Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Madame Tussaud's Apprentice - Kathleen Benner Duble

Revolution. Guillotines. France. Versailles. Art. Betrayal. Love. This is the book that broke my reading slump. About damn time…

In 1789, with the starving French people on the brink of revolution, orphaned Celie Rosseau, an amazing artist and a very clever thief, runs wild with her protector, Algernon, trying to join the idealistic freedom fighters of Paris. But when she is caught stealing from none other than the king's brother and the lady from the waxworks, Celie must use her drawing talent to buy her own freedom or die for her crimes. Forced to work for Madame Tussaud inside the opulent walls that surround Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, Celie is shocked to find that the very people she imagined to be monsters actually treat her with kindness. But the thunder of revolution still rolls outside the gates, and Celie is torn between the cause of the poor and the safety of the rich. When the moment of truth arrives, will she turn on Madame Tussaud or betray the boy she loves? From the hidden garrets of the starving poor to the jeweled halls of Versailles, "Madame Tussaud's Apprentice" is a sweeping story of danger, intrigue, and young love, set against one of the most dramatic moments in history.

My advice to all of you: if you are in a reading slump, walk around your local library. If they are anything like mine, there will be displays of books. That is how I stumbled across this book. The simple cover with its beautiful script and eye catching title. I mean, hello! How can you not pick up this book? And thankfully, the book description you see on the inside dustjacket matches up perfectly with what is actually on the pages.

From the very first page, we get a sense of the type of person Celie is. She is a tough street wise lady who is robbing a house…and almost getting caught. She is of course, not alone. With Algernon, the boy who saved her life, leading her along and fueling her rebellious personality, we see them as a perfect pair to embody the spirit of the French Revolution. Celie has lost her family and Algernon his fiancé, all dead at the hands of the aristocrats in some shape and form. They are thieves and con artists, finding any way to screw over French aristocracy.

Celie is a great story teller, expressing her thoughts and feelings with blunt honesty that says she is not messing around. Though I couldn’t actually step inside of Celie’s character like I would with a book and character I really really love, but I was still able to feel her elation and ache. For me, Celie was just a little too distant from me. She is typically a character that I tend to fall into, feeling myself as the character. But I suppose I couldn’t get along with her love for Algernon…because…he’s kind of a jerk. I get why he’s a jerk and I understand his place in the story. He is a foil for Celie. At the beginning of the book, they are the same. But when Celie goes to Versailles with Madame Tussaud, they slowly begin to drift apart from each other. Celie loves Algernon and Algernon loves Celie, but she begins to question the motives and of those behind the French Revolution. She is applaud at the idea of violence and in the end she realizes that though she wishes for equal rights and to be heard among the rich, that the taking of a life is not worth it. And all the while Algernon moves up in ranks of the Revolutionists, making him cruel and unforgiving. Yet…….Celie still pines for him. Annoying. But I suppose that is the way of things with romances. I do not mind stories about love, but tales of romance that is needlessly complicated and obvious tend to make me not interested.

Though the catch phrase for this book takes about art and love during the French Revolution, I felt this was more about a tale of questioning the reason you might follow social cause or movement. Do you truely believe in words of revolution being spouted out and make your own path to move your choosen movement along? Or do you allow yourself to be led, swallowing whatever pill you are being offered with out question. This is where Celie and Algernon differ. Her time with Madame Tussaud in Versailles made her re-evaluate her opinions about Revolution, but Algenon was so blinded by rage, that he could not see pass social classes.

There are other elements of this book and they are well written and expressed. But I felt I was more drawn to Celie's growth from reckless street urchin to a young woman filled with resolve to protect those she loves for most and an understand of loss without feeling revenge, only grief.

I read this book after having baby number two. The book prior to this, City of Fallen Angels, was so long and I felt like I had to force myself to read it. However, this book was a fast read thanks to it only being 222 pages. The story never felt like it was dragging and there were never scenes that I felt needed to be deleted. This was the perfect book someone who might have been broken by a book that was a disappointment.

This book was perfect really. A nice somewhat fluffy love stort set in Revolutionary France, with an under current of something meaningful.

Until next time! Remember to be yourself...unless you can be a pirate. Then always be a pirate!!

The Hallowed Ones - Laura Bickle

Remember, when the vampire zombie apocalypse happens, make sure you wear your faith on your sleeve.


Katie is on the verge of her Rumspringa, the time in Amish life when teenagers can get a taste of the real world. But the real world comes to her in this dystopian tale with a philosophical bent. Rumors of massive unrest on the “Outside” abound. Something murderous is out there. Amish elders make a rule: No one goes outside, and no outsiders come in. But when Katie finds a gravely injured young man, she can’t leave him to die. She smuggles him into her family’s barn—at what cost to her community? The suspense of this vividly told, truly horrific thriller will keep the pages turning.

You know, you wouldn’t think a book with the main character been Amish would be a nail biting horror story turn pager. Oh…but let me say, it is. What an awesome take on the very popular supernatural subject of vampires. I just want to say that while reading this book, I was pondering “damn, why didn’t I think of that?”
Katie is the one telling us the story of the world falling apart, but from a perspective of a community completed isolated from mainstream America. I’m not going to lie, I was intrigued by the Katie being Amish. Her voice telling the story was pure and almost childlike. Her hopes and dreams are set on Rumspringa. She wants to be free, if only for a short while, to experience the Outside world with her best friend, Elijah on what is supposed to be an exciting time. But when they witness a car with its occupants looking completely terrified, and Elijah’s brothers do not return, something starts to niggle with wrongness. As the story progress, the small Amish community becomes more withdrawn and strict and soon Katie bursts with rebellion and well…spoilers…I’m not going to tell you what happens at the very end. The vampires…scary as shit. These is not Twilight sparkley vampires. These are more like 30 Day of Night vampires.
Let us briefly speak about the vampires, since that is really what this story is about. The vampires…scary as shit. These is not Twilight sparkley vampires. These are more like 30 Day of Night vampires. They do have some kind of mind control power, but they are not beautiful, and they are not some tortured creature of the night. They are freaking bloody thirsty animals on the hunt for their prey. This tale is not one of those supernatural/paranormal young adult tales…this is a horror story. The vampires’ destruction of human life is without prejudice and are very messy about it. Like…dismemberment and disembowelment. Everywhere. One of the most tragic scenes was the death of an entire family. If Katie had seen a horror movie, I’m pretty sure she would have used that clichéd phrase “It was like something out of a horror film.” To the author’s credit, she walks us through Katie’s fear and horror and resolve to help cleanse the home. When there’s blood on the ceiling and body parts strung about the room…yeah…not sparkley vampires pining over teenage love.
Katie was easy to relate to on an emotional level. All of her innocence and naïve teenage view of the world is totally relatable. Between the ages of fifteen and eighteen, what person wouldn’t feel cheated when their grand plans get flushed down the toilet? For Katie in her Amish community, her rebellion starts off small and with an accomplice. But, as the story progresses and shit gets more and more real, she is not rebelling due to her hopes and dreams being squished, Katie is rebelling to do the right thing. Through the observance of others around her and the actions she carries out on her own, she evolves into a strong young woman who begins to see the world through another set of eyes. She saves Alexander Greens, defying the orders of the elders in the community to let him die. She follows the Hexmiester’s instructions to ritually cleanse and burn down the house of the murdered family. She faces her fears and calls others out on their bull shit. However, this progression is natural and does not feel forced. But despite vampires bringing forth the end of the world and her faith in her Amish community breaking down around her, the things that does break, is her faith in her belief in god. Now, I am not too religious myself. I mean, I have a serious potty mouth. But, sometimes, it’s reassuring to read about a character whose strength in their belief system is not shattered apocalyptically (either literally or figuratively), but it is instead strengthened. Katie wears her faith openly, she wears it on her sleeve and on her heart for others to see. It is what eventually saves her life, but also gets her into trouble. This is what happened with Katie. I don’t want to give too much away about the end because you know, spoilers, but do know that Katie is one brave girl
I did of course, have a couple little niggles that though was slightly annoying, I was able to overlook. When the author started tying in Alexander’s ankh tattoos into the story and some of the writing with the vampires that show up near the end. The writing feels too much like an information dump and the dialogue is a bit cheesy during these scenes. Besides that though, I was absorbed completely and could not stop reading.
There is a sequel to this book, The Outside, and I did read the excerpt chapter after I finished reading this and I’m afraid I’m up in the air. I want to know what happens to Katie and Alexander. But, I do wish this was a stand along book. A one off. Why? Because I’m tired of having to read yet another series.
If you are looking for something different, check out this book. It is truly a page turner and a tale that is not all caught up on what normal young adult books are. This is a unique book with a unique story that is beautiful and horrifying all at once.

Thanks for reading and I will try to get another review up soon!
Remember to be yourself. Unless you can be a pirate. Then always be the pirate!!