(1) The Shadow Of The Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Historical Fiction / Mystery - "Barcelona, 1945: A city slowly heals in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, and Daniel, an antiquarian book dealer’s son who mourns the loss of his mother, finds solace in a mysterious book entitled 'The Shadow of the Wind', by one Julián Carax. But when he sets out to find the author’s other works, he makes a shocking discovery."
A beautifully written book with so many layers, twists and turns, and interesting characters to boot. I liked how it had so much going on, yet felt quite small in context with the setting of it being in Barcelona. It's haunting and captivating in lots of places, but I have to admit that some bits did feel a little slow to get through, especially towards the end. Saying that, it's a wonderfully rich and descriptive book to settle down with, but take your time and enjoy it - it's certainly not one to pick up if you're feeling rushed for time. [4/5]
(2) For Whom The Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
Literature / Historical Fiction - "High in the pine forests of the Spanish Sierra, a guerrilla band prepares to blow up a vital bridge. One of the greatest novels of the twentieth century by one of the greatest American writers."
I'm not a big fan of Hemingway or his writing, and found For Whom The Bell Tolls to be mostly tedious and a chore to get through. Had I not been reading it with a book club, I don't think I would have managed to finish it on my own. However, I can't fault the true depictions of the grittiness and sheer violence of war, which was both depressing and compelling to read at the same time. [2/5]
(3) The Sweet Hereafter by Russell Banks
Contemporary - "A small-town morality play that addresses one of life's most agonizing questions: when the worst thing happens, who do you blame?"
Beginning with the tragedy of a horrific school bus accident, The Sweet Hereafter devotes a chapter to four different characters who share their point of view of what happened. As these people talk, all of the grief, accusations, guilt and jealousy caused by the incident erupts from this small town, taking the reader on an emotional journey into the very heart of what human nature is. The writing is rather simplistic and because it's a short book, it can be difficult to fully immerse yourself into the story due to it feeling like it's already over before it's begun. I did enjoy the psychology between the lines though and how it reminded me of the film Crash with the different narratives intertwining with each other so well. [3/5]
(4) The River Of No Return by Bee Ridgway
Time Travel / Romance / Fantasy - "200 years after he was about to die on a Napoleonic battlefield, Nick Falcott, soldier and aristocrat, wakes up in a hospital bed in modern London. The Guild, an entity that controls time travel, needs Nick to go back to 1815 to fight the Guild’s enemies and to find something called the Talisman. In 1815, Julia Percy mourns the death of her beloved grandfather, an earl who could play with time. Soon enough Julia and Nick are caught up in an adventure that stretches up and down the river of time."
A very, very slow start but if you can get past the first 200 or so pages, it really begins to pick up. I liked the mix of time travel and romance with all the interesting historical fiction stuff spliced into it, but thought that some of the sex scenes were a bit out of place with the overall style of the story. Nick and Julia's blossoming romance was interesting to see grow, and there's a lot of interesting hidden politics that are tied in with the mysterious Guild. Not a patch on The Time Traveller's Wife that it's been frequently compared to, but good for a holiday read. [3/5]
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