And thus my week of reading awesome books concludes with C.K. Kelly Martin's fantastic debut, I Know It's Over. And it. Was. Awesome. After reading La...moreAnd thus my week of reading awesome books concludes with C.K. Kelly Martin's fantastic debut, I Know It's Over. And it. Was. Awesome. After reading Lacey's GoodReads review, I picked it up and was prepared to be totally heartbroken. I might have even been looking forward to it, because I am a Canadian and that's how we are. Or at least that is how I am. I like a good heartbreaking story (it's usually the happy ones that freak me out).
Anyway, as much as I thought I was prepared for this book, I totally wasn't. It doesn't just break your heart--that's putting it too mildly--this book will rip your heart out of your chest and then dry ice it and then smash it into smithereens and then direct you to the cupboard where the glue is so you can then begin the process of pasting the pieces of your old heart into a NEW heart.
The good news: it's so worth it.
I Know It's Over is a book about a teenage guy named Nick and his intense, all-consuming relationship with a girl named Sasha. The two are so full of each other they can hardly breathe. When they break up, Sasha citing a need for space, Nick is devastated. It's not what he wants and he struggles to understand how it's something she could. And then Sasha comes back--not to tell Nick she wants to get back together... but to tell him she's pregnant. Together but not, they must figure out what to do, how to cope and how to continue after the decision is made.
This is one YA novel that really impressed me (and also gave me chest pains with its amazingness, as mentioned above). It tackles some big issues--teen pregnancy, sex, sexuality--but never once feels like an Issue Book. I mean, Degrassi is fun to watch, but it wouldn't be that fun to read (unless it's a Degrassi book--we all know that'd be awesome). Martin never once goes for a melodramatic or heavy-handed approach, nor does she have an agenda, which is sure to make people on either side of the fence mad.
Nick is one of the most memorable male protagonists I've read in a long time. His observations are candid and devastating. He's a frustrated, 16-year-old guy, struggling with his own perceptions of himself and other people's perceptions of him. Martin drives home the fact that it's tough just to be a teenager, let alone one that is about to go through the things that Nick goes through. Martin is also excellent at taking down walls between characters, both major and minor ones, and the reader. If you don't know these people, you will know them. I think that familiarity is especially important, considering the book's subject matter.
The writing is frank, brutal, beautiful and emotionally confrontational. I'm sure it'll force people to ask questions they don't want to ask. After reading I Know It's Over, I'm convinced there's nothing Martin won't say and that's good. That's what I want on my YA shelf. That's what I want on EVERY YA shelf.(less)
This was one of those One More Chapter and Then I'll Put It Down type of books. Even though I had things to do, I couldn't stop reading it long enough...moreThis was one of those One More Chapter and Then I'll Put It Down type of books. Even though I had things to do, I couldn't stop reading it long enough to do them. I wasn't in a hurry to finish--I was just enjoying the book that much.
Violet Raines Almost Got Struck By Lightning is a really sweet story about a girl who is struggling with her evolving relationships and growing up as she and her friends edge closer and closer to Junior High. The arrival of a new girl, Melissa, has Violet questioning her role within her group of friends and fighting to keep things the way they've always been: uncomplicated and fun.
The narrative is outstanding--as another characte remarks, Violet is no shrinking violet. She's full of attitude and humour. A strong female character for girls and boys to read and root for (and they will root for her). The descriptions are incredibly vivid. I think that's as close to Florida as I'll get without going there. I loved the conclusion. Violet is not forced to come to any understanding about the way the world works and growing up--the way it happens is natural and realistic. I'll definitely be recommending this one.(less)
I have bad luck with memoirs. I don't know why. It's probably my fault, but they almost always end up alienating me somehow and I almost always end up...moreI have bad luck with memoirs. I don't know why. It's probably my fault, but they almost always end up alienating me somehow and I almost always end up finishing them out of obligation. There is nothing more annoying to me than struggling to finish a book while thinking of all the other books I could be reading and enjoying instead.
Thank God that was not the case with Felicia Sullivan's memoir, The Sky Isn't Visible from Here.
I LOVED THIS BOOK.
It brought me in from page one and it did not let me go. It is one of the most gut-wrenching stories I've read this year. It's a 'steals yer breath and doesn't give it back until the very last page' type read and it totally made me cry (pgs. 204 & 205 and the last chapter, to be exact).
In Sky, Sullivan chronicles her turbulant childhood, which was spent under her emotionally toxic, destructive, drug-addicted mother. When she finally cuts her mother off, Sullivan realizes she's not really free of her at all: she's battling her own problems with addiction and must come to terms with her past before turning her present around.
There is a total rawness in the way Sullivan examines her life, submerging you in the loneliness of her childhood and adulthood. The vulnerability in these pages will make your heart ache (which will then proceed to make you cry, if you are me). The story is told in a non-linear fashion, which really appealed. I felt it added to the whole reading experience. It was like being given the puzzle pieces and when you've reached the end, you can see the whole picture, and it's an inspiring one, courageous, hopeful and unapologetically honest. The writing is totally sucker-punch amazing. Sullivan is not an author who just tells her story, she is one who shares it. And that's what I loved most about it.
Anyway, I am hoping The Sky Isn't Visible from Here marks the start of a better reading relationship with me and memoirs because that would be pretty awesome. Regardless of what my future in memoir reading holds, I am so, so glad I read this one.(less)
If my schedule permitted, I would've finished this book in a couple of days (which would be fast for this shamefully slow reader). Soulless is fast-pa...moreIf my schedule permitted, I would've finished this book in a couple of days (which would be fast for this shamefully slow reader). Soulless is fast-paced and full of action. Even the brief moments in which the characters pause to catch their breath as they outrun the dead move quickly. Whenever I put this book down, I wanted to pick it back up again. That is probably not surprising. I mean, it's a zombie novel. Everyone who knows me knows I am eagerly awaiting the zombie apocalypse. And with good reason. I have an awesome survival plan, you guys.
I liked the premise of Soulless a lot. A mass seance on an early morning television show designed to reconnect the living with the spirits of their long lost loved ones for a few moments goes horribly wrong and awakens the dead. The dead are HUNGRY! For the FLESH! Of the LIVING! And a bunch of people with nothing in common wind up trying to survive the outbreak of flesh-eating corpses and ultimately end it, together. They do pretty well for people who have to work without my awesome zombie apocalypse survival plan, I must say.
So this was my introduction to Christopher Golden and it was pretty great. All in all, I had fun reading Soulless. When I read the first few pages, I (embarrassingly) thought I was reading first-person, even though Soulless is actually written in third. I do not think this is a reflection on my reading comprehension skills so much as I think it is a testament to Golden's ability to get inside his character's heads, which he does really, really well. Another thing that struck me as I read Soulless was that it would appeal to adults. It's just got the Adults Would Dig This vibe emanating from it.
As I said, the book moves along at a really nice clip. There are a varity of characters and the novel has multiple POVs. Reading in the stop-start way I did, I got a little confused at times and needed to refresh myself, which I'm not convinced is a fault of the book so much as it is the fault of my schedule leaving me unable to sit with it for long periods of time. I enjoyed the zombie apocalypse most through the eyes of Tania, a Disney-type star dealing with a tabloid scandel (the Paps caught her kissing another girl), and Phoenix, whose father is at the heart of the seance. I would've really liked to have seen more of Noah. I felt he got the short end of the stick near the end and I found him very compelling. All characters begin with firmly set personalities, ideas and beliefs and watching all of these things crumble as the pages go by is fantastic and fascinating. Don't let all the fun fool you--Soulless doesn't shy away from the troubling moral conundrums that arise when the dead arise. It's a well-rounded story. And I agree with Little Willow--it'd make a great movie.
NOW. Let's talk zombies because that is what we're all here for. The zombies have a bit of a twist. They're targeting their loved ones, which I found really neat. How creepy to think that if someone you love has died, they'll be seeking you out. You know. As opposed to your every day, non-discriminating zombies. I loved that.
I must admit I come from the Simon Pegg school of zombie sticklerness, though. I really--and I mean REALLY--hate it when zombies talk and I hate it when zombies run. I could write essays on why zombies should NEVER do either. The zombies in Soulless do both. Also the longer they're out and about, the smarter they get, even going so far as to lay traps for the living (kinda like velociraptors!). To his credit, Golden made me get over this quickly, because I don't think he's claiming to write a traditional zombie story nor using the talking/running for gratuitous/shocking purposes (a la the Dawn of the Dead remake). There is this neat, ghostly thread throughout the book about the separation of spirit and soul; your soul is pure and moves on after death and your spirit is the desperate, saddest part of you that stays behind--your ghost. This is the foundation of Golden's dead and the walking and talking really fits it. It's thoughtful, it's not just there to needlessly ramp up the action. As a zombie stickler, I appreciated that. And kudos for making this zombie stickler appreciate that, Mr. Golden! That is no easy feat.
Oh my goodness, this review is long. Check this one out, you guys.(less)
Loved it, love it, loved it. I hated every second I wasn't reading this book. It's quickly paced, but I don't know if I'd call it a thriller, per se,...moreLoved it, love it, loved it. I hated every second I wasn't reading this book. It's quickly paced, but I don't know if I'd call it a thriller, per se, or use Silence of the Lambs as a point of comparison/reference (the Kirkus blurb on the front does both).
In the Miso Soup is tense and intelligent and sad and contemplative. I had any easier time with the gore than I thought I would. It was pretty explicit, yes, but maybe seeing it through Kenji's eyes--he's a very passive narrator--allowed for a certain distance. The characters are fascinating and I just liked hearing them talk. The writing is all I ask for in writing (no navel-gazing, yay!).
The whole book reminded me of Robert Cormier, actually. The examination of loneliness and human condition recalled the best of Cormier's work, in my opinion. It's almost like if Cormier wrote 'adult' novels, they'd be something like this (maybe not so gorey) or if Murakami wrote YA they'd be something like Cormier's. I could be WAY off, but that's the feeling I got and is probably a huge part of the reason why I love love love love love this book.
I don't know if I could freely recommend In the Miso Soup to just anyone--like I said, it's explicit and it's dark and it's gritty--but it's amazing and I'm so glad I read it and I will probably read it again. And again.(less)
The things I didn't know! They filled this whole book!
So I'll admit it: I prickled a little at the letter to the Leafs, even though they aren't even m...moreThe things I didn't know! They filled this whole book!
So I'll admit it: I prickled a little at the letter to the Leafs, even though they aren't even my team, for I am a sensitive Canadian. Luckily Martha Brockenbrough's snarky passion for grammar and language helped me get over it fast. What a great and informative book this was! Never overwhelming and always funny, Brockenbrough's dedication and enthusiasm for the subject is impressive and important--it's like the difference between having a teacher who's counting down the clock until retirement while boring you to death and the one that, you know, actually wants to teach. And makes you enjoy what you're learning to boot. Any book that is going to help me out of a tricky grammar situation AND make me laugh at the same time gets an A+ from me. I have a feeling I'll be keeping my copy of Things That Make Us [Sic:] close by for easy reference. I adored the snark. Pick this one up.(less)