Sent to me by Ros - for which I'm deeply grateful!
My first read of 2010, and what a great way to start the reading year! This is right up there with FSent to me by Ros - for which I'm deeply grateful!
My first read of 2010, and what a great way to start the reading year! This is right up there with Finding Cassie Crazy (AKA The Year of Secret Assignments), and possibly I even liked it more than that. I will be rereading, definitely, as it seems like a book that would be as much fun to revisit - knowing all the twisty bits - as to read for the first time. Despite my appreciation for the first two books of the Ashbury/Brookfield 'series', there were still moments when I thought that Emily was a bit fluffy in her silliness. Inevitably, those moments would be followed by realisation of how subtly Moriarty had slipped in a dead serious moment.
One thing, for those who haven't yet encountered the books, read at least one of the first two (if only one, it should probably be Finding Cassie Crazy) before this. Seriously. You'll be shortchanging yourself badly if you start reading with this one. ...more
Well, I continue the run of starting off my 48 Hour Challenge with a book that knocks me out - in a good way, happily. I saw The SCopy of LJ write-up.
Well, I continue the run of starting off my 48 Hour Challenge with a book that knocks me out - in a good way, happily. I saw The Sky Is Everywhere recommended by Sara Zarr quite a while ago and it's been a long wait, but the anticipation didn't hurt a bit.
The book itself is just gorgeous - at least the UK paperback (-ish) is. It's done like a notebook, with a blue elastic cord holding it, just like a Moleskine, actually, and the print is a most beautiful blue. Except for the notes, poems, and letters interspersed with the story. I got a bit dubious when I picked it up, because "I'm supposed to be grieving, not falling in love..." just isn't that promising. Nor is the bit on the back cover, with its insistence on Lennie's sudden, obsessive desire to make out with guys including her sister's boyfriend, despite her sister's recent death. But it got me. More for the family than the central romance, actually. Lennie's family consisted of her older sister Bailey, her grandmother, her Uncle Big, and her absent mother, who left the girls when Lennie was one.
Although the story of Lennie's slow and incredibly painful adjustment to life without her sister is obviously both powerful and moving, her 'relationship' with her mother is also extremely well done. I loved it for Lennie's gradual realisation of how life is - to an extent - a story, which can be told in a variety of ways. She hasn't seen that she has any part in the telling of that story, and that's one thing she learns, but also that it's possible for a way of telling it to contain a truth, and yet trap you in the story to the exclusion of other truths. And not facing up to those other truths may make them seem truer than they actually are.
All of which might be less elliptical (not to say downright befuddled) if I had less of a headache and more mental energy. So suffice it to say that I loved this mostly for its humour in the huge amount of grief, in its light hand with the supernatural element(s), and the depiction of the various characters and their various responses to loss. (Yow - just thought of one of them and am on the verge of tears again.) The romance wasn't my favourite part of the story in a lot of ways, but not enough to decrease my pleasure in the book significantly....more
How did I forget to add this to my bookshelves when I read it??
I loved this, as much as Knife, and more in ways, if less in other ways. Not less becauHow did I forget to add this to my bookshelves when I read it??
I loved this, as much as Knife, and more in ways, if less in other ways. Not less because it's in any way 'worse', but less because it suffers from the difficulty of shifting central character and perspective to that of someone who has a bit of work to do to earn our liking, as he's in some degree of conflict with Paul and Knife/Peri. Those of us who have loved them from knowing them earlier know with a degree of certainty that what Timothy sees as condescending to him or ignoring his problems is a really a valid, desperate concern for the well-being of those in the Oak.
That's not a criticism of the book, because Timothy does earn our liking, while getting close to Linden, Knife's foster-daughter, and helping her fight to save the Oakenwyld. I loved his credible growth out of self-centeredness, and loved the friendship between Linden and Timothy.
Lots of wonderful stuff in here as well as the two main characters.
I really wish I were feeling more energetic, and more coherent, in order to say what I liked so much about this book. But I'm not, so will only pointI really wish I were feeling more energetic, and more coherent, in order to say what I liked so much about this book. But I'm not, so will only point out a couple of things. 1) Rhosmari is as strong a protagonist as Knife/Peri and Linden are, and is still herself. Writing three (with one more probably already largely written) books with intersecting characters but with the POV character changing from book to book without having the protagonists start to seem either samey or obviously constructed to be different is a very tough trick. Pulled off admirably.
2) The view of the Children of Rhys from the inside is equally strong, and again exemplifies what I said in the review of Knife - that this is old-fashioned in all the good ways that can be meant, without in any way closing down questioning of traditions. Rhosmari's understanding of the way of non-violence practiced by the Children of Rhys is questioned again and again - or rather, she is forced to question it - and what she comes to illustrate is that this is what everyone has to do in order to make beliefs their own. It really doesn't matter whether those beliefs are religious ones or non-religious moral ones, and there is no preachiness about this at all. It's just a moving portrayal of the huge struggle Rhosmari has to undergo. And the coming together of the different wylds' peoples is great.
3) I loved the (credible) reconciliation at the end. It's just something that's always made me happy, when people are shown to be able to overcome fear or anger or even guilt, and find who they really were all along, even though their actions may have been appallingly far from that true self at times.
And finally 4) When Rhosmari was totally lost and didn't know what to believe, a dog helped show the way. A very pitiful dog, in pitiable state. ...more
One of the few books I left un-reviewed, not because of laziness, disorganization, or some form of "I'd rather be reading than writing", but because iOne of the few books I left un-reviewed, not because of laziness, disorganization, or some form of "I'd rather be reading than writing", but because it was too hard to verbalize accurately how I felt about it. The blurb is rubbish, but even to say why is to spoil things that shouldn't be spoiled. This is emphatically not because the author is trying to be super-clever and outsmart the reader for a Big Twist reveal. Rather it's because the reader is brought along with Theo as she slowly and painfully comes to understand what she's experienced. Trigger warnings galore are both needed and impossible. It's especially wrenching if you're a parent who has had a child in trouble and you know they're in trouble and can't get at the trouble to help. But even without the "child in trouble" part, it's devastating because Theo's parents are wonderful and caring, and have no way of knowing what's happened to Theo. Theo's strength is both admirable and credible, and it was perfect that she couldn't quite find it for herself, but eventually could for her friend.
Possibly the thing I love most about this book is the fact that Theo's being black is only a very minor part of the issues. On the other hand, that the line very early on about an important character's being one of Theo's friends' dealer is not any kind of an issue was disturbing in another way entirely.
If you've finished reading this and need cheering-up, but the kind of cheering that doesn't diminish the power of the book, I suggest watching the documentary First Position. Michaela's story and character were the kind that make you feel better about the world, just knowing people like that exist. (And her adoptive parents were lovely too.) ...more
Wow. What to say? I thought this might well have been better than Fly-by-Night, though it's a tough call. While I missed the coffeehouses of the origiWow. What to say? I thought this might well have been better than Fly-by-Night, though it's a tough call. While I missed the coffeehouses of the original (among the coolest settings I've ever read), Toll was astonishing. The relationship between Mosca and Mr Clent is also just as wonderfully depicted, and it's nice to see them that bit closer to admitting their mutual trust (in as much as either of them can trust or be trusted!) and affection (well-mixed with constant exasperation!). The new characters are fantastic, the Locksmiths as terrifying as ever, and the balance of poignancy, outright tragedy and comedy as perfect as before.
I regularly found myself wanting to stop and savour a line or phrase - the prose is fabulous - while being driven to read on and find out what happens next.
Here's my LJ write-up, minus a bit of irrelevant book-burbling. (Also minus some formatting, no doubt, so the original is here.) (Edited as I noticedHere's my LJ write-up, minus a bit of irrelevant book-burbling. (Also minus some formatting, no doubt, so the original is here.) (Edited as I noticed a horrific number of typos, when I went to check whether the title of this book had been changed to "What We Lost". It has, and why the change, I've no idea.)
Last night I started (and stayed up way too late to finish) Sara Zarr's Once Was Lost, which was just wonderful. Still too close to it to do much beyond a bit of raving, but it's at least somewhat quote-enriched raving.
Sam is the fifteen-year old daughter of a pastor in the small - really small - town of Pineview, where everyone knows pretty much everyone, and those in the congregation especially know the business of the pastor and his family. Except for the bit about her mother's having been sent to rehab after getting in an accident while DUI. Sam's father keeps promising he'll tell the congregation, and then Sam will finally be able to stop covering up and hiding. But Sam's dad is a lot better at always knowing the right thing to say, and taking the time to say it, to his congregation than he is to his own family. Or than he is with the congregation in this one case. And with her mother in rehab, Sam is lost and depressed already, when she hears the news that a girl from the town - from the congregation, in fact - has been abducted. Sam has to try to cope with the shock and fear and grief without help from her mother, her father or God, all of whom seem to have left her in one way or another.
The doctor or minister parent who has time for everyone except his or her own family is a bit of a cliché, perhaps, but Zarr makes Sam's dad, like her mother and Sam herself, so beautifully real that it's anything but cliché. It's also not about satirical point-scoring or finger-wagging, and that may be even more important. (Yes, those of you who've heard this once too often are probably right in guessing that a major contrast for me is the feminist-children-neglecting mother in DWJ's Conrad Fate, who still makes me very cross.)
I think I've said before that one thing I really, really liked about Sara Zarr's previous book, Sweethearts, is that it treats the important adults in the teen protagonist's life as older but not essentially different from the teen. So often the parents seem to be there either to get in the way or be downright harmful to the protag's coping, learning lesson, seeing things from new perspective, whatever. But the lesson learning is only the task of the teen, while the parent has either been there, done that or been there, missed the chance. I like adults who keep on being open to change, learning lessons, assessing who they are and who they want to be, becoming. Obviously a YA book shouldn't be all the story of the adult(s), and this certainly isn't, but Sam's parents are fantastic characters. I completely fell for the mother on reading this:
Mom always says that doubt is just another way of expressing faith, and sometimes I'd hear her mutter things to God, like, "Thanks a lot. I guess we'll chalk that one up to character development," or, "I eagerly await your explanation for this in the hereafter, assuming there is such a thing."
The picture we get through Sam's narrative of her mother's rather sudden slide from drinking way too much to keep herself together in the face of the constant scrutiny and having to live up to her position as pastor's wife, into drinking way, way too much and no longer managing to keep it together is both credible and infinitely sad. It's a neat trick to develop sympathy for a character only seen for much of the book through the memories of another character for whom the reader feels primary sympathy, and Zarr manages admirably.
Sam's narrative is occasionally an extremely difficult position to inhabit, as for example when she fails repeatedly to respond to her best friend's desire for her to share her feelings about her mother's being in rehab, about the abduction, about having been sent to live with her friend's family. Completely understandable given what we know about Sam - and some of it pretty classic child of an alcoholic behaviour - but still worrying, when we feel Sam's vulnerability and isolation already, and fear she may cut herself off the few friends she does have.
All this is powerful stuff, and there's a central part of the plot that concerns the girl who's been abducted, the search for her, the impact on her family and the people in the town in general, and the information filtering through that the chances of finding her alive drop dramatically after the first 48 hours. Even though I knew what the book was about, I was still knocked sideways right along with Sam when she hears the news of the abduction on the TV. The chapters are headed Day 1, etc (the abduction actually happens on Day 2), and again Zarr does an amazing job of depicting the reactions of all involved. The older brother of the girl taken was particularly good, I thought. But despite the tension and the heartbreaking grief and anxiety everyone feels, somehow the book struck me as never using manipulative tricks to get the reader involved.
One of my favourite songs is Sufjan Stevens' 'Casimir Pulaski Day' (can be heard here), with its heartbreaking ending 'And He takes, and He takes, and He takes'. Once Was Lost addresses that sense of loss and anger - outrage even, that God has 'taken everything', and also marvels at the strength of people who can have hope and faith despite that. And maybe, just maybe, some of them will have the chance of facing the task Sam imagines Lazarus must have faced, of rebuilding your life after having spent time in the tomb....more
Four and a half, five - I don't know! It really wasn't the right book for the time, and might not be the right book for anytime for others. And if a pFour and a half, five - I don't know! It really wasn't the right book for the time, and might not be the right book for anytime for others. And if a part of me is saying what on EARTH is going on with all this DEATH in YA, I've still got to say that this is one of the most unflinching, unrelenting looks at grief and loss and most of all, bewilderment, I can think of.
There isn't much plot synopsis needed, really: Eddie's father, who's a talented photographer (who had the courage to bow out of the public eye after receiving acclaim for his art), to all eyes happily married and has never expressed any indication of being depressed, kills himself, leaving only a brief, unexplanatory note. Her mother falls apart completely, letting an unmarried friend from her own school days move in and boss Eddie around, criticise her, and generally treat Eddie's grief as utterly unimportant. What a combination, right? Sudden, unexpected loss, no way to make sense of it, and her mother's bailing on life making it even more unbearable. She's totally stuck with needing to know why.
And then Culler Evans, her father's student, turns up at the place her father killed himself, and she discovers that he's also desperately trying to find out why her father did it. And from that point there's really no knowing exactly *what* kind of book this is going to be - is it a depiction just of loss and grieving, is it a portrayal of how completely vulnerable that state makes someone who's being given no help to cope, or is it going to go into even darker territory still? It's not at all comfortable reading, as whichever way it goes, it's clear that Culler isn't someone Eddie will be emotionally safe with, whatever about anything else.
I'm not saying which way it does go, but I will say that the scenes in which Eddie says what she's feeling to her best friend, and then feels guilty for having worried him or said something harsh, are so perfect. Eddie's desperate feeling that it would be more bearable if only she could understand why it happened is utterly convincing. Perhaps the single thing that makes it both such a difficult read and so powerful, is that she doesn't get the kind of resolution you'd expect from most books, YA or not. (That fact that I kind of hate both her parents, even reading from that generation, seems to be some kind of evidence for just how well this book worked for me.)
I have no idea why I didn't change the status from 'to-read' to 'read' a very long time ago, but I read this in MS and then again, of course, once itI have no idea why I didn't change the status from 'to-read' to 'read' a very long time ago, but I read this in MS and then again, of course, once it was published! Some day I'll have to sit down with my reading notebook, take the phone off the hook (ha, don't really get to do that), and do a lot of updating. To compensate for this omission, at least, I'm doing a rating, which I normally don't do for books by friends! ...more
I'll come back and do a proper write-up at some point, but I'm SO glad I got the audiobook of this! Having Alexie read it himself was just wonderful.I'll come back and do a proper write-up at some point, but I'm SO glad I got the audiobook of this! Having Alexie read it himself was just wonderful. I wasn't sure I'd be able to take it when the first abrupt shift from funny to tragic came (and it was a really sad death of a beloved dog), being such a tragedy-wimp. It's well worth it....more
Just finished and still crying, so this is not the time for a coherent review! Might have been four stars at times throughout, but the ending kicked iJust finished and still crying, so this is not the time for a coherent review! Might have been four stars at times throughout, but the ending kicked it up to a 5 for me....more
UK edition is out six whole days before the US one! Roll on, 1st May.
So, a week ago today I went strolling into city centre, feeling great. My day ofUK edition is out six whole days before the US one! Roll on, 1st May.
So, a week ago today I went strolling into city centre, feeling great. My day off from relieving my mother's carers, I knew this AND Sarah Prineas' SUMMERKIN should be out, and that's a lot to appreciate. I checked in Hodges Figgis, found both were indeed on the shelves, so decided to pick them up on the way home after doing other errands. Except that I fell and there was no return to get the books.
Moral: ALWAYS GET THE BOOKS FIRST. You may thank me for this in the future.
Finished it now, and this is probably my favourite book so far this year. Or something between a favourite & the book I think "the best", perhaps. Anyway, it's right up there, and all the weight of expectation about a NEW SARA ZARR did nothing to dim my appreciation. It's a big, big weight, too. I read HOW TO SAVE A LIFE the minute it came out towards the end of 2011, and it hit me so hard that a massive big essay about it still remains in my head, with the book marked here as to-read. But that hit too close to the bone on many levels - a dead father, parents not seeing children's needs, and someone very close to you doing something despite your "nononononono" reaction.
This one didn't hit as hard personally, but still and all, I'm not going to let inability to say *everything* I want to about it prevent me from saying *anything* about it. So, bullet points it is.
- Zarr remains amazingly adept at having interesting adult characters who never hijack the teen protagonist's central importance, but are also working through things themselves. Here, Lucy's mother was a particularly good example of this, as she so clearly showed one of the things that to me makes Zarr such a fantastic YA author: she doesn't see teen and adult issues as truly separated by some moment of growing up, the mythical coming-of-age. The parallels between Lucy and her mother are both obvious and layered, and it makes me so, so happy.
- There are so many wonderful touches, and such nuanced portrayals of so many characters - all of Lucy's family, including the fabulous housekeeper, Martin, Lucy's (two) friends, and of course, Will. Even Lucy's grandfather, who is deeply unsympathetic, and is obviously a terrible parent, can be seen by the end as having some admirable characteristics too. The question of performance permeates the book, and it's done beautifully, intersecting with the topic of being truly *seen* by those close to you. What makes a performance successful, or meaningful, and what do you need by way of an audience?
- Much as I would have loved this to be a romance, or rather to be a story with a romance, given how well Zarr can do romances in her books, I have to say that the fact that this isn't one is part of its utter rightness. It IS about love, in so many different ways, from the love of music to the very moving sacrifice Lucy makes for her little brother Gus, right at the end.
- Have to do one spoiler, just because it's a thing of such perfection, about a character who even more than most, isn't. (view spoiler)[ Will. Oh, Will. What an amazing character. He's so utterly wrong, in behaving the way he does to Lucy, given that she's sixteen and he's over thirty *and* married. And yet, heart-breakingly, he's the only one who actually sees Lucy, and that allows him to rescue her, even while he allows his vision of himself as riding back into the limelight himself by guiding/forcing her back there to ruin that friendship. And in another of those lovely parallels, we see that he has no reason whatsoever to devalue his worth, given his talent as a teacher, when we see how much Lucy's mother would have loved to be allowed teach. Which ties in to the parallels between her and Lucy, and how her allowing her father to dominate her, and then to devalue her, has led her to fail Lucy. Layers and layers. (hide spoiler)]
- I loved this so much that I have to admit that I hope, selfishly, that Zarr manages to keep her love of writing, and her joy in it, alive without needing to take a break from it.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more