Review: Atonement

I really enjoyed this book by Ian McEwan. It is the most famous of his books and has been adapted for the big screen. Some of his other books include Saturday and the soon-to-be-released book Sweet Tooth, which I look forward to reading!

Atonement begins on a hot summer day in 1935 in a chaotic upper-middle class British household. Briony Tallis, 13 years old, is a precocious aspiring young author and tries to direct a play she wrote, with her cousins as actors. Of course, her expectations are not met and the play falls apart. Meanwhile, she seeks drama in the lives of her family members and, as children often do, misinterprets events and reads into them.

Briony’s imagination leads to a devastating misunderstanding when she witnesses an interaction between her older sister, Cecelia, and the servant’s son Robbie. A private interaction, a mistaken note, and a romantic encounter in the library is all it takes for Briony to form a wildly different picture of the events occurring between Robbie and Cecilia.

This grave mistake might have stopped there, if it weren’t for the evening’s events. Someone rapes their young cousin Lola, and Briony is the only person who witnesses the event. Her wild imagination and child’s understanding leads to her jumping to conclusions and becoming the key witness of a painful accusation.

The novel then skips ahead to years later as World War II begins. It takes us through the difficulties of Robbie and Ceclia’s romance, the pain of the war through the eyes of soldiers, and then brings us back to Briony. She is now a nurse dealing with stress related to the war and her own guilt over her mistake years ago. As the title suggests, Briony struggles with the concept of atonement and wonders if she can ever make up for her mistake.

The novel closes beautifully with some deep insight into the plot and literature in general and ties back to the beginning with Briony’s amateur play finally getting it’s debut in a touching demonstration of family love. The ending does raise some frustrating questions, but they are addressed in an interesting way. I really want to say more about this, but I don’t want to give it all away! So read it, I urge you! Then come back and we can discuss 🙂

I really did enjoy this book quite a bit. Surprisingly, it took me a while (several weeks!) to get through, but this was due to “real life” and does not reflect the quality of the book. The characters and plot were compelling, and I always love books about WWII, so it was a perfect mix! I’m hoping the movie won’t be much of a disappointment – though isn’t this inevitable with amazing books (no matter how amazing the movie)?

“The truth is I feel rather light headed and foolish in your presence, Cee, and I don’t think I can blame the heat!”

For Literature Lovers: Books About Books

Anyone who reads my blog knows that I’m a bit obsessed with Carlos Ruiz Zafón. His book The Shadow of the Wind is my all-time favorite and it was the first book that impacted me so greatly. I recently reviewed his newest book, The Prisoner of Heaven, which certainly lived up to the expectations.

Besides being an amazing storyteller, Zafón’s books are unique because they express the immense passion a reader can have for literature. Most notably, his Cemetery of Forgotten Books, which appears in three of his books now, features an old hidden library containing forgotten books. When a reader takes a book from the library, they are forever entrusted with its care.

Zafón clearly loves literature and knows what makes a good book. When I was researching him a few days ago, I stumbled across a Goodreads article in which Carlos Ruiz Zafón listed his own favorite “books about books.” Of course, his own books The Shadow of the Wind, The Angel’s Game, and The Prisoner of Heaven should top the list.

Here is Zafón’s list: Continue reading

Review: The Prisoner of Heaven

“I opened the book and looked for the page with the inscription the stranger had written out.

For Fermín Romero de Torres,
who came back from among the dead
and holds the key to the

Then I heard the tinkle of the doorbell and when I looked up, the stranger was gone.

I dashed over to the door and peered out into the street. The visitor was limping away, merging with the silhouettes that moved through the veil of blue mist sweeping up Calle Santa Ana. I was about to call him, but I bit my tongue. The easiest thing would have been to let him go and have done with it, but my instinct and characteristic lack of prudence got the better of me.

This book is the third of what will be four novels that make up The Cemetery of Forgotten Books series. They are beautifully written and expertly crafted in a way that they all relate to the same story, but can be read separately and in any order. Each book adds shocking details and perspectives to The Cemetery of Forgotten Books world.

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Wine to Water: Review and Giveaway

Wine to Water is the true story of Doc Hendley (pictured to the left) and his journey to help solve the water crisis.  Doc has a humble beginning as an ordinary bartender, but he has an energetic personality and love of people that soon fuels his mission to make a difference.

When Doc learns about the world’s freshwater crisis he is shocked by the severity, much as I was while reading the book.  However, while most of us would be saddened and surprised to learn the great suffering of people without water, we would stop there.  Doc is compelled to do something about it.  He begins by starting a non-profit organization, Wine to Water, and before he even knows how best to make an impact, he is raising funds through wine-tasting events and gatherings in his hometown.  To his surprise, the organization starts spreading like wildfire as friends of friends become interested in spreading the word and donating money to help the crisis.

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