Friday, July 6, 2012

Two non-paranormal books that I really enjoyed.

 I recently finished two books that I really enjoyed. Sisters of Glass by Stephanie Hemphill was historical fiction and Tokyo Heist by Diana Renn was a mystery. Nary a ghoul in sight. I was happy to read some realistic books for myself and also to recommend to others who may be worn out from paranormal books or dystopias. I like those genres as much as the next person, but it's nice to read something different for a change!

Sisters of Glass snagged me with its beautiful cover, and then really snagged me with its subject matter-- glassblowing. For a long time it was my career ambition to be a glassblower. I took workshops and even interned for a glassblower in college. To be fair, the book is not just about glassblowing. It's also a story about family, love, and duty. Maria is the younger daughter of a glassblower, who has stipulated that she marry a nobleman. She'd rather work in the furnaces of the glass shop or sketch. Her older sister Giovanna is miffed that she was passed over for the betrothal, and Maria finds herself falling for a man she can't have.

The novel is written in non-rhyming verse, and most of it is quite lyrical and pretty. The atmosphere of Murano, the Venetian island where glass is produced, feels sort of mystical. The story follows a traditional arc and it was refreshing to read one point of view instead of many. As I was reading, I was concerned that Stephanie Hemphill would lose readers with the glassmaking terminology she uses, but behold! A glossary at the end. I'd recommend this to historical fiction fans and any teen interested in glassblowing (although I might've been the only one, and that was-- gulp-- fifteen years ago). For a different, much more complicated story set in France, try Daphne du Maurier's The Glass-Blowers.

Now, for something completely different: Tokyo Heist. This one got me from the art angle too-- it's about a stolen van Gogh painting. Violet arrives in Seattle to spend time with her dad. His employers have recently commissioned him to paint a mural in their office building in Japan. Unfortunately, they have also recently been burglarized and a van Gogh has gone missing. Violet goes to Japan with her dad so he can work on the mural and Violet tries to solve the mystery surrounding the painting and the gangsters who want it. This is a fast-paced mystery with international flavor.

Violet reads a lot of manga and is a budding artist herself, so at the same time her own story is going on, she's writing a manga story called Kimono Girl. I really liked the parallel stories of Violet and Kimono Girl. I know pretty much nothing about manga other than it's Japanese, but I still found it accessible in this story. There are Japanese words sprinkled throughout that can be figured out from context, and they are used purposefully. I really enjoyed this one.

Sisters of Glass was published under Random House's Knopf imprint in March of 2012 and is available now. Tokyo Heist was published under Penguin's Viking imprint in mid-June of 2012 and is also available now.

Ex libris,


No comments: