Showing posts with label Bestsellers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bestsellers. Show all posts

The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir

The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir


4.1  ·  Rating details ·  50,901 Ratings  ·  1,343 Reviews
Download or read online for free The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir
The Six Wives of Henry VIII
by Alison Weir
The tempestuous, bloody, and splendid reign of Henry VIII of England (1509-1547) is one of the most fascinating in all history, not least for his marriage to six extraordinary women. In this accessible work of brilliant scholarship, Alison Weir draws on early biographies, letters, memoirs, account books, and diplomatic reports to bring these women to life. Catherine of Aragon emerges as a staunch though misguided woman of principle; Anne Boleyn, an ambitious adventuress with a penchant for vengeance; Jane Seymour, a strong-minded matriarch in the making; Anne of Cleves, a good-natured and innocent woman naively unaware of the court intrigues that determined her fate; Catherine Howard, an empty-headed wanton; and Catherine Parr, a warm-blooded bluestocking who survived King Henry to marry a fourth time.

“Katherine of Aragon was a staunch but misguided woman of principle; Anne Boleyn an ambitious adventuress with a penchant for vengeance; Jane Seymour a strong-minded matriarch in the making; Anne of Cleves a good-humoured woman who jumped at the chance of independence; Katherine Howard an empty-headed wanton; and Katherine Parr a godly matron who was nevertheless all too human when it came to a handsome rogue.”

“Since arriving in England, Katherine had come to know a freedom she had never dreamed of in Spain, where young women were kept in seclusion and forced to live almost like cloistered nuns. They wore clothes that camouflaged their bodies and veiled their faces in public. Etiquette at the Spanish court was rigid, and even smiling was frowned upon. But in England, unmarried women enjoyed much more freedom: their gowns were designed to attract, and when they were introduced to gentlemen they kissed them full upon the lips in greeting. They sang and danced when they pleased, went out in public as the fancy took them, and laughed when they felt merry.”





 

Reviews


Extensively researched and fascinating - a must-read for anyone interested in the women behind Henry VIII, aka the patron saint of man-whores. (I just made that up on the spot, but it works so I'm keeping it)
Weir isn't completely unbiased in her description of Henry and his various women, but I can't blame her. With this family, it's hard not to take sides. This is especially clear when Weir describes the way Henry felt about Anne of Cleves, his wife for about ten minutes. Weir talks about how Henry whined that Anne was fat and ugly and then, no doubt with a wicked grin on her face, Weir goes on to describe how gross Henry had gotten by that point. You can just tell she's dying to call Henry a fat bastard, and I'm proud of her for resisting that urge.
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Ah, I do enjoy an Alison Weir. I am not enough of a historian to have Opinions about history, so my comments are about the writing rather than historical merit, and the writing is good. Weir is always lively and entertaining, perfect for a recreational history reader like me, and I found myself zipping through this as if through a novel, even though I knew how each character's story ended!

It's strange, though, that my interest is always greatest up to the point where Anne Boleyn dies. I always think that the real Henry VIII story was that of the Henry-Catherine-Anne triangle, and the rest of the wives never seem to match up to the cut and thrust of the Great Matter. Once Henry won the point that he could marry and dispose of at will, the other wives' stories seem to be those of ambition overcoming common sense with the possible exception of Anne of Cleves, who really did quite well out of the deal (granted, it's a bit trickier, politically speaking, to behead a foreign princess so she had some guarantees going in).

Perhaps this is why I felt that the book started off as an account of the wives but ended up more as the standard Henry +6 story; Catherine and Anne dominate the first part of the book, and then the wives get less interesting. Still, if you're looking for a good recap or just a bit of Tudor entertainment with real-life characters, read this one. It also has a good chronology, very useful if you need to check dates.
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A Kirkus review I read ages and ages ago, back in those days when their reviews were reliable, i.e. before it had been purchased by a publishing company whose aim is to sell books, said the book was meticulously researched but a bit dry. So unfortunately, I put it off until now. I did not find it in the least dry! The book's content is based on meticulous research, but in that Alison Weir, author and historian of British Royalty, is so very knowledgeable in her field, she has the ability to present information clearly and engagingly. 
It is this that is her great talent. A person who really knows what they are talking about can explain the complicated simply. Such a person also has the ability to throw in tidbits that engage and capture one’s interest. Lots of books have been written about Henry VIII, his six wives, the Tudors and Thomas Cromwell, but I recommend this because I have found it clear and captivating and not hard to follow even for those with little previous knowledge of Tudor history.

Weir knows how to explain. This isn’t always easy when so many are given the same name – Mary or Edward or Catherine or Elisabeth or Jane. Which Mary, Edward, Catherine, Elisabeth or Jane must be crystal clear. Nor is it easy when these very same individuals are also referred to as counts or admirals or duchesses of this or that place. I never got mixed up, and I am no expert, so I don’t think you will either.

There is that rhyme divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived to help you keep the six wives straight:
*Catherine of Aragon (1485-1536) born in Alcalá de Henares, Spain
A staunch woman of principle.
*Anne Boleyn (c.1501 -1536) born in Blickling, England
Vivacious, ambitious, ruthless with a penchant for vengeance. Sex appeal.
*Jane Seymour (c.1508-1537) born in Wiltshire, England
Obedient, pious. Strong-minded matriarch in the making.
*Anne of Cleves (1515-1557) born in Dusseldorf, Germany
Level-headed, clear-thinking and valued independence.
*Catherine Howard (1523-1542) born in London
A licentious wanton.
*Catherine Parr (1512-1548) born in London
Erudite, intellectual and wise, but knew where her heart lay.

The rhyme tells only the end of their respective stories; there is so much more to who they were.

I have a good feeling now for Henry’s, his six wives’ and their children’s temperaments, backgrounds and religious leanings. I particularly appreciated that religious and political views are focused upon, showing how the Reformation and the shift from Catholicism to Protestant beliefs began in Britain. This is as much a central theme of the book as are the facts about the wives and children (Mary, Elizabeth, Edward and the acknowledged but illegitimate son Henry FitzRoy). Life of the royalty in the 1500s, for example customs, traditions, sports, childbirth and deaths, clothing, festivals, foods and illnesses are documented in vivid detail.

You know a book is a hit when the first thing you do is pick out more books to read by the author.

Books I have read by Alison Weir:

*The Six Wives of Henry VIII 4 stars
*The Life of Elizabeth I 4 star

I want to read:
*The Children of Henry VIII
*Queens of the Conquest: England’s Medieval Queens
which is the beginning of a series. As well as
*Queen Isabella: Treachery, Adultery, and Murder in Medieval England and
*Eleanor of Aquitaine: A Life
because these two queens are not covered in Queens of the Conquest: England’s Medieval Queens

Innocent Traitor I have also read, but only gave it 2 stars. It is fiction. I do not recommend the author’s fictional books. Her non-fiction is much better.

ETA: I should add this. I tried to read The Wars of the Roses and gave up. It read as a string of names; people who meant nothing to me.
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This prodigiious work on the wives of King Henry the 8th of England is so well written. It reads like a novel of suspense, passion, treachery, European History, betrayal, obedience, faith, God and love. It did what I really enjoy in books--made me want to read more about other characters mention such as Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots. Also to review maps and learn of the royalty of Spain, France, and Germany. Many words to be looked up to enhance your vocabulary as well. Learn about the first theatrical musicals and how the masked ball came to be. In the end, decide for yourself if Henry was evil, tyrannical or the greatest King of England.
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Henry VIII, England's most famous and rougish king, takes somewhat of a back seat (though still figures prominently) while his six wives (their courtship, marriage, and their fate) are front and center by one of England's most preeminent storyteller of royal history. Intrigue, duplicity, executions, and, of course, Henry's marital infidelities that led to a major and cataclysmic reformation of religion in England, Weir weaves her spell that gives breath and personality to each of Henry's wives, and their feelings on the reasonings behind the kings dissolution of each of his marriages. An excellent read!
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I am notoriously slow reading non-fiction (I still have not finished John Adams). So I gave this book 5 stars as I could not put it down. I read it in a week (and it is a substantial size book). It reads as nicely as any fiction (much like I thought seabiscuit was).

I learned so much about stories that I was a little familiar with already -- I just had no idea that they were in reality even crazier than I learned. Politics, deception, ambition, religion, and a tad bit of "crazy" make for some of the bizarrest scenarios in all history.

The idea that "sex" or in more euphemistic term "lines of succession" completely dominated all aspects of these peoples lives is really fascinating. I gave thanks a thousand times over that the quality of my life is not dependent on my ability to have a son especially in a time period where the very attempt to have a child would likely cause my own death.

That Henry VIII actually lived and that these stories are in fact true is a testament to the line "truth is stranger than fiction".

I think anyone would enjoy this book.
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Excellent read. I have read several books that cover the lives of the Tudors and more specifically Elizabeth, Mary and Henry. However, none had done much with the wives of Henry VIII beyond Jane Seymour having been the mother of Edward VI. So I picked this one up and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Weir has written several first class histories on this period so there is much overlap. The first third of the book was not only familiar, but in some cases a direct re-tracing of steps. However, the details were oriented toward the lives of the wives, not the politics or religion. In the middle of the book the story provides detail on not only the lives of the wives, but of Henry as a husband and private person. Weir creates a portrait of a powerful leader struggling with ruling a nation while growing older, heavier and having massive issues with fatherhood and fathering.

As the book gets to Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard and Catherine Parr, Weir does not disappoint. In many respects this is the same story I've read from the point of view of the Children of Henry, the Life of Elizabeth and other histories, but from the point of view and experience of these three women. Weir creates portraits of real people which allow the reader a meaningful experience beyond a simple understanding of the facts.

All six of these women had fascinating stories. Having been married to Catherine of Aragon the longest, the largest single portion involves her life. Having been married to Catherine Howard for the shortest interval, the book tells the tale and moves on. I enjoyed Weir's following through with the stories of Anne of Cleves and Catherine Parr who outlived Henry. Thus, this was truly the story of the wives from beginning to end.
Source: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10104.The_Six_Wives_of_Henry_VIII

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr



4.31  ·  Rating details ·  582,560 Ratings  ·  55,453 Reviews
Download or read online for free All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
 All the Light We Cannot See
by Anthony Doerr
A stunningly ambitious and beautiful novel about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, a stunningly ambitious and beautiful novel about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

Marie Laure lives with her father in Paris within walking distance of the Museum of Natural History where he works as the master of the locks (there are thousands of locks in the museum). When she is six, she goes blind, and her father builds her a model of their neighborhood, every house, every manhole, so she can memorize it with her fingers and navigate the real streets with her feet and cane. When the Germans occupy Paris, father and daughter flee to Saint-Malo on the Brittany coast, where Marie-Laure's agoraphobic great uncle lives in a tall, narrow house by the sea wall.

In another world in Germany, an orphan boy, Werner, grows up with his younger sister, Jutta, both enchanted by a crude radio Werner finds. He becomes a master at building and fixing radios, a talent that wins him a place at an elite and brutal military academy and, ultimately, makes him a highly specialized tracker of the Resistance. Werner travels through the heart of Hitler Youth to the far-flung outskirts of Russia, and finally into Saint-Malo, where his path converges with Marie-Laure.

Doerr's gorgeous combination of soaring imagination with observation is electric. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another. Ten years in the writing, All the Light We Cannot See is his most ambitious and dazzling work.

“Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.”

“But it is not bravery; I have no choice. I wake up and live my life. Don't you do the same?”





Reviews


This book has the most hauntingly beautiful prose I've ever read. It's brimming with rich details that fill all five senses simultaneously. It's full of beautiful metaphors that paint gorgeous images. I didn't want this book to end, but I couldn't put it down. 
"In August 1944 the historic walled city of Saint-Malo, the brightest jewel of the Emerald Coast of Brittany, France was almost destroyed by fire....Of the 865 buildings within the walls, only 182 remained standing and all were damaged to some degree." -Philip Beck

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Two Parallel Stories
This book is really two parallel stories set during World War II, about two children, growing up in two different countries. The poetic narration moves back and forth in both time and place, between the two main characters.

Story 1. Nazi Germany,
In Nazi Germany, a young orphan boy named Werner lives in a sparse children’s home with his young sister. He is exceptionally bright and curious with a knack for fixing radios. He fixes one old radio and becomes spellbound by a nightly science program broadcast from France. His talents in math and science win him a coveted spot in a nightmarish Hitler Youth Academy. This is his only chance of escape from a grim life working in the same deadly coal mines that killed his father.

Story 2. Paris, France
In Paris, France there is a shy, freckled redhead named Marie-Laure. She is intuitive, clever and sensitive. She lives with her locksmith father who works at a museum. When she goes blind from a degenerative disease at the age of six, her father builds a detailed miniature model of their neighborhood, so she can memorize every street, building and corner by tracing the model with her nimble fingers. When the Germans attack Paris she and her father must flee to the coastal town of Saint-Malo to live with a great-uncle who lives in a tall, storied house next to a sea wall.

This story is suspenseful but read it slowly, so you can savor every word, unhurried.

What does the title mean?
The author explains in his own words: "The title is a reference first and foremost to all the light we literally cannot see: that is, the wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum that are beyond the ability of human eyes to detect (radio waves, of course, being the most relevant). It’s also a metaphorical suggestion that there are countless invisible stories still buried within World War II — that stories of ordinary children, for example, are a kind of light we do not typically see. Ultimately, the title is intended as a suggestion that we spend too much time focused on only a small slice of the spectrum of possibility." - Anthony Doerr
Quote from page 509:
“A foot of steel looks as if it has been transformed into warm butter and gouged by the fingers of a child”
Quote from Page 3:
"At dusk they pour from the sky. They blow across the ramparts, turn cartwheels over rooftops, flutter into the ravines between houses. Entire streets swirl with them, flashing white against the cobbles. "Urgent message to the inhabitants of this town," they say. "Depart immediately to open country." The tide climbs. The moon hangs small and yellow and gibbous. On the rooftops of beachfront hotels to the east, and in the gardens behind them, a half-dozen American artillery units drop incendiary rounds into the mouths of mortars."
Quote from Page 11:
"Saint Malo: Water surrounds the city on four sides. Its link to the rest of France is tenuous: a causeway, a bridge, a spit of sand. We are Malouins first, say the people of Saint-Malo. Bretons next. French if there’s anything left over. In stormy light, its granite glows blue. At the highest tides, the sea creeps into basements at the very center of town. At the lowest tides, the barnacled ribs of a thousand shipwrecks stick out above the sea. For three thousand years, this little promontory has known sieges. But never like this."
Quote from Page 5:
"The Girl
In a corner of the city, inside a tall, narrow house at Number 4 rue Vauborel, on the sixth and highest floor, a sightless sixteen-year-old named Marie-Laure LeBlanc kneels over a low table covered entirely with a model. The model is a miniature of the city she kneels within,and contains scale replicas of the hundreds of houses and shops and hotels within its walls. There’s the cathedral with its perforated spire, and the bulky old Château de Saint-Malo, and row after row of sea-side mansions studded with chimneys. A slender wooden jetty arcs out from a beach called the Plage du Môle; a delicate, reticulated atrium vaults over the seafood market; minute benches, the smallest no larger than apple seeds, dot the tiny public squares.

Marie-Laure runs her fingertips along the centimeter-wide para-pet crowning the ramparts, drawing an uneven star shape around the entire model. She finds the opening atop the walls where four ceremonial cannons point to sea."
“Now it seems there are only shadows and silence. Silence is the fruit of the occupation; it hangs in branches, seeps from gutters…So many windows are dark. It’s as if the city has become a library of books in an unknown language, the houses great shelves of illegible volumes, the lamps all extinguished.” -- All The Light We cannot See 
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 “So how, children, does the brain, which lives without a spark of light, build for us a world full of light?”

I'm going to be honest - love for this book didn't hit me straight away. In fact, my first attempt to read it last year ended with me putting it aside and going to find something easier, lighter and less descriptive to read. I know - meh, what a quitter.

But this book is built on beautiful imagery. Both in the literal sense - the physical world of 1940s Paris/Germany - and the metaphorical. It's woven with scientific and philosophical references to light, to seeing and not seeing, and the differences between the two. It's a beautiful work of genius, but it does get a little dense at times; the prose bloated by details.

However, when we get into the meat of this WWII novel, it's also the harrowing story of a childhood torn apart by war. It's about Parisian Marie-Laure who has been blind since she was six years old, and a German orphan called Werner who finds himself at the centre of the Hitler Youth. Both of their stories are told with sensitivity and sympathy, each one forced down a path by their personal circumstances and by that destructive monster - war.

I think this is the kind of book you will never appreciate if you stop too soon - I learned that lesson. From the first to last page, there is a running theme of interconnectedness, of invisible lines running parallel to one another and sometimes, just sometimes, crossing in the strangest of ways. These two lives we are introduced to seem to be worlds apart, and yet they come together and influence one another. It was this, more than the predictably awful tale of war, that made me feel quite emotional.

All the Light We Cannot See is haunting. That's how I would describe it. From the chillingly beautiful prose, to the realization of what the title actually means: that underneath the surface of history, there is light - and stories - that have not been seen; that have gone untold. Scientifically, we only see a small portion of the electromagnetic spectrum; historically, we only see a small portion of the story.
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I always thought, or imagined, that there were these invisible lines trembling in our wake, outlining our trajectories through life, throbbing with electric energy. Lines that sometimes cross one other, or follow in parallel ellipses without ever touching, or meet up for one brief moment and then part. A universe of lines crisscrossing in the void.

Anthony Doerr's astonishing new novel "All The Light We Cannot See" follows the complex arcs of two such invisible lines through the lives of Werner Pfennig, an orphan boy in pre-World War II Germany and Marie-Laure Leblanc, a blind girl living in Paris with her father. Through riveting flash forwards and flash backs, the novel charters the course of their lives as they struggle to find out wether it is possible to really own your life when it is swallowed by the black holes of history. One is driven by a deep love of science while the other is inhabited by the power of books. In the midst of the rise of German fascism and the birth of the French Resistance, how does youth manage to stay true to its essence?

A war story, a coming-of-age story, a philosophical fable, this is a novel that constantly oscillates between the moral uncertainties of life and the chiselled precision of the natural world that surrounds us. Between the political morass of war and the stupendous beauty of organisms, the ocean, the human brain.

The language is so fantastically precise - Anthony Doerr does things with verbs that make entire paragraphs sing - that the visual component of this book is quite astounding.

In the end, what this novel illuminates is the miraculous impact that seminal events have on the rest of our lives, whether it be the magic of radio broadcasts on the mysteries of science or the extraordinary adventures of Jules Verne's "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea".
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Adult fiction

This book is getting a lot of well-deserved attention for its unique story and its beautiful writing. It starts late in World War II, as the Allies begin shelling the French city of Saint-Malo to drive out the remaining Nazi troops. Our two main characters are Marie Laure, a blind French girl who fled here with her uncle from Paris, and Werner, a radio expert in the German army who is stuck in the city when the attack begins. We jump back and forth in time, and between the two characters’ perspectives to see how both young people were brought to this place.

If you like straight-ahead, linear, plot-driven war novels, this is not the book for you. It does have a central plot that brings the two characters together – a mystery about a possibly magic gem hunted by an evil, terminally ill Nazi officer – but that is almost beside the point. In fact it feels like something added after the fact, as if an editor said, “You know, what you need is . . .” That plot, and the way it resolves, strongly echoes the mystery in the movie Titanic.

What kept me turning pages, rather, were the characters’ lives and the short, well-crafted scenes. Doerr’s writing is elegant and evocative. Reading it is like eating the best gelato – so decadent you are sure you’ll put on weight. He treats Marie Laure and Werner with equal empathy, and their interaction – when they finally meet – is not your stereotypical wartime love story. It is much better, much more bittersweet and haunting.

It took me about fifty pages to really get into the book and figure out the structure, but once I did, I couldn’t stop.
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It has been awhile since I have found a book that I wanted to read slowly so that I could soak in every detail in hopes that the last page seems to never come.

When reading the synopsis of this novel, I never imagined that I would feel so connected to a book where one of the main characters is blind and the other a brilliant young German orphan who was chosen to attend a brutal military academy under Hitler's power using his innate engineering skills.

This novel was so much more than the above states. The idiosyncrasies of each individual character are so well defined and expressed in such ways that come across the page almost lyrically. I was invited into the pages and could not only imagine the atmosphere, but all of my senses were collectively enticed from the very first page until the last.

I was so amazed with the way that the author was able to heighten all my senses in a way that I felt like I knew what it was like to be blind. In most well-written books you get of a sense of what the characters look like and follow them throughout the book almost as if you are on a voyage, but with this novel, I could imagine what it was like to be in Marie-Laure's shoes. The descriptives were so beautifully intricate that I could imagine the atmosphere through touch and sound. It was amazing, really.

There were so many different aspects of the book that are lived out in separate moments and in different countries that find a way to unite in the end. What impressed me most was that I could have never predicted the outcome. It was as though all cliches were off the table and real life was set in motion. Life outside of books can be very messy and the author stayed true to life but in a magical and symbolic way.

I have said in other reviews that just when I think that I have read my last book centered around the Second World War, another seems to pop up. I should emphasize that this book created an image of war in a way that I have never imagined before. I truly got a sense of what it must have been like for children who lived a happy life and then suddenly were on curfew and barely had food to eat. It also showed the side of young children who are basically brainwashed by Nazi leaders and made into animals who seem to make choices that they normally wouldn't in order to survive. And by survive, I mean dodging severe abuse by their own colleagues.

This book may haunt me for some time. I can't express enough how beautifully written the pages are. I highly recommend this read as it is my favorite so far for 2014.
Source: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18143977-all-the-light-we-cannot-see?ac=1&from_search=true

Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven 


3.92  ·  Rating details ·  27,651 Ratings  ·  4,512 Reviews
Download or read online for free Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven
Holding Up the Universe
by Jennifer Niven
Everyone thinks they know Libby Strout, the girl once dubbed “America’s Fattest Teen.” But no one’s taken the time to look past her weight to get to know who she really is. Following her mom’s death, she’s been picking up the pieces in the privacy of her home, dealing with her heartbroken father and her own grief. Now, Libby’s ready: for high school, for new friends, for love, and for every possibility life has to offer. In that moment, I know the part I want to play here at MVB High. I want to be the girl who can do anything.

Everyone thinks they know Jack Masselin, too. Yes, he’s got swagger, but he’s also mastered the impossible art of giving people what they want, of fitting in. What no one knows is that Jack has a newly acquired secret: he can’t recognize faces. Even his own brothers are strangers to him. He’s the guy who can re-engineer and rebuild anything, but he can’t understand what’s going on with the inner workings of his brain. So he tells himself to play it cool: Be charming. Be hilarious. Don’t get too close to anyone.

Until he meets Libby. When the two get tangled up in a cruel high school game—which lands them in group counseling and community service—Libby and Jack are both pissed, and then surprised. Because the more time they spend together, the less alone they feel. Because sometimes when you meet someone, it changes the world, theirs and yours.

“Dear friend, You are not a freak. You are wanted. You are necessary. You are the only you there is. Don’t be afraid to leave the castle. It’s a great big world out there. Love, a fellow reader”

“We're all weird and damaged in our own way. You're not the only one.”

“People are shitty for a lot of reasons. Sometimes they're just shitty people. Sometimes people have been shitty to them and, even though they don't realize it, they take that shitty upbringing and go out into the world and treat others the same way. Sometimes they're shitty because they're afraid. Sometimes they choose to be shitty to others before others can be shitty to them. So it's like self-defensive shittiness.”





Reviews


Welcome to the internet in the year 2017. Where a simple book blurb broke the internet for a few days. A teenage girl who was rescued from her house because her weight kept her a prisoner. Then through in a statement about how she is returning to high school aka..the real world after being homeschooled.
I KNOW!! Let's all run and one star and bash the book.

Not.

And all you guys thought I was the biggest bully on here didn't you?

Because I had (for once) stopped to think about what the book meant..and it made me drool all over myself.
I didn't jump on the bandwagon. I wanted the book even more.
Because I've been a bit on the fat side many times in my life. I lose some weight and then I gain some weight. Big dang deal. (I can say that now-I couldn't when I was this character's age.) I home-school my kid. AND YES sometimes we talk about him joining the 'real world' again. Does that mean he is socially awkward? Hell no.

This book is something that if I had it in high-school I would have highlighted ever stinking line of it. It would have became my Shelby bible of how to deal with all the assholes that dwell in high-school. (and real life)

These characters:
Libby Stout, she is the girl that was taken from her house. By a crane. Because her mom had died suddenly and she could not cope. Food became her crutch, her dad didn't know how to deal with it and tried..he did try. But when someone is bent on self destruction-sometimes that path can't be detoured. She does finally reach that point (when the crane is brought out) that her dad knows that help is needed. He wants to save his daughter. He gets her help.
Then comes to the point in the story where she is going back to school. She has lost some weight, she is still overweight by public opinion. BUT this girl totally knows who she is.

For example..on the first day back at school.
"Hey," he says.
"Hey."
"Is it true fat girls give better blow jobs?"
"I don't know. I've never gotten a blow job from a fat girl.".


Jack Masselin: This kid hides the fact that he recognizes no one's face. Not even his own family. He once screamed that his mom was kidnapping him because she had gotten a haircut and he didn't have the familiar markers to place her in his mind.
He plays the cool guy at school but he lives in fear that someone will discover his secret.
Then they end up in group counseling together. This is not a boy rescue the fat girl story. This is a story of two people realizing who exactly they are..and owning it.
People are shitty for a lot of reasons. Sometimes they're just shitty people. Sometimes people have been shitty to them and, even though they don't realize it, they take that shitty upbringing and go out into the world and treat others the same way. Sometimes they're shitty because they're afraid. Sometimes they choose to be shitty to others before others can be shitty to them. So it's like self-defensive shittiness.

Books like this are exactly why I read young adult.
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You know I don't care what anyone thinks, I just loved the hell out of this book! I happy cried so many times in this book. And there will probably be some *SPOILERS* I don't know, my feelings right now are out of control. 
This review is going to be all over the place because I'm crazy and that's just the way it is.

I love Libby so much! In this book she has so much courage. Even when she was low and things hurt her, she had courage like no one I know. Those hateful, horrible kids said some of the most horrible things to her. I just can't fathom.

My name is Libby Strout. You've probably heard of me. You've probably watched the video of me being rescued from my own house. At last count, 6,345,981 people have watched it, so there's a good chance you're one of them. Three years ago, I was American's Fattest Teen. I weighed 653 pounds at my heaviest, which means I was approximately 500 pounds overweight. I haven't always been fat. The short version of the story is that my mom died and I got fat, but somehow I'm still here. This is no way my father's fault.

Two months after I was rescued, we moved to a different neighborhood on the other side of town. These days I can leave the house on my own. I've lost 302 pounds. The size of two entire people. I have around 190 left to go, and I'm fine with that. I like who I am. For one thing, I can run now. And ride in the car. And buy clothes at the mall instead of special-ordering them. And I can twirl. Aside from no longer being afraid of organ failure, that may be the best thing about now versus then.

Tomorrow is my first day of school since fifth grade. My new title will be high school junior, which, let's face it, sounds a lot better than America's Fattest Teen. But it's hard to be anything but TERRIFIED OUT OF MY SKULL.

I wait for the panic attack to come.


And of course we all know when she gets to school the jerkholes start bullying her! I hate them so much I could just scream!
But Libby is a force of nature. She don't take too much shite from anyone! She ignores it or in case of boys, she just knocks them on their arse! She my hero!

This is the way she meets the other main character, Jack. I love him too. I will get to him in a minute. He's going to do something to Libby that is a horrible prank for the big girls. He puts a note in her bag before talking about it and apologizing, but he gets what he deserves =)

I'm lying on the cafeteria floor, and the girl is standing over me. My jaw feels knocked loose, it's over somewhere in Ohio. I give it a rub to make sure it's still attached, and my hand comes away covered in blood.

I say, "What the hell?" My words are garbled. Jesus, I think she broke my voice box. "Why did you punch me?"

"WHY DID YOU GRAB ME?"


My eyes go to her backpack, to the letter sticking out of the pocket I just managed to shove it into. I want to say You'll understand later, but I can't speak because I'm wiping the blood from my mouth.

Jack is popular dude at the school, but he has a big problem. He has prosopagnosia.
PROSOPAGNOSIA: 1. An inability to recognize the faces of familiar people, typically as a result of damage to the brain. 2. when everyone is a stranger.

Jack has figured this out for himself by research. He has never told his family or friends. He gets away with it by other means. You can read the book and find out.

When Libby was little she lived across the street from three boys and I loved it because she called them Sam, Dean and Cas =) She loved the show "Supernatural" too. They were her only friends, well friends in her head. Until that day she was taken from her home by crane and moved away.

The story goes back and forth to things that happened in the past to the present. And, it wasn't confusing at all. I'm surprised because I get confused easy!

It turns out that Libby and Jack are pushed together by being in a group after school for being bad. Then they start to get to know each other and it's so fun and it's so wonderful. They help each other. And yeah, some sad stuff happens but it all works out in the end.

And let me tell you, there is one part where Libby stands up to the whole school in such a way that I cried my eyes out. I wish I could add the excerpt like the other ones but it's one you should read for yourself. I just love her. Did I say that already? This book makes me feel sad, mad and good. Libby makes me feel good for so many reasons and that's enough for me. I will read this many times and get some inspiration from Libby. I wish I had a friend like her. The saddest part is, I almost didn't read this book because of so many negative reviews. It does have a lot of good reviews but now I don't care what people think, I read what I want and I'm glad. I found a gem that works for ME! ♥
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This was equal parts special and frustrating for me. But definitely more emphasis on the special. There were moments when my Vulcan soul FAILED ME COMPLETELY and I turned into a mush of squishy feels. FEEEEEEEELS. I think Jennifer Niven is a WIZARD OF FEELS STABBING and I love her for it. Omg. I did love this book. I did. But there were several things that made me pout in a puddle but I'll get to them in a moment. PATIENCE, GRASSHOPPER.

Also: this is not as devastating as All the Bright Places. hahhaahha. THANK YOU. I DON'T FEEL LIKE MY HEART JUST GOT RIPPED OUT. But the whole time I was absolutely dreading the ending....so I actually have all the thumping gasping feels anyway because I WAS SO WORRIED. Ahem.

I'm having a crisis. Nevermind me.

So this story is about being seen, basically. It's equal parts about Libby (who is known as the "fattest teen in America") and Jack (who has prosopagnosia). I reeeally loved the storyline. It was so poignant and beautifully written. Like hold my cupcake, Bob, I need to yell THE WRITING OF JENNIFER NIVEN IS SOMETHING GORGEOUS TO BE UPHELD ACROSS THE MOUNTAINS. I love it. It gets me in the feels and makes me want to do glorious things. I loved the messages of self-worth and I loooved how everything tied together.

Brief List Of Other Things I Loved:
• There are Supernatural references. SO MANY SUPERNATURAL REFERENCES. #win
• There is SO MUCH DANCING.
• There is much diversity of colour, size, and (briefly) sexuality.
• Jack has a gorgeous afro and a deep love of his hair and this pleases me greatly because HAIR APPRECIATION IS MY THING.

I love love looooooved Jack. I GOTTA ADMIT HE IS A PRECIOUS CINNAMON ROLL OF BAD DECISIONS. He really makes sucky decisions. And he is a coward a bit. But at the same time I related to him a lot because of the face-blind aspect. I don't have prosopagnosia, but I struggle to recognise people's faces to a mild degree and I fail at reading emotions on faces completely -- so just the fact that Jack could walk into a room of people and have NO IDEA WHO THEY WERE OR WHAT THEY THOUGHT OF HIM was so relatable AND IT NEARLY MADE ME CRY.

Libby...I struggled with a lot. This is because she has a very self-righteous attitude and she makes just as many dumb decisions as Jack -- but yet she doesn't seem to ever be sorry about them? At least Jack recognised he was a JERK. Whereas Libby just justified herself. Plus there was a scene at the end. But I loved all the self-love Libby talked about and how she had SUCH epic slap-backs to the bullies. Like let me applaud.

AND DID I MENTION THERE IS SO MUCH DANCING?!?!? I love it. Jack and Libby just DANCE and it is the most simply beautiful thing of ever. THESE PRECIOUS CHILDREN OF HEART ACHE AND SORROW. <3

I also totally got squished with emotions. Mainly "omg this is adorable" and "omg I can't even with how much I love them" and "please do not let my precious adorable cinnamon roll Jack die because I love him so". Gaahhhhhhhhh...I loved this.

I mean, there are a few negatives. Aside from not really connecting with Libby at all, I was surprised that there wasn't much variation in the settings. I didn't really understand a lot of the characters motivations. Like why wouldn't Jack tell his parents he's face-blind?? And why wouldn't Libby go to the principal when she was bullied, yet she told other students to go to the principal when they were bullied?? I IS THE CONFUSED. Also Jack can't recognise his family (fair; he has a disorder and this makes sense) but even in his own home he says stuff like "the man I assume is my father"...which makes no sense, in my opinion, because heck, who else would it be?? I can recognise my family coming down the stairs without even looking at them. Maybe this is just picky: but there was a lot of repetition whenever he was with his family about him figuring out who was who despite it being pretty obvious with faces aside. I mean, he has ONE FEMALE (mother) in his house. Of course it's going to be his mother tell him to put the coffee down or whatnot???

All in all: duuuude, this story is a precious little universe and I could not put it down. I COULD NOT!! Every time I did, I wanted to snatch it back up again. I adored Jack and his lion-mane afro and his swagger. And I looove books that want to talk about self-worth and not hiding and just BEING YOU, because these are some of the most important things to talk about of ever. THE WRITING IS DIVINE AND I JUST HAVE SO MANY FEELINGS WHAT IS THIS.
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Holding Up the Universe was an interesting and moving read with complex characters and a unique storyline. I listened the the audio version of this book and once I hit play, I didn’t want to stop. When I read All the Bright Places earlier this year, I had the same feeling of being hooked. I’m happy to report the author was able to pull this off not once, but twice.

Our story centers around Libby Strout and Jack Masselin. Libby is formally ‘America’s Fattest Teen’. She’s spent a lot of her young adult life getting healthy and she is nowhere near thin, but she’s happy with herself. She decides to take the plunge, stop homeschooling and go to high school. Libby is a fantastic character. I loved that she’s just herself. She has a great relationship with her dad and meets some good friends throughout this journey for her. She also meets Jack Masselin in a very unconventional way.

Jack’s got it good in high school, or so everything thinks. He’s popular, has a pretty girlfriend and a lot of friends. He’s funny, charming and cool. But he struggles every single moment of every single day. See, Jack has this secret. He can’t recognize faces. I can’t even imagine how that would feel. To wake up each morning, look at my husband and not recognize his face. That’s how it is for Jack. He knows his brother’s hair style, and he can tell his other brother by his ears, but the system is not flawless. Libby is the only one who knows about this and is able to help him. He doesn't always deserve her help, but that's not the point. It's just the way Libby is. I love her for it.

Jack and Libby’s relationship is complicated at first. The way they meet, the reason they’re spending so much time together. Their friendship grew and developed as the story progressed. I loved them both and I loved that they had each others backs. Jack won me over early on, just knowing he was rooting for Libby from the very start warmed my heart. Even though there were some hard to read moments, the story, overall, was a positive one. I felt happy when I finished. I give this one 4 stars!

    Because sometimes when you meet someone, it changes the world, theirs and yours.

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REREAD! I fell in love with this book allll over again! I adore Libby. I adore what she stands for. I love what this book stands for. The hope it instills. How personal it is to the author and how appreciative I am that she shared her story with us. I'm rooting for this book! I'm rooting for myself. I'm rooting for all the readers who have ever felt less than. As Libby would say about herself, ‘I am magic!’, and so, as are you.



Initial review!
I'm sure a lot of you will remember the ton of backlash this book received when the blurb was revealed. I mean, let's not get into that aspect of people having the audacity to judge and write-off a book when they haven't read a single page of it. It's aggravating to the core!

So, having read the book, yes, there is a lot of 'fat-shaming' that's mentioned throughout the book. Fat-shaming that the main character has to deal with, i.e. the bullying she goes through, because of her weight. But also the main character 'fat-shaming' herself, because of her insecurity, as a direct result of the bullies and other factors.

I personally don't see how this is a problem, to bring to light this sort of issue. Yes, it was slightly uncomfortable to read at times, making it real and raw. But we ask for diverse and complex books/characters, then moan when a 'controversial' topic is raised. This is exactly the kind of realistic bullshit some people unfortunately, have to deal with, as ugly as it may seem. As well as the insecurity and the mental-health issues that come alongside it. I don't understand how it was even assumed that the author was ridiculing people who deal with weight and mental-health problems. If perhaps they'd waited a little longer for some clarification, and did their research, they'd have known that this topic is quite personal to the author.

But that's not all that the book is about. Yes, the character struggles with her weight, she's insecure to an extent, but she's absolutely fuckin' strong!!! She's almost sure about who she is. As sure as a teenager can be. She refuses to let her weight define her, stand in her way of her dreams, and fights the fuck back against anyone that dares to ridicule her. And she's happy, dammit!

This element is what made the book for me. She was headstrong to begin with, because she made herself be so! Though there are romantic aspects, her problems didn't magically disappear, because there was a guy in her life. But she refused to hide her true self.

Because of this, I feel that this book is so empowering! A book that those who feel that can relate to Libby, can find strength in. Though Libby encompasses aspects of her personality that may contradict or clash — i.e. being insecure, yet not giving a flying fuck about anyone — it's a great message that one can take away. You're never fully one or the other, anyway.

This is what I personally got from this book. I guess, like every other book, people will interpret it differently, according to their own understanding and worldview. And this is mine.


Initial review:
Okay, wow. It's 4am. Read this book in less than a day. My heart is floating. I'm dying with feels.

I was not expecting to love this book so much.
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“I know what you’re thinking- if you hate it so much and it’s such a burden, just lose the weight, and then that job will go away. But I’m comfortable where I am. I may lose more weight. I may not. But why should what I weigh affect other people? I mean unless I’m sitting on them, who cares?”

To be honest, I was not a fan of All the Bright Places and I wouldn’t have been this curious about Holding Up the Universe had it not been for the controversy that erupted long before its release. But the more the issue grew, the more I got so pulled to the book that I just had to buy it when it was out on our local bookstores. This time, my gut feel was right and the book is completely worth all my curiosity.

Let me help out our community of readers by pointing straight out what the book is/what it is not so as to avoid judging it just by its blurb alone.

But before that, just an excerpt from the book about “judging” *winks*: “Life is too short to judge others. It is not our job to tell someone what they feel or who they are. Why not spend some time judging yourself? I don’t know you, but I can guarantee you have some issues you can work on. And maybe you’ve got a fit body and a perfect face, but I’ll wager you have insecurities too…”

What the book is:

✔ A contemporary romantic novel so yes, it could be cheesy with several cheesy romantic declarations a girl wouldn’t normally hear from a guy [Now if you don’t like this stuff, then it’s probably not for you. ;)]

✔ It’s about mental illness. Both Libby and Jack suffer from unique sorts of mental illness. Libby suffered from depression while Jack has face-blindness or prosopagnosia.

✔ A serious read but approached with light, almost comic writing style that addresses social issues with positive conviction and inspiration.

✔ A moving, uplifting story that encourages people to be comfortable in their own skin, in their physical appearance/condition because that is what makes every person uniquely beautiful.

What the book is not:

✖ It's not about a fat girl whose life changes because of a cool guy. It’s actually about a cool girl and an equally cool guy who have decided to accept who and what they are even if that isn’t what is generally accepted by society.

✖ It’s not about a skinny guy telling the story of a fat girl. It’s about a special guy who sees a special girl not because of her physical weight but of her inner weight, because she has the biggest heart, because she matters greatly.

✖ It’s not trying to romanticize mental illness. It’s simply trying to say that everyone should have an equal chance at everything this life has to offer and yes even though it may sound cheesy, that does include love life, romance and all.

✖ It’s not against life. In fact, it’s very pro-life. It’s not about just moving on after a loss of a loved one but moving differently, creating new experiences and living life anew.

I agree with my friend, (Ate) Shelby. (Do check out her awesome, very insightful review by clicking her name). Ms. Jennifer Niven does deserve a pat on the back. If or when I meet her in person, I’m definitely giving her a big, big hug. <3
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I don't usually rate before reading but I am doing it here. If others who haven't read it can give it a 1 based on a synopsis, then I feel free to rate it a 5/5 before reading.

I have a few questions:

1. Why are people getting annoyed and commenting that a 'skinny' author shouldn't be writing about a 'fat' person?!? Are we saying that authors should only write about what they are? No more white authors writing about anything other than a white character then. George R.R. Martin please stop publishing, you've never been a dragon or a woman so I think you need to stop writing about them. J.K. Rowling, are you a witch... No?!? Take back HP, it's all lies!

2. The human race thing... Why are people sniping in on that? Do they not understand the context. It's not saying she's finally rejoining the human world because she wasn't human before. It talks about the fact she was homeschooled... away from others. She's going back to school... rejoining the human race is just a quirky way of putting it. I've used similar phrases when I've returned to work after two weeks off sick.

3. The crane: This has been a reality for so many people who are very overweight so why can't it be wrote about or shown in movies!?! >.<


Gah. Maybe wait till you've read the book before you judge every little thing about it. It's like a 100 word synopsis for god sake >.<
Source: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/28686840-holding-up-the-universe

Don't Let Go by Harlan Coben

Don't Let Go by Harlan Coben

4.2  ·  Rating details ·  12,714 Ratings  ·  799 Reviews
Download or read online for free Don't Let Go by Harlan Coben
Don't Let Go by Harlan Coben
With unmatched suspense and emotional insight, Harlan Coben explores the big secrets and little lies that can destroy a relationship, a family, and even a town in this powerful new thriller.

Suburban New Jersey Detective Napoleon “Nap” Dumas hasn't been the same since senior year of high school, when his twin brother Leo and Leo’s girlfriend Diana were found dead on the railroad tracks—and Maura, the girl Nap considered the love of his life, broke up with him and disappeared without explanation. For fifteen years, Nap has been searching, both for Maura and for the real reason behind his brother's death. And now, it looks as though he may finally find what he's been looking for.

When Maura's fingerprints turn up in the rental car of a suspected murderer, Nap embarks on a quest for answers that only leads to more questions—about the woman he loved, about the childhood friends he thought he knew, about the abandoned military base near where he grew up, and mostly about Leo and Diana—whose deaths are darker and far more sinister than Nap ever dared imagine.

“Daisy wore a clingy black dress with a neckline so deep it could tutor philosophy.”

“My great-grandfather, Dad often told us, saved his best wines for special occasions. He was killed when the Nazis invaded Paris. The Nazis ended up drinking his wine. Lesson: you never wait. When I was growing up, we used only the good plates. We used the best linens. We drank out of Waterford crystal. When my father died, his wine cellar was nearly empty.”






Reviews


Ah yes, the ever faithful Coben novel. The comfort and confidence I feel in his work knows no bounds; whether I am on a string of enjoyable reads or stuck in a month long slump, his books are always devoured and relished. You could say I shove his books into the hands of strangers on a regular basis that I regularly recommend his novels in the most appropriate fashion, and with good reason- they are compulsive thrillers filled with dry humor and wit that anyone can relate to. As one of my top 3 favorite authors of all time, I think it's safe to say my review cannot be wholly unbiased, but if you'll stick with me I'm going to try and give you impartial facts as to why you may love this book too.

1- Coben based this book on true events that happened in his hometown. That's right, this story may be his most believable and realistic to date, if solely for the fact that it was inspired by two things that had taken place where he lives. I'm not going to tell you about it so that you can buy the book and read it for yourself, but it's all explained right in the prologue and naturally sets the tone for the entire read.

2- This book is downright hilarious. Ok, I know that sounds weird for a thriller that involves grisly murders and disturbing content to be funny, but you just have to read it to see what I mean. Anyone who has been a longtime fan of Coben is aware of his sense of dry humor and ability to infuse even the most tense situations with comic relief. This particular standalone was reminiscent of the same air of intelligent banter found in the author's Myron Bolitar series, which is a HUGE plus for me as it's one of my favorite series of all time. <--- Check out other reviews if you don't believe me; they'll agree on the MB reference as well.

3. The story isn't rigid and predictable. You know how sometimes you can read a string of thrillers in a row and wonder where one starts and the next ends because they all appear the same? Not so here; Coben has whipped up heaping piles of intrigue and suspense for sure, but also added in a dash of humor and romance for good measure. I love how I don't feel confined to thinking I'm in a single genre when I read these books; when I dive in it just feels like natural writing and remains uplifting no matter how dark the story turns.

These are just a few reasons why I found Don't Let Go to be such an excellent read; if you have enjoyed the author's previous novels you'll likely find this one just as refreshing and exciting as his past books. Highly recommended for those who enjoy a multitude of gut busters (those are my laughs when I snort at the same time) along with their serious stories. I'm once again in my dry spell of waiting for the next book to be written and published, but in the meantime I'll reminisce over all the feels of DLG. I can't wait to see what the majority thinks of this book!
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One of my all-time favorite authors has done it again! An absolutely superb, stand-alone thriller to add to his (and my) collection.

Nap is a police detective who has never fully recovered from the death of his twin brother Leo. Along with his girlfriend Diane, Leo died tragically when the couple were just teenagers.

Unbelievably, that same night, Nap lost his girlfriend Maura…only she went missing, and was never heard from again. 15 years later he is still the walking-wounded. Emotionally devastated and left to ponder “what if?” He also carries on a constant inner-dialogue with his deceased brother. A very unique and clever angle that took me a bit to get used to, but once I warmed up to it I completely enjoyed his inner conversations.

With a knock on the door, news comes that his long lost girlfriend Maura may have resurfaced. Only problem…it’s tied to the death of another childhood friend. Could this be related to why Leo died mysteriously so many years ago? As Nap starts digging into the past, there are others out there determined to keep the secrets of the past buried forever.

Absolutely outstanding! Loved everything about this book from start to finish! As good as his Myron Bolitar series, this one does not disappoint! There is even a cameo appearance! Yeah! Would highly recommend to all Harlan Coben fans!
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5 Brilliant Shining Stars.

"Don't Let Go" is the Best Standalone Harlan Coben has EVER written.  Hands Down.

Detective Napoleon Dumas, known as “Nap” lives and works in a small New Jersey town.  He has been searching for answers his whole life.  Or at least for the last fifteen years -since his senior year of high school to be exact.  That is when Nap lost his twin brother Leo.  When Leo and his girlfriend Diana were found dead – on the railroad tracks in their hometown.  No one ever determined the exact cause of death.  At that exact same time, Nap’s high school girlfriend Maura disappeared.  Vanished, almost into thin air as if she never existed.  It tore him apart, losing all three of them at once.  He has never been the same.

Now, fifteen years later, Nap is informed that Maura’s finger prints are found at the scene of a crime in a neighboring town (involving someone else from their high school).  Nap is astounded and he feel that this incident has to be linked to what happened to his brother.

In order to uncover the truth, Nap enlists help from his mentor Augie and his best friend Ellie, both of whom have been with him from the get go.  The ride it takes them all on is dangerous, twisted and full of surprises.

“Don’t Let Go” is one of the best books Harlan Coben has ever written.  It contains interesting, intriguing characters who you can't help but care about deeply, its brilliantly written and has an extremely well-developed plot.  The mystery is complex, compelling and completely exhilarating.  While I guessed the ending fairly early on, it did not spoil the book for me in any way whatever.

For those of you who have read Harlan Coben’s Myron Bolitar series, this book reminded me a lot of those.  Best friends Nap and Ellie’s friendship reminded me of Myron and Esperanza's (especially the in the earlier sports agent books).  I immediately loved Nap and Ellie's characters and this story - in fact, I adored it.  Nap’s past, his search for answers, the crime he decides to solve on his own – it all creates an incredible story – one that sucks you in and that won’t let go until you turn the final page.  Though I admit that the Myron Bolitar series is my favorite of Harlan Coben’s works, I would love to see more of Nap in the future.
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Harlan Coben has achieved another mic drop with his latest book, Don't Let Go.

Don't you hate it when "real life" gets in the way of your reading? If work hadn't gotten in the way, and we hadn't been without power due to a storm for more than 24 hours, I would have devoured this book in one sitting. But even spread out over a few days, this book knocked me out, and once again reminded me (after the fantastic Home last year) what a fantastic writer Coben is.

Napoleon "Nap" Dumas is a police detective in his suburban New Jersey hometown. Now in his mid-30s, living in his childhood home, he's never quite gotten over the death of his twin brother Leo during their senior year in high school. Leo and his girlfriend Diana were found dead on the local railroad tracks, believed to be either poor judgment due to drugs and alcohol, or some kind of double suicide. Nap never could understand how Leo could either make such a colossal mistake or how he could be so desperate, and this lack of closure has haunted him for years.

And if the shock of Leo and Diana's death wasn't enough for Nap to handle, his girlfriend Maura, also a friend of Leo and Diana's, disappeared that night. No matter how hard Nap tried to find her, he never could, and never understood why she left. Fifteen years later, Nap gets an alert that Maura's fingerprints have turned up in a rental car involved in the murder of a policeman, who, it turned out, was in the same high school class as Nap, Leo, and Maura. Suddenly Nap may be able to find answers to the two questions that have plagued him for years, and he is determined to do everything he can to uncover the truth, no matter how many people warn him simply to let it go.

But instead of finding answers, Nap keeps finding more questions, questions he might not want to know the answer to, questions which involve Leo and Maura and Diana and other high school classmates. And for some reason, right in the middle of all of the questions is a mystery surrounding an abandoned military base in their hometown, which some believed was far more nefarious than the story presented by the government.

What happened that fateful night which changed the course of so many lives? Was it government conspiracy, youthful folly gone wrong, or something even more sinister? Will finding the answers set Nap free to live his life, finally able to put the past behind him, or should he take the advice of those who tell him—and not all do it gently—to let it go? And will Nap even survive his hunt for the truth?

Much like Home, not only did Don't Let Go pack some punches, but it also contained a lot of raw emotional power as well. Nap, Maura, his best friend Ellie, and Diana's father (and Nap's mentor) Augie were fascinating characters, each with secrets of their own. Every time I thought I knew where the book was going Coben took the plot in a slightly different direction, and I was truly hooked from start to finish.

How many of us have wondered about whether we could have changed the course of a tragedy if we had only acted differently, or acted at all? That knowledge doesn't always help, and it creates a burden we must bear until we're ready to move on. That burden is so deeply felt in Don't Let Go, and Coben's mastery with the plot's twists and turns as well as its emotional intricacies makes this an excellent book.
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Harlan Coben, the king of literary suspense, is back at it again!

Coben is my go to author for when I need a sure thing - he just ripped me out of a month long book slump with this here little tale, and I am oh so grateful. You really can’t go wrong with his books, he is a master at this genre and always delivers. I love that I catch myself saying “What in the world is going on?!” at least once a chapter in his books. He constantly keeps you on your toes and wondering where the ride will take you.

I very much enjoyed the forward, where Coben explains his inspiration for this book - an actual location which existed in his hometown. He has woven a deeply intricate tale based on this locale, one that I won’t soon forget.

The characters are flawed and real, the dialogue is witty, and the story has suspense, intrigue and a dash of romance.

If you are a fan of this genre, you certainly can’t go wrong with this book!

4.5 stars
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Don’t Let Go by Harlan Coben is a 2017 Dutton publication.

An ingenious, potent, and disturbing thriller-

Napoleon ‘Nap’ Dumas’ was enjoying an active senior year in high school, where both he and his twin brother, Leo, were involved in serious romantic relationships, and were busy with extracurricular activities- Leo, with his conspiracy club, and Nap with his hockey team. But, Nap’s world stops on a dime, when Leo and his girlfriend, Diana, are found dead on the railroad tracks, and Nap’s girlfriend, Maura, suddenly leaves town, leaving no traces of her whereabouts for the next fifteen years.

Nap, who went on to become a cop, is still haunted by Maura’s sudden departure and has grieved every single day for his twin brother.

But, when a fellow officer is killed, Leo recognizes him as one of Leo’s buddies from the ‘The Conspiracy Club’, back in high school. But the real kicker is that Maura was with him when he was gunned down, but managed to escape.

This event seems to set off a domino effect, when another member of the ‘The Conspiracy Club’ disappears, and yet another goes completely off grid.

Nap begins to believe Leo and Diana did not die in a senseless drug and alcohol fueled accident, or a suicide pact. Determined to discover the truth about his brother’s death, Nap starts to look into why ‘The Conspiracy Club’ was so interested in an abandoned Nike Missile site. Is there a connection? After all these years, why has Maura suddenly reappeared and why are members of the conspiracy club being murdered?

At this point, I could just say- It’s Harlan Coben. Read it. You’ll like it, I promise.


But, if you need a push, here you go-

I think you will really like Nap. He is unconventional, has a tendency of taking the law into his own hands, has no qualms about breaking the rules from time to time, but is still a straight up guy, who feels things very deeply, and is loyal to a fault.

If you like conspiracy theories, (and who doesn’t like a good conspiracy theory), there’s a really good one woven into the plot, plus it’s quasi- factual. This story also has a cold case element to it, as well, which happens to be one of my favorite crime tropes.

Naturally, it wouldn’t be a HC novel without a couple of steep inclines, breath sucking free falls, a few dangerous hairpin curves, and maybe add in one or two gut punching revelations, for kicks and giggles.

The story is very absorbing, the characters are unique and surprising, and while I say this after nearly every Coben novel- the conclusion of this book is a real stunner. I sat staring into space for about five minutes after I finished the last chapter. Seriously, it was so shocking, it had a numbing effect.

So, back to where we started- It’s Harlan Coben. Read it. You’ll like it, I promise!

5 stars
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Traveling Sister Special Read Review by Brenda and Norma with Kaceey and Lindsay's thoughts.

Don't Let Go is an outstanding and solid new standalone thriller from the thriller master himself (in Brenda and Kaceey's opinion lol) Harlan Coben that we all were very excited to have received from Edelweiss.

We decided to read it as a special birthday read for Brenda's 50th birthday and thought it extremely fitting as this has been Brenda's all time favourite author for some time now. Brenda and Kaceey who are big time fans of Harlan Coben were very excited to read this along with Norma and Lindsay who have only read one or two of his books so far. Brenda only recently introduced Norma to a Harlan Coben novel not too long ago. Don’t Let Go lived up to all the hype created by Brenda and Kaceey for Norma and Lindsay. They are now fans and there will be more Harlan Coben books in the future for these Traveling Sisters.

Don't Let Go is a fast-paced story with big secrets and lies that reach back to 15 years ago. Harlan Coben does a great job revealing layers of deceit along with clues and throwing in a bit of red herrings along the way. He didn't have all of us guessing to the end, although Norma quickly became suspicious early on, she was still left surprised with a few twists as there were plenty of twists and secrets to reveal.

Harlan Coben takes a hometown legend and builds quite an interesting and creative story here that had all of us quickly turning those pages with Norma reading and finishing it mostly in one day. We left the very exciting, suspenseful and intense ending to read together so we could message our thoughts and suspicions to each other. Which makes it all that more of an interesting and enjoyable reading experience for us.

Don't Let Go started off with a bang and didn’t let go to the very end leaving all of us looking forward to our next read by Harlan Coben! We highly recommend adding this one to the top of your list and Don't Let Go till you read it!
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Harlan Coben delivers an intensely suspenseful, captivating, fast-paced thriller that kept me guessing from start to finish. I have read one other book by Coben (The Innocent) which was good, but didn’t “wow” me. With encouragement from my fantastic “sisters” Brenda, Norma and Kaceey, I jumped on board this Traveling Sister Read and tried out Coben’s latest book and it definitely lived up to the hype!

I loved the main character, Nap! He is a police detective who finds himself working a case that involves his personal life from fifteen years ago. I enjoyed following Nap on his journey to explore and expose lies and buried secrets to uncover the mystery that has long haunted him. Nap’s journey takes many unexpected twists and turns and keeps the suspense building as the pages fly by. His sarcastic and witty humour had me giggling throughout every chapter.

This novel was a great re-introduction for me to Coben’s writing. I am definitely hungry for more books from this author and will make sure I add some to my reading list in the near future.

A big thank you to Edelweiss, Penguin Publishing Group and Harlan Coben for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review!
Source: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34001659-don-t-let-go

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

The Pillars of the Earth (Kingsbridge #1) by Ken Follett 


4.29  ·  Rating details ·  506,883 Ratings  ·  26,741 Reviews
The Pillars of the Earth (Kingsbridge #1) by Ken Follett download or read it online for free
The Pillars of the Earth (Kingsbridge #1)
by Ken Follett
Ken Follett is known worldwide as the master of split-second suspense, but his most beloved and bestselling book tells the magnificent tale of a twelfth-century monk driven to do the seemingly impossible: build the greatest Gothic cathedral the world has ever known.

Everything readers expect from Follett is here: intrigue, fast-paced action, and passionate romance. But what makes The Pillars of the Earth extraordinary is the time the twelfth century; the place feudal England; and the subject the building of a glorious cathedral. Follett has re-created the crude, flamboyant England of the Middle Ages in every detail. The vast forests, the walled towns, the castles, and the monasteries become a familiar landscape. Against this richly imagined and intricately interwoven backdrop, filled with the ravages of war and the rhythms of daily life, the master storyteller draws the reader irresistibly into the intertwined lives of his characters into their dreams, their labors, and their loves: Tom, the master builder; Aliena, the ravishingly beautiful noblewoman; Philip, the prior of Kingsbridge; Jack, the artist in stone; and Ellen, the woman of the forest who casts a terrifying curse. From humble stonemason to imperious monarch, each character is brought vividly to life.

The building of the cathedral, with the almost eerie artistry of the unschooled stonemasons, is the center of the drama. Around the site of the construction, Follett weaves a story of betrayal, revenge, and love, which begins with the public hanging of an innocent man and ends with the humiliation of a king.

“Having faith in God did not mean sitting back and doing nothing. It meant believing you would find success if you did your best honestly and energetically.”

“The most expensive part of building is the mistakes.”





Reviews


I devour books. That is my euphemism for being so OCD that I can't put it down and live my life until I finish it. For shorter books, that's generally not a problem, but for the 974 page Pillars of the Earth...well, let's just say we ran out of food, my children clung to my legs asking for food, and the floors did not get vacuumed for a good five days while I whittled away at this book.

CLIFF HANGER: This book is not a cliff-hanger at the end of every chapter kind of book, which makes it easier to read it in multiple sittings. However, Follett does such a masterful job of character development, that I found myself wanting to know what was going to happen next whether the end of the chapter contained a cliffhanger ending or not.

CHARACTER DEV'T: Each character is so beautifully defined and fleshed out, that they become almost real. I felt that I knew them personally, that I could accurately predict how they would react in different situations. None of them were 100% good or bad, just like in real life. Some priests were holy, others evil; some were rich people with big hearts, others with small minds and evil intentions; some poor farmers were judgmental, w/narrow-minded attitudes, others opened their doors to strangers.

PLOT/PACE: Foreshadowing was a very powerful convention that Follett skillfully weaved in and out of every chapter. It gave subtle hints, but never so overt as to suggest that the reader may be an imbecile. Backstories meander and come to closure at such a nice pace, that it always feels like something is happening and things are being resolved, for better or for worse.

THEMES: My favorite theme was that natural consequences followed the actions of the characters. (I'm still a bit out of sorts after reading the deus ex machina riddled Breaking Dawn, where all the natural consequences of three books worth of actions were completely erased-ugh.) There was a natural ebb and flow of triumph and misfortunes in Pillars of the Earth. Good things happened to bad people and bad things happened to good people, just like in real life. Follett does not try to save his characters from themselves, or from each other, and I enjoyed that very much.

STRONG WOMEN: I absolutely adored the strong women in this book! What a joy to read about Aliena, carving out her own future after her world had been turned upside down! Life knocked her down plenty, but each time, she got up, made a plan, and triumphed eventually. Ellen, and Agnes in her own way, were also strong women.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: As strange as it sounds, with all of the despair and misery that took place, the overarching take home for me, was HOPE. In the face of overwhelming adversity, these characters triumphed. The road was hard and the journey was long, but they CHOSE hope. They CHOSE faith. And in the end, that was all that mattered.

Pillars of the Earth will be on my favorite books list for a very long time.
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     “The most expensive part of building is the mistakes.”


Look, it's difficult to explain exactly why I liked this book. Seriously, if you take a look at the blurb, note the 973 pages, and the fact it's a very long story about building a cathedral in Medieval England, you might think I've been smoking something. But for me - and I'm assuming for a large number of other readers - it was so damn compelling.

I'm going to get the crap out of the way first - if you are sensitive to scenes of rape, DO NOT READ THIS BOOK. Medieval England is a shitfest of misogyny, violence, accusations of witchcraft and, yes, rape. One of the scenes is especially disturbing and graphic; I actually had to take a break from the book after reading it.

I should say that it is not portrayed as a positive, or even a normal, thing. Scenes of rape and brutal violence in the book largely serve to make us despise William Hamleigh with a ferocious passion. It turns out that a deep, seething hatred can really keep you turning pages, waiting for that bastard to get what he rightly deserves.

Anyway, yes, the main plot is about the building of the fictional Kingsbridge cathedral. But, really, it is about all the characters that come into contact with Kingsbridge, its cathedral, and Prior Philip - their loves, desires, ambitions, conflicts and heartbreaks. I was pulled in from the very dramatic prologue when a young woman arrives at a hanging and curses the three men who guaranteed her beloved's execution.

There are love stories in here, as well as tales of ruthless ambition, and betrayal. Follett has created some incredible and unforgettable characters: Tom Builder, Philip, Ellen, Jack, Aliena, and Waleran Bigod. And, of course, that snivelling stain on humanity that is William Hamleigh.

I haven't read any of Follett's other work, but it is not surprising to hear he was a thriller writer before beginning The Pillars of the Earth. He has carried that with him into this story. Just when everything seems to be going right, some catastrophe happens to throw a spanner in the works. Just when it looks like Philip is going to succeed, some more shit happens. But it was an effective way to keep me looking over my shoulder.

It's a strange book because it's a bloody, heart-pounding page-turner wrapped up in a 900-page, serious-looking, cathedral-building package. Strange, and yet I find myself wanting more. I guess I'll have to read World Without End.
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This book was so completely fantastic that I almost forgot the outside world existed when I was reading it. I’ve never be so emotionally invested in a story, as I was with this. It’s a rare book that does this to me. I think it’s because it follows the characters through such a large proportion of their lives, resulting in a large amount of intimacy and investment with them. Indeed, this novel spans a massive period of forty years and has 1000+ pages; this is no light reading; it is deep, emotive and completely brilliant.

The intense story
So much happens within this novel. It’s impossible to lay it down in a brief summary; these characters, quite literally, go through hell. Such is the life of commoners in the period. They are good folk, and are just trying to erect a church for the betterment of their town. However, the corruptness of the local nobility, and the church hierarchy itself, almost prevents them from achieving their aim. Prior Phillip and Jack the Builder are forced to seek out the aid from their monarch, but because of the turmoil of the civil war, this monarch keeps changing. They have a choice of two royal courts to appeal to. Both are convinced they have the legitimate claim to England’s throne. Picking the wrong side would lead to the ultimate ruination of a folk that simply want to live in peace, and celebrate God’s glory on earth.

Well, this is the mere surface level of the plot. This book is so much beyond it. It is a story of betrayal and seduction; it is a story of love and hardship; it is a story of human nature and the all-encompassing morals that imposes. It is just fantastic in every sense. The characters are real, and their hardships are even realer. These are truly some of the most human characters I‘ve ever read about; these people could have existed.
This is no less true for the villains of the book, William Hamleigh in particular is characterised superbly. For all his ruthless aggression, and sense of entitlement, he’s still a coward at heart. He’d never admit it to anyone, but the reader knows of what he is; the reader can see his blackening yellow heart. He is a product of society, and his parent’s ruthless ambition. He doesn’t deserve sympathy because of this, but the reason why he is the man he is can be seen by looking at his origins. His parents ruined him; he has no restraint; he has nobody to tell him no. So, to his mind, he can get away with anything. He even has a Bishop who will gladly absolve all his sins. He’s actions have no consequences; he can murder and rape without feeling the consequences. This is an incredibly dangerous mind-set, and one that almost destroys the protagonists of the book. He's a nasty man.

The strength of the church

Follet also weighs the potential power of the church. I love the way he contrasts godly Prior Phillip with the twisted Bishop Waleran. It shows us two routes the church could take; it shows us two possibilities for God’s monument on Earth. Prior Phillip is everything the church should be; he is kind and forgiving; he is benevolent and just: he is a true believer of Christ’s teachings. He is in the church for the simple reason that he is a man of faith. Contrastingly, Bishop Waleran is a tyrannical despot. He represents evryhting the church shouldn’t be; he is the personification of its potential evil. The Bishop is vain, greedy and ambitious. In this his will is his own; he is completely self-serving. He abuses his power to meet his own ends and self-aggrandisement. So, he is slightly corrupt. He’s only in the church for its political power and rewards. In this, he is not a true believer of his own faith.

By contrasting these two characters Follet demonstrates how the church has the power to do great good and also great evil. This, for me, is quite a strong message to take from the book because it shows us the dividing nature of man, of life, of good and evil; it shows us that all things can be benevolent or terrible. It also hints at redemption. If something is this bad, it can be made into something good once more; it has the potential to be as it should be in the right hands. I do love this story. It shows that if people can come together, to achieve something greater than themselves then humanity is not lost despite the backdrop of war, corruptness and general chaos.
Jack begins the novel as a mute boy with little human socialisation. At the end of the novel he is a respected builder and farther of the town. He is the anchor of Follet’s story telling. Everything centres on Jack, and his family history. His narrative questions the restraints the common man lived under in the period; it highlights the injustice the legal system exerted in the time. He cannot marry his love without a written divorce from his horrible step-brother who’d sooner see him live in misery than have the happiness he couldn’t achieve. The church doctrine almost prevents him from being a farther to his child. But, he perseveres and overcomes the restrictions of the church, his awful step-brother and the corruptness of society itself. Jack’s story is one of human perseverance and fortitude; it is a story of a man who somehow managed to survive a system that was completely against him.

“Nevertheless, the book gave Jack a feeling he had never had before, that the past was like a story, in which one thing led to another, and the world was not a boundless mystery, but a finite thing that could be comprehended. ”

This is a phenomenal story, and though that I’ve got hundreds of books I want to read in my lifetime, and little enough time to read them in, this is a book I will definitely be reading again in the future; it’s a story that I simply have to revisit regardless of its vast length. This is a book I just have to read again.
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Confession time: This is not a book I would have picked out for myself. First of all, look at the size of this kitten squisher! Second of all, Amanda's hate-filled review of it is one of my favorite reviews on Goodreads. However, it's one of my girlfriend's favorite books and when she suggested I give it a read, I knew what was good for me. Lucky for me, I enjoyed it.

Pillars of the Earth is a multigenerational tale about the construction of a cathedral in a fictitious English town in the 1100s. Many threads are followed for it's nigh-1000 page girth. Tom Builder goes from being an expectant father to a widow to a master builder. Philip becomes a prior and the ruler of Kingsbridge. And lets not forget Jack, Aliena, Richard, Waleran, that bastard William Hamleigh, or any of the many other characters.

Ken Follett was primarily known as a thriller writer before Pillars and it shows. Every time things appear to be going right for the good guys and it looks like the cathedral is back on track, another monkey wrench is thrown into the works. For a book with very little in the way of action, I was enthralled. You can squeeze a lot of plot complications in nearly 1000 pages and Follett jammed in as many as he could. I have to admire the kind of planning it took to write something like this.

As I said before, I always found the size of this thing daunting but I probably shouldn't have. It's a best seller, and best sellers aren't known for being difficult reads. Since Follett is a thriller writer, he tended to keep things to the point for the most part, though I thought he was ignoring Elmore Leonard's rule about not writing the parts people skip a few times.

I don't really want to say much about the plot for fear of spoiling anything. It's a long read but the ending is worth the time it takes to get there.
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Ahem.
"Pillars of the Earth" is a very long book. It's got a lot of soap-opera-like twists and turns - no amnesia, but just about everything else, including mistaken identities, illicit marriages, illicit lack of marriage, illegitimate children, questionable parentage, love triangles, revenge, greed, power, a few murders, rape, witches, politics, knights, swords and horsies. OK, that last bit is not so soap-opera-like. There's also lots and lots of architecture. And it's a very long book.

Main story follows a single family of stone masons for (roughly) three generations, and the extended families associated with re-marrying, etc. Around this family revolves an aspiring monk/prior, a powerful but morally questionable bishop, a ruthless Earl (title, not name), and several kings. The thing is, even with all the re-marrying and such, there are so many evolving inter-relationships between these main characters as the struggle for political power unfolds, and of course everybody grows up, has children, etc - that EVERYTHING seems to happen to this small group of people. And just when you think things have settled down for a while, something else happens, or attempts to happen. And these things keep happening for approximately 980 pages.

Along the way, you learn a lot about medieval culture - particularly the role of religion, the political power of a monestary, priory, or diocese - how life is funded, and just how much it sucks to be a serf. There's also quite a bit of focus on the reason for, and the means to, building cathedrals - Follett muses in his Foreward that one of the things he never could understand is why people in such destitute times would have put so much energy into buildings of such scale, and this book addresses that. You also learn a lot about architecture and the evolution of cathedral-building. I can also now tell you the difference between a nave, chancel, transept, cloister, and clerestory. Oh, and probably 7 different words for "horse".

Really though, I very much enjoyed it, despite its very lengthy nature. Very full of words. Long. Not a day went by I didn't read at least 50 pages (note - at that rate, it will still take about 3 weeks to finish).
The building is a constant, its a reason to keep the central family of masons from wandering off and having more illicit marriages, and its a reason for the ongoing political power struggles. It's essential, but it's not distracting, and the cathedral is not the focus. The people are. They're engaging, you feel for them, you assign labels (good, evil) you change labels several times (he's pretty self-serving and conniving for a "good" guy), and you constantly wonder just what more can possibly happen to these people. There's also an underlying mystery that keeps you wondering... right up until 100 pages too soon.

My only complaint is this - the big climax occurs, the mystery is revealed, it all comes together - and there are still 100 pages to go. The last part of the wrap-up, the rise and fall, takes a while, has an interesting but probably unnecessary historically accurate reference to English church vs. king to give the whole novel an air of "this could have really happened in some obscure English medieval village somewhere, I wonder which cathedral this is supposed to be? Can I go see the real thing?" But it loses momentum right at the very end. Loose ends nicely tied up, but it wasn't the gripping page turner it had been in the first 900 pages. By that time, though, you've got so few pages in your right hand you just keep going because the end is in sight.
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How does one review a book that one cannot even describe?

So many times after gushing about how good Pillars was, people ask me, What’s it about?

And I, swirling in the happy aftermath of a mind so blown away that it’s still traveling near the speed of light, struggle to gather what’s left of analytical thinking and dumbly blurt, “Um, it’s about building this cathedral…”
Way to not to sell a book.

I still have trouble really describing Pillars in a way that satisfies. Because while it is about building a cathedral, it’s about so much more. It’s about love, hate, sacrifice, duty, honor, sorrow, ambition, dreams… It’s about cold, hard life in the Middle Ages during decades of civil unrest where both good and bad people, downtrodden and as hungry as they are, still dream and compete and seek a sense of accomplishment in their lives.

People like you and me, just some centuries and a culture apart.

And like life, not everything is pleasant.

There are many ups and downs in the novel, so many that you learn to brace yourself for the worst when someone emerges victorious because you know that there will be payback. The characters go through a lot of hardships, and it’s pretty darn painful to read. The devastation that Prior Phillip felt when some part of his cathedral project was foiled is just as heartbreaking as the physical violation of Aliena’s body.

On the flip side, when the characters felt joy, it was extremely acute. When Tom finally landed a job, I breathed a sigh of relief. When Aliena got revenge on the priest who was supposed to “take care” of her father’s money, I felt a ruthless surge of satisfaction. It’s like I’m with these characters, that they are real and I am next to them. Their life is not a bucket full of cotton candy. It’s bitter, vile, and hard; but it’s also sweet, gentle, and satisfying in turn.

Pillars does dramatize the lives of these characters by placing them in a zero sum system; when one gains, the other has to lose. What resulted was an intricate web between the characters, some more attached to one than the other. Each move that one character made had a profound effect on the other. While this may have been contrived for some, I found it fascinating to follow these lives and see how much they crisscross and tangle. The concept that every action has consequences is something that is definitely fleshed out in Pillars, which I think is a life lesson that not many people dwell on.

Despite their differences, what every character had in common was that the thread of their lives all intersect at the focal point of this one cathedral. Every significant action in the novel is somehow directly or indirectly connected to the construction of this cathedral.

And my, what a construction project it is to build a cathedral! Ken Follett really studied up on this subject and did a fantastic job depicting the grandeur and openness of cathedrals. Cathedrals really are complicated works of architecture. Even the darker, more foreboding ones of the early middle ages were incredibly expensive and a huge pain to build. The type of “open air” cathedral with flying buttresses and colored glass that so amazed Jack is really a sight to behold, even in modern standards, with their intricacy and careful architectural balancing. Some of Follett’s best writing emerges when he describes the smooth arches, the interior of the nave, the structure of the transepts, and the light streaming in through elongated windows that brightened darkened corners, an innovation thought to be structurally impossible in a stone building.

The book does have its faults. Follett’s writing was not all that consistent. It was jarring to read Follett’s grandiose descriptions of cathedrals and then, on the next page, read about William Hamleigh fantasizing about violating women. The violence was graphic, almost to the point of being gratuitous, but then again everything about Follett's writing was graphic. I personally take no issue with graphic violence, but people who do should take note that the prose of this novel is in-your-face blunt.

My overall impression of the novel is that it is a tour de force of storytelling; a story that weaves together the lives of enemies and friends who are not all completely evil or good, who have their own dreams and ambitions, and who are willing to do dirty yet necessary things to achieve their ends. Some are more good than others, some are almost saintly, and others are steaming piles of doo. But somehow, amazingly, they are all parties in the construction of this one cathedral, and the cathedral connects them in both death and life.

Faults aside, the sheer force of the story compelled me to give this five stars. It’s not a perfect novel, and the novel doesn't showcase perfect writing. But it’s a really good story, something so grand and epic that it can’t be adequately captured in just a few sentences.

FIVE SHINY GOLD STARS AND HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
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There aren't many things left to say when it comes to Ken Follett's masterpiece. The Pillars of the Earth is one of the most beautiful, haunting, exquisitely well-written novels of all time. It is a ''showstopper'' book not only in the Historical Fiction genre, but in Literature in general. Still, for an obsessed reader of historical novels like yours trully, it can become the standard by which all other historical sagas are measured. I don't know whether this is just and right, but it does happen to me every so often.

It is a rare occassion when you have a multitude of characters and every single one of them has something to offer and attract the reader's interest. Not even A Song of Ice and Fire in all its glory has achieved this, in my opinion. However, here we have good characters with whom we agonize over their fates, evil characters whom we hate with passion, and characters that stand in a gray area, driving the story forward. Aliena is one of the best female protagonists in Literature, and Waleran with William Hamleigh fight for the title of the ''best villain'' in the genre. The TV-series adaptation was really good, with a plethora of excellent casting choices. Ian McShane, Matthew McFadyen, Rufus Sewell and David Oakes steal the show.

If you haven't read it yet, a) under which rock have you been hiding?, and b) read it as soon as you can. Thank me later;)
Source: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/5043.The_Pillars_of_the_Earth