To all my beautiful people,
I think I’ve said it half a million times or more, but I love reviewing books and being a part of blog tours. That said, I probably get involved in too many of them and should be reasonably too busy to do them–but I hate saying no.
And so here we are. I should be working on all the schoolwork that I have to get done, but instead I’m reviewing this book by the lovely Miss Annie Louise Twitchell. You may remember this name from the last blog tour I was involved in with Twitchell and DeVall, discussing their fantasy retellings (which I still suggest taking a look at).
This time, I have the pleasure of reviewing Annie’s book, Through the Pages. This book is her very first novel, and it’s an excitement to get to be involved with this project.
Before I get started on the actual review, I would love to introduce you to the author herself. She’s another darling friend of mine. I originally became involved with her and her writing through a Christian Writer’s Group on Facebook. Then, she joined Rebekah DeVall and I on Neverland. I have the joy of being able to say that I’ve watched her grow both as a person and a writer, and I am proud to be able to be involved in this blog tour to celebrate the accomplishment of self-publishing her first novel.
Annie Louise Twitchell is a homeschool graduate who is obsessed with dragons and fairytales. She enjoys reading, writing, poetry, and many forms of art. When she’s not writing, she can often be found reading out loud to her cat, rabbit, and houseplants, or wandering barefoot in the area around her Western Maine home. In addition to seven published works, she has several poetry awards and pieces in four anthologies. You can contact her on Instagram (@annietwitchell @elli_and_indie), Twitter (@WriterAnnieLou), or Facebook. You can find more news and writings from her on her blog or website, Books & Quills Magazine.
All this said, let’s talk about the book at hand. As noted above, Through the Pages is Annie Louise Twitchell’s very first novel. She wrote it in honor of her mother. As said in the opening,
“Write a book for your mother. Write about the books. Write about the books you have read, write about the books you will write.Write about the books that tore you into a million shreds and write about the ones that gathered you up and brought you to Me. Write about the people you see. Write about the person you will be. Annie, write about the stars, and the moon, and the words, and the pain of loving.”
And that’s exactly what Annie did.
To give you more information about the story itself, Through the Pages is a short
contemporary realistic fiction piece about a girl who goes to take care of her fading grandmother.
Spring will always follow Winter.
Misty doesn’t know who she is. Nineteen years old, she’s trapped inside who she has been, with no idea who she could be.
When she goes to Mill’s End to take care of her stubborn, book-loving grandmother, she finds herself torn between past and present. The answer to who she is lies hidden in her grandmother’s library. Her path to find herself takes her through the fading pages of dusty books and the memories of a woman who has lived a full life. It is up to Misty to write the final chapter to the dearest story of them all.
For those of you interested in seeing a short, homemade book trailer, click here.
(This bottom one is my favorite <3)
Now, on to the review.
I made a mistake reading this book that I haven’t made in years. A mistake that made me wish I’d read the ending before the beginning.
I misinterpreted this book. I didn’t read it how it was meant to be read. And thus, I ended up reading it twice.
I spent the first read through blinking at the story, trying to find what was at the center of it, wondering how so many things fit together and why–despite myself–I was drawn to the story. The second go around, I the story made quite a bit more sense.
SO. Before you read it, be sure that you understand this: (As quoted from the Author Note at the end of the story.)
“Through the Pages is about falling in love, but not necessarily romantically. Not the way most people think of it. It’s about loving, and being in love, and living in love. It’s about the strands that flow over and through and around us, tying us together if we’ll let it. Love is a little scary sometimes, if you take a step back and look at it for all that it is and all that it can be. And it’s incredible and one of my favorite things, even when it’s hard. Even when it hurts.
Knowing this helps make everything make so much more sense.
What worked best for me were some of the little things. For example, the relationships, the dialogue, and the feeling of being in a small town. These were things, that through the portrayal of them, I could see that the author had experienced them. And they were things that I could identify with.
The relationship with Irene and Misty was probably the thing that worked most for me within the story. Perhaps because it’s something I can identify with, having been in Misty’s shoes with several of my own grandparents. But the relationship between them–it’s ups and downs–felt very vivid. In Miss Annie’s future books, I would love to see her expand on her relationships even more because she has a good instinct for people.
What I would have liked to see built upon
There are two things I would have liked to see built on in this book that I felt were left a little bit…hanging. Not that they weren’t good, but I would have liked to see more from them. And both were related to subplots.
As a writer, I recognize that sometimes subplots are really hard. I can be difficult to get all those loose ends tucked in nice and neat. And for a first novel, this is honestly a spectacular effort in regards to that. However, these are the things I would like to have seen built up.
- I would have liked to see more about Irene and the idea of her being a book rescuer. We see the start of it in the very first scene where we meet her character. And the topic is mentioned toward the end of the book where Misty vaguely mentions that Irene has been teaching her to care for the books. But I would have loved to see more of that. It was something that drew me in, and I expected it to be a bigger part of the book than it was in the end. I think, if used well, it could have led to some wonderful scenes.
- I wanted a better set up for the subplot about Irene’s son being the famous writer. I think because it was brought up again and again I was expecting it from the first mention to be important. Then when I discovered the subplot about the son my brain instantaneously connected the two things, so it wasn’t really a surprise for me. That said, I would have liked to see a better set up for all of the conflict involving that. What I mean by this is that I would have liked to see a little more mystery about it, a little more subtly, and perhaps more build up to the ending. I wasn’t really aware WHY her son had left or what the mystery was, so it was difficult for me to connect with his character when he appeared at the end of the story.
My Favorite Parts
So, because I’m that sort of person, there are a handful of amusing and moving parts of this story that I love. And I hope you enjoy them as well. Hopefully, this will wet your appetite for more. I’d love to see you all read this story. 🙂
“You used to be a dreamer, always with your head in the clouds. We had to watch you closer than any of the others to make sure you didn’t chase a butterfly up into the sky and never come back down again. But now, you don’t look like you dream. That other-world look in your eye is gone. Wendy’s grown up and left Peter Pan behind…and I did hope you wouldn’t do that.”
That was not what I’d expected her to say, and it made me uncomfortable. I looked out the window over the kitchen sink and surveyed the garden. “I dream plenty, Gamma.”
“If that was true, you’d look healthier.” She pinched my arm. “You’re all pale and nervous looking, like Mrs. Bennett’s poor nerves.”
“Yeah, well,” I glanced at her. “Maybe you can’t live on dreams.”
Isn’t that just lovely? Nostalgic. And of course a Jane Austen reference. ❤
“That’s my favorite superhero,” I said with a smile.
She laughed, the sound cracked and contrary: “He was mine.”
“Captain America?” Something about her voice made me question that.
Harper is Gamma’s dead husband. I don’t know why I found this cute, but it is. So there.
“Been home a few weeks. Pa doesn’t care if I do chores. He didn’t think I was coming home but here I am.
Irene’s an angel. I’m good if she’s here. Wish she’d sing more. Her voice is perfect because it’s home.
House is freezing. Some of the farm help didn’t come home. They won’t come home again. Pa’s collecting their things to post back to their families.
I didn’t have to live, God. You know that, right? Sometimes I wish I hadn’t. Coming home and seeing all the dead hopes and all the new tombstones and all the empty seats in the church pews. War is hell. God’s not there. I am sick of the stink of blood and sound of death.
I can smell it. I can hear it. Said it was for right and freedom but I don’t know anymore.”
This is one of Harper’s poems he wrote in his journal. It’s my absolute favorite one. This is just a little bit of it, but obviously I think you should read the rest of the book to see the rest of the poem because my heart. #dies
Because you guys know I love doing this, I will reiterate that this is my favorite part of a review. I love talking to authors about their work and giving you, as the reader, an eye inside of the project. So, here is our interview with the lovely Miss Annie Louise Twitchell.
CS Taylor: This is your first novel. How was the experience different from your previous writings/publications?
Annie Louise Twitchell: Everything about this one was different. It was a secret, for one. I didn’t have the usual help on my books. I had a small group of friends who were involved, and that was it. I also hired out a new editor for this, someone I’d not worked with before, so that was exciting and a little scary. I loved worked with her though and will seek her out again.
It was also my first novel, like you said. That…honestly, it was such an accomplishment for me. I wrote an entire first draft from beginning to end during NaNoWriMo 2017, spent several months editing, go beta reader feedback, and kept at it. It was hard because I had such a tight deadline, a little less than a year before I needed to have paperback books in my hands. But…I made it.
CS Taylor: What was the most rewarding part of this project?
Annie Louise Twitchell: Either seeing my mom’s face when she realized what the book she was holding was, or hearing her talk about it afterwards.
CS Taylor: What was the hardest part of this project?
Annie Louise Twitchell: Keeping it a secret from everyone. We had a rough spot when I wouldn’t fess up what I’d been working on during NaNo, and I had some technical difficulties that I needed help from my family with that I couldn’t share why. It was all really tricky to work it out.
CS Taylor: Do you think you will continue in the novel form or do you prefer shorter works?
Annie Louise Twitchell: I think I’ll do both. I have both in progress right now. The short pieces, I tend to finish sooner. But I love novels.
CS Taylor: Gamma is a book rescuer, and you suggested that your mother was also. How has that affected you growing up? How has that impacted your outlook on reading and writing?
Annie Louise Twitchell: My mother is definitely a book rescuer. It meant that while, with six kids on a school teacher’s salary, we didn’t always have the things that we might have wanted, we always had books. I remember used book sales, and trips to the library with all of us kids hauling a small suitcase along. We traveled two hours one way to visit a library big enough to suit us, checked out books for four weeks, got them renewed for four more, and inhaled them. (Our house had more books than our village library.)
I have dyslexia, but that didn’t stop me from reading because the stories were too important. I’m sure there are books I didn’t understand quite right, but I learned to read by the entire word instead of sounding the word out, so it worked out all right. I think I would have struggled to write if I hadn’t read so much.
It also meant that I had a fight with my poetry teacher because I use some British spellings instead of American spellings. I read too much British literature and just soaked myself in it. #noregrets
CS Taylor: Who is the character in Through the Pages that means the most to you and why?
Annie Louise Twitchell: Do you have any idea how hard it is to answer these types of questions? I think I said Misty in one the other day, but today, it’s Gamma. I filled the role that Misty filled, with my best friend’s grandfather, for a short time. He’s gone now and today I’m remembering him a good deal. I wish I had a chance to show this to him, along with my great-grandmother, Louise. Grandpa Sawyer would have hummed over it and nodded solemnly, while Grammie Louise would have just…I like to think she would have loved it.
CS Taylor: What is your favorite part of Through the Pages? Why is it your favorite, what does it mean to you?
Annie Louise Twitchell: The following is a letter written by Harper, Misty’s grandfather, that her grandmother gave her to read. It means a lot to me as I’ve struggled to reconcile love with the hard things, and this piece–one of my 2am writing sessions where things aren’t entirely my own–helped a good deal.
Someone thought I ought to write about Christmas and have the Daily Journal print it, so here’s my letter about Christmas, I think.
Christmas isn’t about giving.
Christmas is about receiving. Christmas is about being open to receiving love. It’s love that makes the world go ’round, after all. I think if people would be more loving, the world might be a better and happier place.
The Good Lord talks about love a lot and somehow people don’t think about that when they talk about it. They say love is gentle, but love is also a raging tornado that will break things apart. Love is kind, but love is frightening. I was a soldier in the second World War. There were so many horrible frightening things but none of them compare to how I feel when someone makes my wife upset. Love isn’t just roses and sugar. Love is fire and storms.
If I can be open to receiving love like that, then maybe I’ll find it spills over and touches the ones around me. This love cannot be bottled up and if I dare to take it, then I have to give it away just as quickly. There is no other choice.
Love is patient. Love is a smoldering fire that lies in wait under the feet of Vesuvius.
Love is slow to anger, but that does not mean it is not angry. Love is angry. Love is black and scarlet.
Love is as soft as baby’s skin and as wild as the ocean. Of all the things I have met in this world, I’ve not met any more frightening than love. Evil, even. It doesn’t hold a candlestick to love. It can’t. The Good Lord came and lived and died and conquered evil through love. Love is the ultimate power.
Christmas isn’t about giving. Christmas is about receiving so much that it must flow over into those around you.
I looked down at the bit of paper, safe in the plastic lamination, my heart aching. I wished I knew how Grandpa was so sure of himself. He could talk about God as if He was an old friend, and I struggled to be brave enough to pray. I was jealous of him.
CS Taylor: Finally, if you had any advice to share with other writers who are trying to get to the place where you are today in your writing, what would it be?
Annie Louise Twitchell: Take it a step at a time. Don’t get overwhelmed with all the details. Just go slow and steady.
Well, darlings, that’s all for this round. I’m so glad to have been able to share this with you, and I hope to see more of Miss Annie’s work in the future so that I can share it with you.
For those of you interested in purchasing a copy of Annie’s book, you can do so here. I hope that each of you has a chance to read it. I’d love to talk about it with all of you. There’s something special here.
Take care all.
Your unaffectionate supernova,