The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

Book Description:

Published: August 26, 2014

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Set in seventeenth century Amsterdam–a city ruled by glittering wealth and oppressive religion–a masterful debut steeped in atmosphere and shimmering with mystery, in the tradition of Emma Donoghue, Sarah Waters, and Sarah Dunant.

“There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed . . .”

On a brisk autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman arrives in Amsterdam to begin a new life as the wife of illustrious merchant trader Johannes Brandt. But her new home, while splendorous, is not welcoming. Johannes is kind yet distant, always locked in his study or at his warehouse office–leaving Nella alone with his sister, the sharp-tongued and forbidding Marin.

But Nella’s world changes when Johannes presents her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. To furnish her gift, Nella engages the services of a miniaturist–an elusive and enigmatic artist whose tiny creations mirror their real-life counterparts in eerie and unexpected ways . . .

Johannes’ gift helps Nella to pierce the closed world of the Brandt household. But as she uncovers its unusual secrets, she begins to understand–and fear–the escalating dangers that await them all. In this repressively pious society where gold is worshipped second only to God, to be different is a threat to the moral fabric of society, and not even a man as rich as Johannes is safe. Only one person seems to see the fate that awaits them. Is the miniaturist the key to their salvation . . . or the architect of their destruction?

Enchanting, beautiful, and exquisitely suspenseful, The Miniaturist is a magnificent story of love and obsession, betrayal and retribution, appearance and truth.

Review-

“Jessie Burton’s debut novel, The Miniaturist, begins like many a Gothic mystery before it: An 18-year-old virgin arrives in a strange place, on the doorstep of a great house where she has been invited but does not feel welcomed.

However, the time is not the 19th century, and the place is not a British lord’s brooding manor on the moor. Instead, it’s the autumn of 1686 in Amsterdam, a city then in its Golden Age and a powerful center of world trade.

The Miniaturist is set in much the same world as Tracy Chevalier’s best-selling Girl With a Pearl Earring, a story placed two decades earlier in another 17th-century Dutch city, Delft. But Johannes Brandt, the man at the center of The Miniaturist, is even more of a mystery than the Johannes Vermeer of Chevalier’s story.

When The Miniaturist begins, no Gothic courtship awaits us, for Johannes already has legally married Petronella “Nella” Oortman, a girl from an ancient but impoverished family in another town. Johannes is 20 years Nella’s senior, “a true Methuselah” in her opinion. Still, he’s a wealthy merchant in Amsterdam, a supremely eligible bachelor and even reasonably handsome, making him quite the catch in a world where marriage is the only real option for a Dutch girl of good family.

So the marriage is accomplished, but it has yet to be consummated. Nella arrives in Amsterdam on the Brandts’ second-best barge, alone but for her beloved pet, a little green bird in a cage. The Brandts’ nine-room house, on the prestigious Herengracht canal, contains no husband to greet Nella. Instead, she is met by her haughty sister-in-law, Marin, a saucy maidservant named Cornelia and Johannes’ manservant, Otto — he is a former slave and the first African Nella has ever seen.

When Johannes finally appears, he is kind to Nella, telling her that she has nothing to fear from him. But he’s in no noticeable hurry to bed his young bride. He is an important man, a shrewd, bold merchant sailor whose business might as well be his mistress. In this, Johannes seems not so different from other Amsterdammers, devout Protestants who preach humility but prize wealth and consider business the lifeblood of the city. It’s a place where Joel Osteen’s prosperity gospel would fit right in.

Johannes’ wedding gift to Nella is a huge cabinet containing a sort of dollhouse, an amazing miniature version of their own house. “The accuracy of the cabinet is eerie, as if the real house has been shrunk, its body sliced in two and its organs revealed,” Burton writes. Marin is horrified that her brother has spent 3,000 guilders on it; Nella, while touched by Johannes’ generosity, is perplexed.

Back in her hometown, “Nella had known children who’d been given cabinet houses, but none so grand as this. … Her heart sinks. I am too old for this, she thinks.” The cabinet house, meant for a child to practice housekeeping, “is a monument to her powerlessness, her arrested womanhood. It’s your house, her husband had said, but who can live in tiny rooms, these nine dead ends? What sort of man buys a gift like this, however majestic its casing, however beautifully made?”

Johannes is never cruel, but Nella “wants love,” as her mother used to say mockingly. “She wants the peaches and the cream.” Lacking the lagniappe of romance, Nella becomes obsessed with her cabinet house, ordering tiny accessories and furnishings from the only miniaturist in Amsterdam. Though this mysterious craftsman avoids meeting her, Nella is both enchanted and mystified by the exquisitely worked objects that arrive in each delivery from the miniaturist.

Who is the Kalverstraat artisan who knows every secret of the Brandt household? More importantly, how will those secrets be exposed? For when they are, they tear the Brandts’ lives apart as surely as if the Zuiderzee had once again rushed in and flooded their world.

In The Miniaturist, Burton uses a historical object — the real Petronella Oortman’s cabinet house in Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum — as the springboard for a fantastically spun tale of love and mystery. It’s a story that astutely reflects our own age’s obsessions and prejudices, and it’s one not to be missed.” dallas news.com

A wonderfully enjoyable story!

 

 

 

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A Thousand Boy Kisses by Tillie Cole

Book Description:

Published: March 15, 2016

Format: Audio/Audible

One kiss lasts a moment. But a thousand kisses can last a lifetime. One boy. One girl. A bond that is forged in an instant and cherished for a decade. A bond that neither time nor distance can break. A bond that will last forever. Or so they believe.

When seventeen-year-old Rune Kristiansen returns from his native Norway to the sleepy town of Blossom Grove, Georgia, where he befriended Poppy Litchfield as a child, he has just one thing on his mind. Why did the girl who was one half of his soul, who promised to wait faithfully for his return, cut him off without a word of explanation? Rune’s heart was broken two years ago when Poppy fell silent. When he discovers the truth, he finds that the greatest heartache is yet to come.

A stand-alone young adult tear-jerker romance, recommended for ages fourteen and up.

Review –

Five FREAKING stars!!!!!

This book has just been given the honor of being on the  top of my list of books that made me cry (sob, blubber) the most.

I’ve enjoyed books, I’ve been moved by books and I’ve cried over books but never and I mean NEVER have we been left so emotionally wrought yet so completely satisfied after finishing a story. 

Poppy Litchfield and Rune Kristiansen created a bond of friendship at five years old that would blossom into a love story to rival the greats. They truly were two parts of one heart in every sense of the word. Despite their tender years, their love was extraordinary and it was epic and there is no doubt this came across in the author’s story as we lived and breathed the enormity of their feelings.

From the innocence and exuberance of childhood to the confusion and pain of youth, we lived it all. I fought their battles and lived through joy and heartbreak with them yet, haven’t even scratched the surface of their story, you couldn’t imagine for one minute how this story plays out. I know I didn’t.

I will not included spoilers because to totally FEEL this book, you must go in blind. Suffice it to say that, childhood love gives into young adult love and though apart for a while, neither, deep down in the hearts, gave up on the other and this would take them through to the bitter end.

I did have a problem with the very end, in that I thought it was too cliché, but the writer knows best and so this book is five stars or ten if that was an option!

 

 

 

Legendary (Caraval #2) by Stephanie Garber

Book Description:

Published: May 29, 2018

Format: Audio/OverDrive

A heart to protect. A debt to repay. A game to win.

After being swept up in the magical world of Caraval, Donatella Dragna has finally escaped her father and saved her sister, Scarlett, from a disastrous arranged marriage. The girls should be celebrating, but Tella isn’t yet free. She made a desperate bargain with a mysterious criminal, and what Tella owes him no one has ever been able to deliver: Caraval Master Legend’s true name.

The only chance of uncovering Legend’s identity is to win Caraval, so Tella throws herself into the legendary competition once more—and into the path of the murderous heir to the throne, a doomed love story, and a web of secrets…including her sister’s. Caraval has always demanded bravery, cunning, and sacrifice, but now the game is asking for more. If Tella can’t fulfill her bargain and deliver Legend’s name, she’ll lose everything she cares about—maybe even her life. But if she wins, Legend and Caraval will be destroyed forever…

Welcome, welcome to Caraval . . . the games have only just begun.

Review –

The author returns to the world of bestseller Caraval , this time with the focus on younger, more daring sister Donatella.

Valenda, capital of the empire, is host to the second of Legend’s magical games in a single year, and while Scarlett doesn’t want to play again, blonde Tella is eager for a chance to prove herself. She is haunted by the memory of her death in the last game and by the cursed Deck of Destiny she used as a child which foretold her loveless future. Garber has changed many of the rules of her expanding world, which now appears to be infused with magic and evil Fates. Despite a weak plot and ultraviolet prose (“He tasted like exquisite nightmares and stolen dreams, like the wings of fallen angels, and bottles of fresh moonlight.”), this is a tour de force of imagination. Themes of love, betrayal, and the price of magic (and desire) swirl like Caraval’s enchantments, and Dante’s sensuous kisses will thrill readers as much as they do Tella. The convoluted machinations of the Prince of Hearts (one of the Fates), Legend, and even the empress serve as the inspiration for Tella’s story and set up  the future volumes, which promises to go bigger. 

I didn’t care for this installment of the Caraval series because the focus wasn’t really the game, like the first one. There were many players, who weren’t really players and goals that were seemingly impossible. But, it’s only a book and the author can write it any way she chooses. My favorite part was the last few chapters where things really start to happen and we find out the identity of Legend.

Can’t wait for the third and final book which comes out next year.

 

I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson

Book Description:

Published: September 16,2014

A brilliant, luminous story of first love, family, loss, and betrayal for fans of John Green, David Levithan, and Rainbow Rowell

Jude and her twin brother, Noah, are incredibly close. At thirteen, isolated Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude cliff-dives and wears red-red lipstick and does the talking for both of them. But three years later, Jude and Noah are barely speaking. Something has happened to wreck the twins in different and dramatic ways . . until Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy, as well as someone else—an even more unpredictable new force in her life. The early years are Noah’s story to tell. The later years are Jude’s. What the twins don’t realize is that they each have only half the story, and if they could just find their way back to one another, they’d have a chance to remake their world.

Review –

Five-star-feedback-on-oDesk

This is a beautifully written young adult coming of age novel that has so much happening so here are so highlights:

  • Noah and Jude Sweetwine are identical twins and the book follows them from ages  13, 14, and 16. Noah and Jude live on the California coast in the town of Lost Cove with their parents, Benjamin, a conservative science professor, and Dianna, a liberal art professor. 
  • Their home environment is stable and they are taught love of knowledge, art, reason and emotion.
  • Their mother insists they both apply to a private high school, the California School of the Arts. Noah and Jude get along very well together, and do everything together, until they are 13.
  • When they turn 13, differences between them become apparent. Noah positions himself as the better artist of the siblings (and as his mother’s favorite), the more rational of the siblings, and is secretly gay. To prepare for acceptance into CSA, Noah spends his summer sketching nudes through the school’s windows, where he meets an English model named Oscar. 
  • Jude, herself far more emotional and feeling, falls in with a popular crowd of girls who are more interested in makeup and skimpy clothing than anything else.
  • Things are further complicated by the appearance of a new kid, Brian, whom Noah quickly develops a crush on, though they keep their feelings for each other quiet. Brian and Noah both pretend to be straight, and later have a falling out when Noah cannot accept Brian’s charade.
  • The sky comes crashing down for both Noah and Jude when they learn their mother is having an affair, and she intends to leave their father.
  • When they are 14, their mother prepares to serve Benjamin with divorce papers, only to lose control of her car after a rainstorm, and plummet to her death off a cliff.
  • Both twins reel from the loss. Noah lies and tells his father and sister that Dianna was actually on the way to make things right with Benjamin when she died. Jude, long feeling invisible compared to Noah, only mails her application to CSA when her father requests she mail both hers, and her brother’s.
  • When they are 16, Noah is attending the local public high school while Jude attends CSA. She cannot get her sculptures right, and so is sent out to mentor with famed sculptor Guillermo Garcia. Guillermo himself is reeling from heartache. He also mentors to 19-year-old Oscar, whom is heartbroken years after the death of his own mother. Oscar and Jude take an instant liking to one another, and Jude later learns that Guillermo is the one who was having an affair with her mother, something for which she forgives him.
  • Meanwhile, Noah has been making dangerous dives from the rocky coastal cliffs near Lost Cove, believing that his mother’s ghost guides him down into the ocean to safety. While attempting one such jump while drunk, it is Oscar who saves Noah. Oscar and Jude soon after become an item. 
  • As the novel ends, both twins confess the truth to each other – about their mother and CSA – and reconnect. Noah, Jude, and their father decide to sell their house and live on a houseboat. Noah comes out as gay, and begins officially dating Brian – something acknowledged and accepted by Benjamin.

Phenomenal book!!!!!!

Five stars *****

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Bait (Wake #1) by M. Mabie

Book Description:

Published: October 13, 2014

He was trouble from the start, but I couldn’t resist.
She was the best kind of trouble. The kind that was so wrong, it felt right.

I’ve tried and failed to stay away from him.
I’ve done everything in my power to make her mine and keep her.

He’s almost impossible to say no to.
She never tells me yes.

We’re always fighting.
When we’re not fighting, we’re… well… making up.

He makes me laugh so hard.
I miss her laugh the most.

I’m a liar.
She knows the truth, but won’t admit it.

Sometimes, I wish I’d never met him.
I wish we could meet all over again. I’d do better.

His girlfriend knows.
The guy she’s with is a fool.

I’ll never love anyone like I love him.
She doesn’t love me enough to choose us.

It was the wrong place.
It was the wrong time.

It should have been him.
It will always be her.

This book contains adult situations and is recommended for adult readers. 

Review –

This was offered as a free book and I didn’t think I’d like it but the more I read the more I had to keep flipping pages, or whatever you do on a e-reader.

It’s a boy meets girl/girl meet boy at a bar and then has a one night stand kind of story, but it doesn’t end there. 

The girl, Blake, has a boyfriend(who later becomes her fiancée and husband) but  feels a pull toward Casey, the brother and twin of the boy who is dating her  best friend. Casey is at the bar having a few drinks before going to break up with his girl-friend.

Of course, the one-night stand is earth movingly good and they decide to keep in touch by texting and of course this leads to many many hook-ups over the course of almost two years. They can’t get enough of each other, but Blake doesn’t think that Casey wants what she wants and Casey is so jealous of her boyfriend he can’t see straight.

Blake eventually married Grant (a robot like man) who comes make her come unless she asks him to call her “Betty”, the nickname given to her my Casey.  They marry on the exact date of the first anniversary of her one night stand with Casey, in May and on New Year’s Eve it comes to a head and her husband finds out about Casey. 

Blake tells Casey that she has to go back to him to finish it(get a divorce) and then she can finally come to him and stay.  End.

BLAKE GOT ON MY LAST NERVE. She thought about Casey 24/7 and “loved” Grant but wasn’t in love with him.  I wanted to shake her. How could she not see what Casey was offering her as opposed to the mundane, hum-drum life  of being married to Grant?

I’ve already purchased the next in the series(Over-priced-but I had to see how things turn out-right?)

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City of Fallen Angels( Mortal Instruments, Book 4)by Cassandra Clare

Book Description

Publication Date: April 5, 2011 | Series: Mortal Instruments (Book 4)
The Mortal War is over, and sixteen-year-old Clary Fray is back home in New York, excited about all the possibilities before her. She’s training to become a Shadowhunter and to use her unique power. Her mother is getting married to the love of her life. Downworlders and Shadowhunters are at peace at last. And—most importantly of all—she can finally call Jace her boyfriend.But nothing comes without a price.Someone is murdering Shadowhunters, provoking tensions between Downworlders and Shadowhunters that could lead to a second, bloody war. Clary’s best friend, Simon, can’t help her. His mother just found out that he’s a vampire and now he’s homeless. Everywhere he turns, someone wants him on their side—along with the power of the curse that’s wrecking his life. And they’re willing to do anything to get what they want. Not to mention that he’s dating two beautiful, dangerous girls—neither of whom knows about the other one.When Jace begins to pull away from her without explaining why, Clary is forced to delve into the heart of a mystery whose solution reveals her worst nightmare: she herself has set in motion a terrible chain of events that could lead to her losing everything she loves. Even Jace.

Love. Blood. Betrayal. Revenge. The stakes are higher than ever in City of Fallen Angels.

Review –

Loved it and now have to wait for the last in the series City of Lost Souls.  Can’t wait.

Dear John by Nicholas Sparks

From Publishers Weekly

Hot on the heels of True Believer and sequel At First Sight, Sparks returns with the story of ne’er-do-well-turned-army-enlistee John Tyree, 23, and well-to-do University of North Carolina special education major Savannah Lynn Curtis. John, who narrates, has been raised by a socially backward single postal-worker dad obsessed with coin collecting (he has Asperger’s syndrome). John bypasses college for the overseas infantry; Savannah spends her college summers volunteering. When they meet, he’s on leave, and she’s working with Habitat for Humanity (he rescues her sinking purse at the beach). John has a history of one-night stands; Savannah’s a virgin. He’s an on-and-off drinker; she’s a teetotaler. Attraction and values conflict the rest of the summer, but the deal does not close. Savannah longs for John to come home; her friend Tim longs to have a relationship with her. On the brink of John and Savannah’s finally getting together, 9/11 happens, and John re-ups. Savannah’s letters come less and less frequently, and before you know it, he receives the expected “Dear John” letter. Sparks’s novel brims with longing. (Oct. 30)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
 
 
 
 
Review-
 All I have to say is you’d better have  a king size box of Kleenex handy when you read or listen to this book because   Nicholas Sparks has hit another home run.  I listen to my audio books in the car as I run my daily errands and there were times I had a hard time seeing for all the tears, so beware.  If you’ve never experienced  Nicholas Sparks or it’s been awhile since you’ve read one of his book-please give this one a try.
 
You may notice that I’m showing two covers and that’s because the first one is from the audio book and the second is on most paperbacks.  I like them both but the second one tells the story in a glance.
 
Give this one a try. You won’t be disappointed.