Book Review: The Library at Mount Char, by Scott Hawkins

This review originally ran in Shelf Awareness for Readers.

The Library at Mount Char, Scott Hawkins's debut novel, is strange and complicated and convoluted. But with a little trust in Hawkins's world-building, readers can acclimate to the book's fantastical elements. What emerges from the first chaotic scenes is a dark and philosophical novel about the nature of power and control, cruelty and humanity.

Carolyn has always lived in the same suburban development. After her parents were killed, she (along with other newly-orphaned children in the neighborhood) was taken in by a powerful man, Father, and the small group lived an isolated existence inside their community. Father lacked paternal instincts, but had a wealth of knowledge to offer: his vast learning, collected in the Library, gave him god-like powers, and each of his adopted children was assigned one catalogue within the Library to master. After years of study, each child has grown to a young adult, master of their catalogues (War, Death, Languages, etc.) but estranged from what normal life might look like. When Father goes missing, the Library--and all of the power that comes from it--is left unguarded. Carolyn draws on all of the knowledge she has amassed within her catalogue and outside of it to make the Library hers.

It sounds strange because it is: Hawkins has built a world within our own that is entirely foreign and yet, with a bit of effort, understandable. At times humorous, more often dark and frightening, and always fast-paced, The Library at Mount Char is an epic fantasy novel that is remarkable for its imagination and originality.


The Library at Mount Char | Scott Hawkins | Crown | June 2015

The Best of June

June was a good month. Lots of reading, lots of travel (lots of train trips!), lots of sunshine. I wrote about most of my favorite June reads in yesterday's roundup of the best books of the year so far, but let me recap quickly:

The Best of 2015 (So Far)

JUNE 30TH. Halfway through the year. Holy cats, when did that happen?

It's been a pretty fine reading year in these parts so far; though I had a few weeks of ho-hum reading, I found my groove in recent months and have found some real gems. In no particular order, the best of the best I've read so far this year:

Week in Reading: June 29th

JESUS H. ROOSEVELT CHRIST, it's almost July. (And I've clearly been catching up on more of the Outlander series on audio by my choice of exclamations.)

While I was away earlier this month, I devoured book after book: Stardust, by Neil Gaiman; When the Marquess Met His Match, by Laura Lee Guhrke; The Shore by Sara Taylor; and Saint Mazie by Jami Attenberg. Not to mention, of course, Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret for the summer of #BlumeALong.

After a week off of reading (work and household projects consumed almost all of my spare brainspace and energy last week), I'm back with a vengeance.

week in reading: fatal flame, summer sisters, drums of autumn

This week, I'm listening to Drums of Autumn (the fourth of the Outlander series, which is finally moving out of the oh-my-another-bear-attack wilderness of North Carolina and into some more *unexpected* developments). I'm also savoring the last hundred or so pages of The Fatal Flame, the third--and final--of Lyndsay Faye's incredible Timothy Wilde trilogy (seriously, if you like smart, well-researched historical fiction and enjoy 19th-century New York City history, how have you not read these books already??). AND I'm diving into Summer Sisters for the second leg of the #BlumeALong (won't you join us?).

#BlumeALong Linkup: Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret


Gah! Sorry to be a terrible host and forget to get this up earlier today... this week has been HECTIC. I'll update here tonight or tomorrow with my own thoughts about Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, but in the meantime, if you care to link up, let us know:

What did you think of the book? If you're new to Blume, was this a good first experience? If you're a long-time reader of Blume, what was it like to revisit the book?

Link up to your post (or, if you've been actively sharing your thoughts on social media, the social media channel of your preference) below. Or feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section below!

Week in Reading: June 15 (the start of #BlumeALong!)

I've got some work travel planned for this week, which means my posts here will be rather sparse. Instead, I plan to use my train time in the best possible way: with a book in my lap. I'll finally be reading Neil Gaiman's Stardust, which I've heard good things about, and I'm finally starting The Shore on my Nook because Shannon said it was excellent. After polling Twitter for recommendations of smart, feminist romance novels, I'm also bringing along When the Marquess Met His Match, the first of the American Heiress in London series by Laura Gee Guhrke (recommended by Jenny from Reading the End).

Book Review: Re Jane, by Patricia Park

This review originally ran in Shelf Awareness for Readers. Reprinted here with permission. 

re jane by patricia park book review

The title of Patricia Park's debut novel, Re Jane, is a hint at the cleverness that lies between its covers: Park has taken the classic story of Jane Eyre and recast it at the opening of the 21st century. Jane Re, orphaned daughter of a Korean mother and American GI father, is sent from Korea to live with her aunt and uncle in Flushing, Queens. Her life mirrors Jane Eyre's in many ways: living with family who make her feel like a burden; a job as a nanny for a wealthy family, in Brooklyn, complete with a wife who uses the attic apartment of their brownstone as a home office; and a flight to Korea after a doomed love affair in New York ends poorly.