Sisterland, by Curtis Sittenfeld, has a population of two. Sittenfeld, author of Prep and American Wife, is no stranger to characters dealing with inner turmoil and struggling to be accepted by others, and the characters in Sisterland are no exception. Twins Kate and Violet (Vi) share a lonely childhood, with a largely absent mother and a father who is loving but distracted by work and his depressed wife. Added to normal teen angst and a dysfunctional family, the twins have a secret: they are psychic.
The characters are at the heart of the novel. The story is told from Kate’s point of view, in both the present timeline and in flashbacks to various times in the girl’s lives. Kate is the sister who longs to fit in with the other kids at school, who wants a normal family, who doesn’t want to be psychic… Except when she does; when it can help her get what she wants. Vi is wild, rebellious and welcoming of the “senses” that give the girls the ability to have premonitions through dreams and visions. (more…)
Natalie Brown’s debut novel The Lovebird convinces me of one thing: you don’t have to like the main character to love a book. Brown writes a book filled with charming, complex characters that dwell in a world of sights and smells that they bumble through in a variety of hapless ways. The characters are self-involved and selfish, idealistic and clueless, yet they are also kind and loving, deeply caring and hopeful. Brown’s writing touches on the sublime in her descriptions of feelings, dreams and the physical world in which her characters exist.
The Lovebird is a coming of age story about a hopelessly naïve and passionate college student, Margie Fitzgerald. The minute Margie meets her Latin professor, Simon, the reader knows she is on a dangerous path. Margie is drawn to wounded creatures, and as the story unfolds it is clear that her empathy is one of her great strengths but also her biggest weakness. Margie connects with people who, like her, are missing something in their lives, searching for that lost piece, who feel always alone. She is drawn into a world of animal rights activism by her need to protect, be accepted and loved. These same qualities lead her to act in ways that will make the reader cringe at points throughout the book. (more…)
C.W. Gortner’s historical fiction novel The Queen’s Vow is a lavish tale depicting the life of Isabella of Castile. Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand are mostly remembered for funding the explorer Christopher Columbus, thus expanding the Spanish empire and becoming a legendary part of history. However, as this expansive novel portrays, Isabella’s life and reign were filled with complexity, with Isabella at all times rooted in her belief in God’s will guiding her.
Separated into four parts, the novel follows Isabella from her childhood as the Infanta from Arévalo to the port of Palos in 1492 as she watches Don Cristobal Colon depart Spain for his own epic journey. The story is extensively researched, and Gortner imparts a history lesson without becoming tedious or straying too far from Isabella as the central character of the novel. (more…)by Kate with 1 Comment
Anne Lyle embarks on an ambitious series in The Alchemist of Souls, combining alternative history, fantasy and historical fiction in Elizabethan England. In Lyle’s England, not only has Queen Elizabeth married her devoted friend Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, but they also have two sons, Robert and Arthur, creating a twist in history that changes the world of Elizabeth as we know it. The second surprising shift in history comes in the form of an intelligent, mysterious race called the skrayling, encountered in the New World by explorers and brought back to England as allies.
The two major historical twists notwithstanding, the world Lyle creates in The Alchemist of Souls is still filled with Elizabethan tradition. Acting and the theater play a large role in the story, and Lyle’s attention to the behind the scenes backstage world of the theater is one of the high points of the novel. Court intrigue and mystery abound, which should delight the reader throughout the book. (more…)by Kate with No Comments