’t over. Perhaps that’s what the author intended, but unless it’s a series, I just hate these type of open-ended, no indication of  happily ever (or never) after, vague endings.

So overall, I still recommend reading The Sun King. I enjoyed the majority of the book so much that even the ending didn’t make me regret reading it.

I received a review copy of this book from Open Books. This in no way influenced my review.

What do you think of my review of The Sun King? Have you read it or are you planning on reading it in the future? Have a suggestion for my next read? Leave me a comment below!

Affiliate Links: Purchase The Sun King on Amazon or Book Depository

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: The Irrationalist: The Tragic Murder of René Descartes by Andrew Pessin

the_irrationalist_coverTitle & Author: The Irrationalist: The Tragic Murder of René Descartes, Andrew Pessin
Publication Date & Publisher: May 15, 2017, Open Books
Genre(s): Historical Fiction, General (Adult) Fiction, Murder Mystery
Length: 504 pages
ISBN: 13: 978-0998427447
My Rating: 5.0/5.0!!!!

My review: 

(Yeah, I’m changing it up and putting the review first. I’m crazy like that!)

giphyIt’s no secret that I love books! Let’s face it… I blog about books to support my book addiction.  So I’m rarely surprised to read a blurb, love the idea, read a story and love the book.

What is rare??? Finding a book that I love so much that I can find NOTHING negative to say about it! But that actually happened with The Irrationalist…

Andrew Pessin’s The Irrationalist: The Tragic Murder of René Descartes is a wonderful blending of historical fiction, murder mystery, and humor to create a story that is almost impossible to put down!

The story begins with a sad voyage by Adrien Baillet to Sweden.  Baillet is a reluctant priest being sent away from the only home he can remember to represent his institution to the “most powerful government in Europe.” This might not sound remarkable, but immediately I was like, “huh?”

Baillet isn’t who you’d pick to represent you or your organization in anything! Especially not in important matters… Baillet’s own description is this:

He was in his early thirties – he didn’t know exactly how old – and had lived nearly his whole life first under the care of, and now taking care of, Rector Charlet. The good man had tried to make something of him, without much success. Baillet failed to do much academically, unable to distinguish himself in any subject at the college except swordsmanship, and even there his distinction was merely being the only boy to serve as live target dummy for the fencing classes.

Jesuit’s were expected to be smart, imposing, able to defend themselves and defeat their enemies when necessary (by brain or brawn didn’t matter). This is what everyone Baillet came in contact with expected of him, and they were all sorely disappointed! His mantra seemed to be “Perhaps if I had applied myself…”

When he arrives in Sweden, he is tasked with investigating the mysterious death of René Descartes. The official report needed to be that he had died of natural causes in order to stop the rumors spreading that Descartes had been murdered.

But Baillet’s job isn’t easy… EVERYONE is a suspect. EVERYONE has a motive. It’s like the list of possible suspects never ends!!

Was it the paranoid librarian, Freinsheimus? Or Descartes’ valet, Schluter? What about Doctor Wullens, Père Viogué or Former Predekant Voetius? His own brother, Pierre? The Chancellor himself, Zolindius? Someone else??? Bramer, perhaps?

I was still trying to piece it all together and figure out who did it and why at the very end… which has a twist that had me ready to re-read the entire book right that moment! Then I felt like a fool for not figuring it out myself!

As Baillet is constantly reminded by those he’s investigating… “Trust no one.” I should’ve listened. The answers were all there!

You might expect a book about a murder in the 1600’s to be all seriousness, but The Irrationalist is comical in both it’s dry and not-so-dry humor. Baillet bumbles his way through much of the investigation and his suspects pretty much do the investigating for him. He learns a lot though and comes out a different person at the end.

While the book is titled The Tragic Murder of René Descartes, it’s also about the tragic life and transformation of Adrien Baillet.

I definitely recommend picking this up if you enjoy historical fiction and/or murder mysteries!

 

Description (from Goodreads):

An historical murder mystery based on real events.

Who would want to murder the world’s most famous philosopher?

Turns out: nearly everyone.

In 1649, Descartes was invited by the Queen of Sweden to become her Court Philosopher. Though he was the world’s leading philosopher, his life had by this point fallen apart. He was 53, penniless, living in exile in Amsterdam, alone. With much trepidation but not much choice, he arrived in Stockholm in mid-October.

Shortly thereafter he was dead.

Pneumonia, they said. But who could believe that? There were just too many persons of interest who wanted to see Descartes dead, and for too many reasons. That so many of these persons were in Stockholm—thanks to the Gala the Queen was throwing to celebrate the end of the terrible Thirty Years’ War—made the official story all the less plausible. Death by poisoning was the unofficial word on the cobblestone.

Enter Adrien Baillet. A likeable misfit with a mysterious backstory, he arrives just as the French Ambassador desperately needs an impartial Frenchman to prove that Descartes died of natural causes—lest the “murder” in Lutheran Sweden of France’s great Catholic philosopher trigger colicky French boy-King Louis XIV to reignite that awful War. Baillet hesitatingly agrees to investigate Descartes’s death, knowing that if—or when—he screws up, he could be personally responsible for the War’s Thirty-First Year.

But solving the mystery of Descartes’s death (Baillet soon learns) requires first solving the mystery of Descartes’s life, with all its dangerous secrets … None of it is easy, as nearly everyone is a suspect and no one can be trusted. Nor does it help that he must do it all under the menacing gaze of Carolus Zolindius, the terrifying Swedish Chancellor with the strangely intimidating limp.

But Baillet somehow perseveres, surprising everyone as he figures it all out—all the way to the explosive end.

 

What do you think of The Irrationalist? Have you read it or are you planning on reading it in the future? Have a suggestion for my next read? Leave me a comment below!

Thank you to Open Books for providing me with a free digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Click Here to Purchase The Irrationalist from Book Depository.

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