For whatever reason I had a harder time getting into this one than I have Echols' other novels. I still enjoyed it, but felt myself more distanced fro...moreFor whatever reason I had a harder time getting into this one than I have Echols' other novels. I still enjoyed it, but felt myself more distanced from the characters than I usually do in her novels. I wasn't completely convinced of either of their motivations for their behaviors which was a big part of the problem for me I think. I'm still looking forward to reading the rest of Echols' backlist though as I have pretty much LOVED everything else by her I've read. (less)
I waited too long to read this book. Seriously. When it came out back in March, I was intrigued. Many people I trust said read this. It's good. Why did I wait so long? The Story of Owen by E.K. Johnston is a perfect blend of myth, reality, sly humor, and exhilarating action-adventure.
As the title implies, this is the story of Owen, a teenage dragon-slayer-in-training who helps guard the small town of Trondheim from dragons while trying to pass Algebra. Yet this isn't just the story of Owen. In fact, it isn't even mostly the story of Owen. It is really the story of Siobhan, the gifted musician who Owen encounters on his first day at his new school when they are both late for English. Like it was fated. Except not that kind of fated. Siobhan's talent makes her the perfect partner for Owen. Even though the tradition has long since died, every good dragon-slayer needs a good bard and Owen and Siobhan are about to resurrect the art. Siobhan is the one telling this story, in a voice that is both straightforward and trickily slides away from the telling the whole truth at the same time. The Siobhan telling the story is telling it from somewhere in the future. The writing is well done and has a dry wry wit that is subversive and oh so well balanced. I like both Siobhan and Owen, but I really like their partnership and how we see it unfold and grow. Their loyalty towards each grows in a natural way as the book progresses as does the strength of their companionship. And I love that is all their relationship is. I hope it stays that way in the future volumes. I love romance and am hopeful that there will be some eventually, but not between the two of them. One other thing I appreciated about both of them is that they are not super-heroes. They are kids who are talented yes, but who work at what they are good at to make themselves even better. And they work hard. I also really liked the supporting cast of characters, particularly Owen's aunts, Lottie and Hannah. I do feel that Siobhan is lacking in emotional depth enough that she kept me too removed from the story. I think that is probably due to the device of her being a bard and telling the story from the future, carrying we only know what baggage, wounds, and heartache. But it felt as though she didn't feel strongly enough about anything or anyone. Even the descriptions of her music have a vaguely detached air (which makes a bit more sense at the end), but the effect of all that was I wanted to know everyone and feel this story more deeply than I did. That is my one and only complaint though.
The world-builiding here is excellent. It is our world set in modern times with all our modern gadgets and technology. The difference? Dragons. Dragons have been a scourge on humanity in this alternate world for all of history but with the beginning of the age of modern industrialization they became an even bigger scourge. Dragons, you see, crave carbon fuels. It's like candy for them and they instinctively seek out anywhere they can find it. Cities with factories, roads with cars, water with boats, if you are anywhere these things are chances are you will be attacked by a dragon. The political ramifications of this are so well done, and Johnston raises so many provocative questions about our own world and how things are managed through them. Siobhan, Owen, his family, and some of their friends are trying to change the way the world works, but change does not come easy or free. I enjoyed how the world-building was so detailed throwing in so much history, not only maintaining my interest as a reader, but heightening it. It is also through the world-building that the major themes are developed. One thing that is highlighted is how easy media and history are to manipulate and I appreciated that aspect particularly. Siobhan is not just there to be a cheerleader for Owen, she is in charge of shaping perception not just about him, but dragon-slayers in general, and advancing the political and social causes their group deem important. It's fascinating stuff.
The writing brings this world to vivid life. What I felt it was lacking in character emotion, it more than made up for in terms of top rate plotting. The humor in the book is dry and tongue-in-cheek, something else I truly appreciated.
I highly recommend this for all fans of fantasy, particularly if you enjoy a good Nordic tale retold. It has all the feel of Beowulf, while being set in the present time. Truly excellent. (less)
Falling Into Place by Amy Zhang is a book I added to my TBR because a couple of people on Twitter were saying how amazing it was. Then I discovered it's published by Greenwillow so excitement rose. I got it from Edelweiss without even reading the synopsis. Imagine my surprise when I started reading and was not expecting a book that was quite so intense, dark, and sad. It's probably a good thing I didn't know because I probably would have put off reading it. Despite bringing all my parental nightmares to vivid life, this is a book that says and reveals important things about the teen experience. It's a book I think many parents are going to freak out about, but they should all read.
Liz Emerson is her school's most popular girl. Everyone knows her, most people hate her. The latter is well deserved. Liz is not a nice person. No one in this book aside from Liam, the boy who sees something else in Liz and is the one to find her car, is. Liz is the ultimate mean girl. She deliberately goes about trying to destroy other people. It is her way to prop herself up against the world and keep herself separate. But she is killing herself with this long before she attempts suicide through car crash. Each act, each destroyed life, every choice she makes that is about image rather than self, works to destroy her. In addition to Liz this is the story of her two best friends, Kennie and Julia, girls both swept up in the force of Liz's personality. They are just as unlikeable and broken as she is. Despite being the quintessential mean girls, all three of them are very real and human in their fears, doubts, struggles, and horrors. Through vivid imagery and prose, Zang brings to life their high school experience and the harsh reality that is being a teen. My heart broke for all three of them.
I usually don't like books that skip around in the way this one does, but here the format works perfectly. It moves from the timeline of Liz's accident and what occurs after to flashbacks of the months leading up to the accident (but not in order!) to some snippets from Liz's childhood. There is very linear movement. However, it was absolutely perfect in how it fully depicted all of the characters and still got the point of the story, which is a powerful one, across. The prose is vivid and emotive. Zang really makes you feel what her characters do causing a physical ache in places.
Yes, this is an excellent book, but it was not without its aspects that bothered me. I really grew to hate how often Liz's full name was used. Liz Emerson feels...Liz Emerson does....Liz Emerson wants... Enough already! The entire premise of the narration grated on me too. I didn't really see it as necessary and it was actually rather silly. This book has so much good going for it that it did not need to depend on a corny gimmick like that narration trick. The best parts of the story, in my opinion, were the ones where the narrator got lost and it felt like it was just third person. Then that annoying first person would pop up again and UGHHHH. This is a typical problem for me when this narration is used in any book. I'm not a fan of The Book Thief either, and my inability to buy the conceit of the narrative is a big reason why. It was less intrusive here, but still got in the way of my fully falling into the story. The final aspect that bothered me is the end. It does end on a rather hopeful note. One I found completely unbelievable. I know I always say I love a good depression to hope story. There are authors that do it extraordinarily well: Melina Marchetta, Trish Doller, Meg Medina. What makes those authors so good is how they show the characters climbing out of the darkness. It is an arc I can see. That wasn't as evident here.
Despite the things that didn't work for me, I do recommend this book, particularly for fans of contemporary YA who enjoy heartrendingly real stories.
I read an e-galley provided by the publisher, Greenwillow Books, via Edelweiss. Falling Into Place is for sale on September 9th. (less)
Here I am, continuing my way through Jennifer Echols's backlist. I remember Chachic and Maureen raving about Such a Rush when it first came out, but m...moreHere I am, continuing my way through Jennifer Echols's backlist. I remember Chachic and Maureen raving about Such a Rush when it first came out, but my library didn't have it so it wasn't a high priority for me. Big mistake. Boy is this book good.
Here is what I love so much about Echols's writing: her characters are messed-up real people. The have faults and flaws aplenty, and those will sometimes outweigh their finer traits. They are just so real. Leah and Grayson exemplify this perfectly. Leah is the product of a teenage pregnancy and her mom has never come around to the idea of being the responsible adult. Leah decided she did not want to be her mother and made goals for herself. She is desperate and vulnerable in so many ways. She is one mistake away from losing everything she wants for her future. She wants out of the trailer park. She wants into college. She wants to fly. People who are desperate and vulnerable often don't make the best decisions when they feel threatened. This is certainly true for Leah. She has lines she will not cross, but they are not the same lines people who live comfortable lines would have. It is easy to judge and look down on her as a character, but that would come from a high place of privilege that doesn't realize how true poverty and drive to escape it can warp one's decision making processes. Grayson is there to take full advantage of this, but in true Echols's fashion there is more to him. I should never like a manipulative boy as much as I do Grayson, but it's because there really is so much more to him. He is blackmailing Leah. Holding her future over her head to get her to do what he wants. He doesn't ask her to do anything awful though and he pays her well for her flying skills. Asking her to date his brother is an idiotic move, one he holds on to way longer and with far more tenacity than he should. But this is where I think Echols really succeeded with his character. For all his maneuvering and taking over a business, running it and learning how to take taxes out of paychecks, he is still just an 18 year old boy. One who is heartbroken, confused, and desperate to arrange what's left in his life in a way that makes him feel his heart is safe and secure. Does he pick the dumbest plan on the planet to accomplish this? Oh yeah. But again I say, 18 year old boy. It is incredibly realistic.
The romance in this book made me nervous when I first heard about it, and played a part in my not wanting to rush it to the top of my TBR. I was afraid this was going to turn more melodramatic than necessary. And while there was some melodrama involved, it didn't manifest itself in quite the way I thought it would. Also all of the melodrama fit the story, made sense to who the characters were, and never seemed too much for me. All of the chemistry and heat in the book come from Leah and Grayson. Alec and Leah's relationship is practically a non-starter from the start for several reasons, the main one being neither one is trying that hard. Leah isn't at all okay with faking an interest in Alec, particularly when she likes Grayson, and Alec has is own reasons. In addition to the romance in the book, there is also much focus on Leah's relationship with her only friend, Molly. Leah has a completely undeserved reputation that causes most girls to hate her guts. Molly is different, but their relationship is a fraught one.
Echols tackles some weighty themes in this book too. Leah's poverty is a very real thing, as is the neglect she suffers under mother's lack of care. She has raised herself, but there is a limit to what she can do. She becomes highly upset at some of the prying and poking Alec and Grayson do into her life and why she does some of the things she does. Privilege has a hard time seeing how hard true poverty can really be. Through Leah's interactions with people at school there is also some treatment of slut-shaming and how hard society can be on girls. Leah is a beautiful and sexy girl. Men and boys are drawn to her and tend to want to help her. She is much hated for this, but she honestly is oblivious to her affect on the male sex. Despite her reputation, Leah's only ever had sex with one person. Like I said she has lines she doesn't want to cross to mess-up her plans. Plans that do not involve teenage pregnancy. Another thing I like about Echols's books is that they are very sex positive. Of her three books I've read, the female mc's have been a virgin, a highly picky non-virgin, and a girl who is neither a virgin or picky. All of them are view sex as a positive thing though, something they want to experience and enjoy. Their standards are different, what they are looking for is different. In Leah's case she doesn't want to get pregnant and her focus on other things. I really like the way Echols weaves this into her stories and shows so many different and realistic ways teenage girls live their lives and make their choices.
Still loving exploring this author's work and can't wait to read more.
Content Warning: mentions of underage smoking and drinking, some sexual content (less)
I read Jennifer Echols's Biggest Flirts earlier this year and fell in love. It was my first Echols book and I immediately decided I needed more. I knew Major Crush, while out of print, had recently been rereleased on e-book and so I bought it right away. Unfortunately, I just got around to reading it last week. I know two things: I need to read all of Echols's back list and I love books about marching bands.
Virginia cherishes her role with the band and the time she spends with it. She is a great drummer, a dedicated drum major, and good friend to those she feels close to. She has a definite sense of who she is and what she wants to do. She is the first female drum major in the school's history and she wants to do well. Her problem is that Drew is a big something she wants, but feels she will never have because he hates her. Drew is the responsible one. He takes a lot of pride in it. But he also works really hard to break free and do the opposite of what people are telling him to when he has the chance. Drew is a legacy drum major-his dad and all his brothers had the position. Virginia intrigues him because of her sense of self and her free spirit. The two are opposites enough that sparks fly and it is wonderful. I love hate to love stories full of tension and this is a wonderful one. It is one of Echols's earlier works, and I could see a big difference in the writing between this and Biggest Flirts, but it is still incredibly good.
At first I was a little put off by the band director, but I feel like his character grew. Also, I can see a young 22 year old new teacher making the exact errors he does in dealing with the students. His suggestion that Virginia buy a short skirt and boots for her uniform was inappropriate, but he's not the first male teacher to do something so sexist, she's not the first teenage girl to shrug and go along with it, and I feel they both reached a reasonable understanding of things by the end.
Major Crush is a fantastic romance and a great band story. I really liked all the supporting characters as well. Both Drew and Virginia's friends are a lot of fun. I appreciate how the mistakes each character makes are very typical of teenagers and play into the reality of the story well. There are some dramatic moments, but they are moments anyone can see actually happening. The book is full of humor too which is always a plus.
I'm really looking forward to digging into the rest of Jennifer Echols's backlist. I already have Such a Rush checked out from the library and can't wait to get to it. (less)
After reading The Floating Islands a couple of years ago, I immediately put The City in the Lake on my TBR. There it sat despite the fact that I adored The Floating Islands, House of Shadows, and just really like Rachel Neumeier as a person too. After reading and loving Black Dog earlier this year I decided I needed to read this sooner rather than later and the Shelf-Sweeper challenge gave me the perfect opportunity for that. And I loved it so much.
I would really love to know what it is like to live inside Rachel's head, because all of her books are distinctly different, wildly inventive, and not what I think I'm getting when I start reading. You would think by now I would stop being surprised by that, but I continue to be amazed at her creativity and how her writing style alters to fit each world she has created. In The City in the Lake we get a quest story set in a fantasy world. If you think you know what that looks like and you've seen it before, you are wrong. You haven't seen this one. I loved the world here and how vast it is, yet contained in a rather small setting for the story. It is impressive how Neumeier is able to convey that vastness with few words. (Those who read this blog regularly know that is a trait my favorite authors all tend to share.) I loved the idea of the two cities, one in the lake and one on it, that reflect each other. The Forest in all its mysterious darkness is brought to full intimidating life and Timou's small village is rendered in just the right way. Reading this book, I actually felt like I was in all of these places and experiencing them in the same way as the characters.
The book's action centers around the royal family and Timou, a Mage's daughter, who never knew her mother. When the prince and then the King go missing, the King's older bastard son is left in charge and Timou's father has disappeared into the city to try and help. Timou follows when he doesn't return and discovers twisted secrets and a whole lot of family drama. There are a lot of characters involved and they are all well developed despite the shortness of the novel. I loved how Timou is a character of quiet strength. She has incredibly powerful magic and yet is not at all tempted by power. She is patient, stubborn, and hardworking. Her feelings are always kept under tight control, a trick she learned from her father, but one that has her confused when she begins to have feelings for Jonah, one of the men in her village. Jonah also has a quiet strength. He is not a sword wielding, run-into-danger type of hero, but his heroism and what he chooses to do with it are even more impressive as a result. I also really loved both of the princes, who are very different in all the ways brothers are. Neill, the bastard, is a fascinating character. He is the one who caught my imagination the most due to the choices he makes-and the ones he didn't but could have. Cassiel, the heir to the throne, is young and has many traits you would expect from being the younger, favored son, but he also has a core of steel and courage that is impressive. His charm and humor only make this more appealing (even if I was choosing between them, I would choose to like his brother more.) In dress, attitude, and actions, the villain is one of the creepiest I've read in some time. The symbolism Neumeier uses to introduce the concept of the villain into the story does an excellent job of adding to this terrifying calmness of evil the villain presents.
The City in the Lake is exactly the sort of fantasy I love and now I'm kicking myself for not having read it sooner. The world, characters, and story all combine to make an enthralling read and Neumeier's evocative prose put me right in the story. Woven in to the magic and intense political drama is also a great tale of siblings. All of my favorite things in a fantasy plus stuff I never knew to ask for. READ IT NOW. (less)
The Kiss of Deception by Mary Pearson is a book I looked forward to with much anticipation. I will always read a political intrigue fantasy story, even if many times they leave me dissatisfied. As I began to read, I thought this might be one of those. I almost DNFed it. In the end I'm glad I didn't because once stuff started happening, it got really good.
I loved the opening chapters of the book. I was entranced by the cadence of the words, the world-building, and Lia herself. I thought the build-up to Lia's flight and the carefully given glimpses into her life to explain it were truly well done. Then the narrator introduces the prince and the assassin in two chapters each form their point of view. And then a great deal doesn't happen but romantic angst for about 150 pages. This is where the author almost lost me. There isn't so much political intrigue as romantic intrigue. It is possible to do this well, but it felt a little forced here, like the author was trying so hard to be coy, she lost what could have been a lot of great character and plot development as a result. It didn't help that Lia mentions that there is a lot banter exchanged between her and Rafe (and she enjoys this), but we as readers are not privy to this banter. Hello! I love good banter. I crave good banter. If you are going to spend so much time developing a romance, DEVELOP IT. Don't just tell me about it. I feel like this middle part could be much shorter and it would do the book a world of good. Eventually something happens that moves the plot forward and things get amazing from then on.
The latter third of the book is where Lia's character begins to turn into a person I will follow and cheer from now until the end of the trilogy. She comes across as spoiled (or at least she did to me at first). Not because she wants fine things and is unwilling to work, but because she abandoned her family and her people at a time they truly needed her. Running away from your father the king may seem brave but when it risks a war that will costs innocent lives, you are the one that is in the wrong. Lia's naiveté about the world and the way it works starts to melt away as she is forced to confront some harsh realities. The Lia that is present at the end of the book is very different from the one at the beginning and I like her so much better, but it was interesting to watch her get there. That change happening as it did was what was needed to make her the hero she will need to be for what is coming next.
Speaking of....this book has what could be called a cliffhanger ending except it really kind of just ends. It's not like we got to the climax and were left hanging. There is no climax. This feels like all rising action, which, I suppose, one could argue is fine in the first part of a trilogy. I personally just like each of my installments in a series or trilogy to have its own distinct plot arc. The writing is engaging though, and now I'm hooked. There is no way I'm going to let this trilogy go unfinished. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens in book two.
One other concern I had going in was that there was going to be a love triangle, and while what manifested here vaguely resembles one, I feel like Pearson dealt with that well. I can only hope that continues because I will be unhappy if Lia actually waffles at all between these two. I don't want to spoil anyone so I will just say this about the boys: one of them is amazing, one of them is so not. (Like getting drunk and assaulting her so not.)
Overall this one is enjoyable, though I think the pacing could have been much better. The end really saved it for me and I'm glad I kept reading.
I read an e-galley provided by the publisher, Henry Holt, via NetGalley. The Kiss of Deception goes on sale July 8. (less)
When I discovered what Don't Call Me Baby by Gwendolyn Heasley was about, I immediately wanted to read it because I like books that explore online dynamics and family dynamics. A book with both seemed a perfect fit for me and this one does both fairly well.
I have never understood the world of mommy-blogs. To be perfectly honest, they creep me out. I'm sure there are plenty of people out there who don't get why people blog about books either, but at least I don't have to talk about MY KIDS on the book blog. (I know I do occasionally but only briefly and I always ask permission first.) I was perfectly prepared going in to completely side with Imogene and not her mom. No surprises there, that is what happened. Meg is absorbed with her blog (the entries she writes are super obnoxious). It has taken over her life. She has lost sight of who her daughter is and what she wants. Every little thing they do revolves around the blog in some way. Imogene does not respond in the most mature manner to her mother's blogging. She is young and her voice definitely reflects that. At her school the 9th graders are still in junior high and not at the high school yet. She has had a fairly sheltered life which causes her to sound even younger. Her best friend Sage is the daughter of a blogger too. Her mom runs a vegan/organic eating blog. Sage rebels by gorging herself on junk food from the mall food court on a regular basis and eating sugar from any source she can get it. Together the girls launch their own blog to counteract their moms. Imogen grows a lot over the course of the book and discovers things about herself, her mom, and the complications of life. While Meg is an example of how not to deal with a teenage daughter, she really does love Imogen and they don't have a terrible relationship. The way their situation was resolved is believable and makes sense. My favorite character is Imogene's grandmother (Meg's mom) who lives with them. I really enjoyed the inter-generational interactions and conversations from this.
The book is an interesting inspection of online versus offline life, the motives people may have for sharing what they do online, and the benefits of unplugging it all for a little bit. There is also an interesting look at who is really more obsessed with social media, teens or their parents. All of this is good stuff even if it is not as well executed in places as it might have been. Mostly though it is a book about family and relationships. What I enjoyed the most were watching the interactions between the three generations of women in this family and how they loved each other despite their differences. It is certainly worth a read if these are things that interest you and I am now interested in picking up Heasley's other novels.(less)
I have made not secret about how much I adore Stephanie Burgis's Regency fantasy Kat Incorrigible books. When I closed that last page of Stolen Magic, I was left feeling satisfied with the end of Kat's story in those books, but I couldn't help wanting more. When Stephanie started talking about a novella she was writing that would take place upon Kat's debut into society and her own romance, I was beyond thrilled. Courting Magic is everything I wanted it to be. It left me with a huge grin on my face that hasn't faded. It is, in fact, only growing larger as I type this and think about it all over again.
Kat has aged well in the five years since the end of her adventures in Stolen Magic. She has learned to control her tongue and temper. She is still irrepressibly Kat though. Her family still treat her like the girl she was though, telling her what to do, talking over her at times, and not crediting her with the sense that time and experience have instilled in her. I enjoyed this element because this is so true to life. Our families know us so well, but they don't always see us the clearest because they are too close. Mr. Gregson on the other hand, seems to fully trust Kat. He has seen his years of training pay off time and time again. She is a full-fledged guardian and fighter against evil magic. It is rather impressive. Most of the characters from the previous novels make a reappearance here. I didn't realize how badly I needed to see how Lucy's life turned out, until there she was. Her role in this story is marvelous. Reading this is like attending a reunion where I just want to sit and watch these people I love interact with each other. It was incredibly well done.
The plot involves a magical mystery that must be solved. Kat and her entrance into Society set the perfect scene for an undercover operation that involves her taking on three others with guardian magic as her would-be suitors, all of them in the pursuit of justice. Shenanigans of the hilarious and romantic variety ensue. Kat helped all three of her siblings into true love and it was so rewarding to see her find her own. I don't want to spoil much about that, but the romantic element is well done. There is everything that makes a good romance: amusing banter, heated looks, some misunderstanding, and some pretty great kissing. The hero is everything Kat deserves in a partner and their whole dynamic in this story is just lovely.
If you have young MG age fans of the original trilogy in your life and you are wondering at letting them read this, have no fear. There is some kissing and giddy descriptions of attraction, but nothing more than kids this age generally get from movies and other books for their own age group. I let Bit read it (and she loved it too).
Basically this book was all that I could have asked for. Happiness bubbled up inside me as I was reading it, like I was a bottle of soda being shaken up. It just made me effervescent when I was done, walking around grinning like a fool.
Stephanie self-published this and here is her post on all the places you can purchase it if you wish. (And you should most definitely wish to.) (less)
I am still making my way through Diana Wynne Jones's backlist. I probably wouldn't have read The Homeward Bounders for a long time to come as it's currently out of print in the the US (except as an e-book) if it weren't for a conversation on Twitter I had with Sage Blackwood in which she said she heard some consider it to be a metaphor for life as a military kid. My interest level rose exponentially and she was kind enough to send me an old used library copy to read. (Much thanks for that.)
This book, like all of Jones's books, has had many covers. I'm using the latest UK cover because I really like these covers for her books.
The Homeward Bounders unfolds slowly. For the first part of the novel Jamie is all alone simply telling his story about how he came to be a Homeward Bounder and the way the worlds work. As he tells his tale little things about Them (the players) are revealed, and what is revealed is rather chilling. They have no regard for lives. They are ruthless in pursuit of the game they are playing. The game they are playing is us and our lives. And the lives of countless other beings in countless other worlds. We are all pieces on a giant board game helped along by computers and players (the identity of who is a brilliant reveal). Who hasn't wondered about that at some point in their life? This is the sheer genius of Diana Wynne Jones, taking the things everyone ponders and expanding on them and turning them into a brilliant story. Jamie is thrust out of his world after discovering the game. A "discard", he is forced to wander the worlds in search of home. He is alone for a great deal of his search and that loneliness comes off the page and affects the reader. Finally Jamie is able to find some companions. Helen is special in her world, but has been exiled because she also discovered too much. Joris is a demon hunter apprentice, a slave with so much devotion he was dragged into life as a Homeard Bounder by a demon he refused to let go. These three are misfits and they form a strong if somewhat squabble team. A team that doubles when they are able to convince some actual non-Bounders of what is going on. But of course, this can't last forever. They are not going to allow them to remain together without a fight. I really enjoyed Jamie as a character all alone, a wander traveling the worlds. And I loved his interactions with the family he cobbles together from the people he meets. Helen and Adam are particularly fun to watch him with.
The Homeward Bounders is tragic, far more so than a lot of Jones's books are. It is a sort of tragic that is full of purpose though. The trials are not for nothing and the people suffering them learn to adjust, though it leaves scars and yearnings they will never shake. Yes, I can see why some people have likened it to life as a military brat. There were some sentences that made me cry because, yes, they do describe the feelings you have, the feeling that home is a place out there somewhere if you could only just find it, but deep down you know you never will because you missed that chance. That your life is out of your control. That you form attachments only to have them ripped away from you so why bother forming them at all anymore. There is something utterly profound in the conclusion of the book that relates as well. The lack of choice the Bounders have about how long they stay in one place (but they do know approximately how long it will be) and their lack of choice in where they end up next speaks to it as well. Whether Jones did this intentionally or not, I can't help but wish I had this book growing up.
The Homeward Bounders is not a book everyone is going to like, but it is perfect for me. I think it is one of Jones's best actually. It doesn't have the charm and quirk of Chrestomanci, Howl, or Derkholm, but it still has a sly and ironic humor that keeps it from being too tragic. And in the end it really is a beautiful story that is brilliantly crafted.(less)
I received a copy of A Matter of Souls by Denise Lewis Patrick at ALA Midwinter, a signed copy after I met the author. I'm going to confess that I shelved it and forgot about it after returning until I unpacked it this past week after moving. I was reminded of the #weneeddiversebook campaign and decided the weekend of the 48 Hour Book Challenge was the perfect time to read it. I feel so bad for having neglected it for this long, but I feel even worse that I didn't see much buzz about it to remind me. WHY are more people not talking about this book????
A Matter of Souls is a collection of short stories. This is a format we don't see enough of in YA and these stories are so well written. Patrick has a way with words, pulling the reader into the story in just a few and holding them with the characters she has created. Each setting unique and yet not as they all center around the same basic theme and struggle. Each character is unique and their struggle, while familiar in general is unique to that person. Patrick gives each story equal glory. There is sadness in these pages. Heaps and heaps of it. There is death and darkness and the worst humanity as to offer. There is also life and hope and the struggle for more and better. There are glimpses of the better humanity sometimes attempts to strive for as well.
I really appreciate how the title and the final story ties the whole together. Every story anywhere is really a matter of souls and Patrick does an excellent job of illustrating that and the interconnectedness of all. The book makes an excellent resource for anyone teaching US History or creative writing, but needs to be talked of more simply because it is an amazingly good and powerful book. Read it. (less)
I am not a huge poetry fan, but once in a while a poetry book comes along that I can not pass up the chance to read. Poisoned Apples: Poems for You My Pretty by Christine Heppermann was just such a book.
The Woods The action's always there. Where are the fairy tales about gym class or the doctor's office or the back of the bus where bad things also happen?
And so begins a beautiful collection of poems that combine fairy tale and real life to illustrate the struggles of teen girls everywhere. Eating disorders, boys who see and treat you as an object, seeing and treating yourself as an object, the never-ending quest for impossible perfection to live up to an artifiical standard of beauty-it's all blended and folded together against a backdrop of familiar characters and scenarios. The poems, which are mostly in blank verse, are hauntingly beautiful. They are more than that too though. They challenge preconceived notions, force thought, and are, in the end, empowering. It is a feminist book. It is a powerful book. It is a human book. It fills me with a zeal to buy copies for all the teen girls I know. And all the adult women. All the boys too for that matter.
In addition to the poems the final copy of the book will be full of art. I read an e-galley, so it is not all there or as clear as possible, but what I saw I very much liked. I pre-ordered this book months ago based on its concept alone. Having read it already, I do not regret that decision in the slightest. I can not wait for my copy to come so I can read it again and see the art in all its beauty with the poems.
I love fairy tales. Actual real fairy tales for all the darkness, horror, and awful truth they contain. I love them because the lines between fairy tales and reality are hard to find when you start thinking about what the stories are really about. Hepperman mentions her similar thoughts on this in the Afterward. This shows clear in every poem,which is based on a tale with a known character, but so tragically real at the same time. It combines all the aspects of fairy tale riffs I adore.
I highly recommend to everyone.
Content Warning: sexual references, strong language, alcohol and drug use
I read an e-galley provided by the publisher, Greenwillow Books, via Edelweiss. Poisoned Apples is available for purchase on September 23rd.(less)
I really had fun reading Clark's former duology, The Assassin's Curse and The Pirate's Wish, so was excited when I discovered another book was coming...moreI really had fun reading Clark's former duology, The Assassin's Curse and The Pirate's Wish, so was excited when I discovered another book was coming out set in the same world. While still a fun and intriguing story, I didn't enjoy this one as much as the previous two. Hanna has an interesting past and eventually does some interesting things, but for a large portion of the novel she complains and flounces a lot. The story takes so long to go anywhere truly interesting. The majority of it is spent on the boat, and I don't love stories that take place on boats. Also, enough people I trust have called in to question Clark's research and knowledge of how boating works that I find myself distrustful now whenever her characters on a boat. This felt a bit repetitive too. The Mists need to be defeated by a girl on a boat with a boy who has a mysterious origin. AGAIN??? All of that combined to make it harder for me to get into. But I love the magic and world-building still.(less)
I have wanted to read Fiona Wood ever since people were talking about Six Impossible Things when it first came out. I waited impatiently for it to be picked up in America. And for some reason it still hasn't been. But I was more than happy to jump on the chance to read Wildlife instead. I'm happy to report that all the praise Wood received for her writing was well deserved, and I can only hope this being published in the US means Six Impossible Things has a chance now too.
Wildlife is a character study. It focuses on two girls, Sibylla and Louisa, who are experiencing opposite phases of life. Lou is devastated after the death of her boyfriend, Fred. She was a happy, focused, and intelligent young girl with dreams and happiness pouring out of her. She knew who she was and was content in her world. Now her world has been shattered and her dreams left in pieces. She is still fiercely intelligent and owns who she is as a person. All her sadness, grief, anxiety, and fear are part of who she is now. At the same time she hasn't really stopped living. It's subtly there in the words she speaks to others, how she still engages in the world, looks at it with critical eyes, and is making plans for her future. Sibylla,on the other hand, is not and never has been really sure of who she is. Yes, she is smart, on the nerdy side, a girl who doesn't like parties or being the center of attention. But thanks to a one off modeling job and the social climbing plans of her best friend Holly, Sib has the chance to enter the world of cool kids she hasn't really been a part of before. Bound together by being assigned to the same house and through their mutual friendship with Michael, a new friend for Lou and Sib's oldest friend, the girls are drawn toward each other too. Through their stories Wood gives an accurate picture of the heartaches of growing up and the intricacies involved in navigating the minefield that is the high school social world while you're still trying to figure out who you are and what you want.
Wildlife is not just a study of these two girls. Through them it is also a study of the people around them. Holly, Sib's best friend, is a conniving needy attention seeker who uses Sib and is just plain ugly to most everyone else. Yet you can also see how and why she is the way she is and how lost and vulnerable she is at the same time. Michael, the boy who is friends with both girls, is super smart, talented, and driven. He is a rock to both of them, but also has is points of weakness. Ben Capaldi, Sib's boyfriend, is the golden boy. He isn't as nuanced as the other characters, but I do like how he is so typically teenage boy. In fact, that is a plus for everyone in the book. They are very much teens, and through their eyes all the struggles, ridiculous choices, amazing intelligence, and thirst for the world that can be found in teens is exhibited.
Female sexuality and how teen girls are just as much sexual beings as their male counterparts is a theme that is important to this novel and explored well. Both Lou and Sib are (or have been) sexually active. This is another way in which the two foil each other. Lou's sexual relationship with her boyfriend was thought out, discussed, planned for. Sib is an example of how one can find oneself going from "we need to talk about this but I like how you make me feel even though I'm not really ready" to "whoa I just had sex". The conversations the other students have about everyone else's sex life is realistic as well.
I enjoyed Wildlife very much. While slow moving, it is a book that does characterization so well you feel you are drawn into their lives completely.
Content Warning: sex scenes only barely described, drugs and alcohol used by some at parties, strong language
I read an e-galley provided by the publisher, Poppy, via Edelweiss. Wildlife's US release date is September 16th. (less)
I enjoyed this book quite a bit. I liked Reagan and thought her mixture of vulnerability, bravado, and snark were perfect. She and Matt have great che...moreI enjoyed this book quite a bit. I liked Reagan and thought her mixture of vulnerability, bravado, and snark were perfect. She and Matt have great chemistry and their romance is a lovely slow burn. Matt is a bit too perfect of a character to seem real at times but I did enjoy the flirting between the two of them. I wish there had been a bit more evidence of the friendship between Reagan and Dee. I also felt there were parts that really dragged. And since the romantic misunderstanding is one that is a pet peeve of mine the ending was a bit frustrating for me. It is a fun read though and great for people who love romance, music, and road trips. (less)
Not in the Script is a book I was so excited to read because I love these types of story lines about people with lives so different from your own that seem glamorous and fun. I was also nervous because I like to feel like even when these stories are showing me a fantasy life, I want them infused with some realism. Also I didn't want to dislike the book because I think Amy Finnegan is a lovely person and that always gets awkward. Fortunately, I did like it and spent a wonderful afternoon soaking in all its fun fluffy romance (with some substance-just like I wanted)!
I really like both Emma and Jake. Emma is a focused actress and diligent student. She has made several poor choices in her dating life over the years, going out with guys who are egomaniacs and end up cheating on her. Unfortunately for her, her dating mistakes are broadcast all over the country courtesy of her being a famous actress. But despite haven a very grown up job, Emma is still only 18 and learning her way in the world. She grew up with the spotlight on her. She is down to earth and lives a fairly normal life with great parents who support her, but the Hollywood lifestyle still has its affects and makes her life difficult. Jake is a model who is taking on his first acting role so that he can stay in one place long enough to go to college. It's his life long dream to go into business. He is a devoted son, good friend, and genuine nice guy. He too has faults though, makes mistakes, and is young. I loved how genuine both of them are. They act exactly how I imagine kids their age who already have careers to manage and juggle with life would act if they were mature responsible human beings. It's great. Together they are even better. Often at ease with each other, but with exactly the right amount of sexual tension. It was lovely watching their relationship develop and seeing them come to terms with what they want. I also love the dialogue int his book and the easy banter between these two characters especially.
There is a fair bit of drama. This is to be expected. It's a story about actors after all. I think Finnegan did a masterful job of making this drama realistic and never too cliche. I particularly like how she handled the characterization of both secondary female characters and their relationships with Emma. I typically don't like stories where there is more than one guy romantically interested in the main female character, but felt Finnegan handled that aspect well too. I love that Emma, star though she was, also had the ability to be star struck. I also felt that Brett's level of manipulation was perfectly conveyed, but that even he wasn't completely a villain. All the characters here have nuance and substance.
This is a fun book. If you like contemporary romance, definitely pick it up.
I read an e-galley made available by the publisher, Bloomsbury Children US, on NetGalley. The release date for Not in the Script is October 7, 2014. (less)
With a title like The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place, the cover, and the synopsis, there was no way I wasn't going to read this new book by Julie Berry despite not always liking her previous titles. Well, I liked this one quite a lot. It is so much fun.
This is the second MG book I've read this year involving a mystery over a short period of time in a house with many residents. I LOVE these sorts of books. If this is a new trend, I'm all on board. Keep them coming. All the members of the Scandalous Sisterhood are wonderful characters. They each have their own very distinct personality and voice. Berry wisely uses a descriptor before each of their names, but that becomes unnecessary after the first third of the book as they are not at all hard to tell apart. Their ringleader Kitty was my favorite, as I'm fairly sure she's meant to be, but all the girls are likeable in their own ways while also having enough flaws to make them human. There is a large cast of characters. In addition to the girls there is an entire town's worth of people from the minister to the doctor to the hired help to the old Admiral who is a neighbor to the mysterious young men in town with whom the girls must contend. With all these and two dead bodies, the girls are quite overwhelmed. One can see how they arrive at the decision to hide the murders, and at the same time, see how it could never possibly work. The book takes on a humorous tone because the reader gets to watch as the girls lose control and everything inevitably unravels.
The mystery is actually quite good. There were aspects of it that I figured out, but others took me completely by surprise. There is one glaring plot inconsistency that bothered me, but I'm willing to overlook due to how much fun the rest of the book was. It isn't always fast moving despite the dead bodies and the humor. There is a lot of sitting around and discussing what's to be done and who knows what. This is the sort of book that requires a patient reader who doesn't mind waiting for the pay-off. The humor is subtle but there are some truly hysterical scenes. I thoroughly enjoyed myself while reading it.
The age for this is definitely upper MG and would appeal to YA audiences too.
I read an e-galley provided by the publisher, Roaring Book Press, via NetGalley. The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place has a release date of September 23rd. (less)
This is a fun fluffy story that takes place on a reality TV show for seniors in high school who have culinary ambitions. Any one who has ever watched...moreThis is a fun fluffy story that takes place on a reality TV show for seniors in high school who have culinary ambitions. Any one who has ever watched The Food Network will recognize the set-up and they will know exactly what is going on. I was really enjoying the first half of the book. It was fun and the easy banter between Nora and Christian was snappy. He was a little too much of a jerk and I felt the whole hate to love thing was starting with a little too much hate, but I was enjoying myself. Then the hate part of the relationship kept going on and on and on. And on. As a result I never really believed in the relationship so by the time the happy ending came around it was anticlimactic. Still it is a fun premise and mostly well done, particularly for a debut novel. I will certainly read the next book the author writes. (less)
Originally posted here at Random Musings of a Bibliophile.
All the Truth That's In Me by Julie Berry is a contender in this years SLJ Battle of the Boo...moreOriginally posted here at Random Musings of a Bibliophile.
All the Truth That's In Me by Julie Berry is a contender in this years SLJ Battle of the Books which is why I read it. (In fact, you can go to the site and see how it fared in the first battle today.) I would not have read this if it had not been a contender, and now that I have I'm torn. There are some amazing elements in this book, but one thing brought the whole experience down for me. Crashed it down in burning flames actually.
Judith, a girl who had hopes and dreams, had her life stolen from her. As her story opens her world has shrunk to the size of her small family with her angry mother. She interacts with no one. Yet her mind is as expansive as ever. She thinks. She feels. She still hopes and dreams. The object of her most secret affections, Lucas, is her constant companion in her mind. She talks to him constantly, a running narrative that as a reader you, you are dropped into with no explanation. And that was a brilliant story telling device. So brilliant. Judith's character unravels as she tells a story already in progress and shares thoughts of a life she is already living. As the plot gets underway and Judith is forced to bring others into her thoughts and memories in a attempt to save the home she loves, the scope of the narrative grows larger. Judith's character grows with it, as does Lucas, who becomes more of a person and less of the object of Judith's imagination. Both of them learn a lot about who they are and their place in the community they grew up. And how perilous it is. Judith manages to find her voice too, but there are costs to all of this. The way the story is told envelopes everything in mystery and intrigue. The reader only knows as much as Judith is willing to reveal to the Lucas inside her head, and then the man standing in front of her. The process is a beautiful thing to see unfold, and I was captivated by Judith and her story.
I'm sure there are many out there who are going to think I'm making a mountain out of a mole hill. So be it. This is important to me. The setting ruined the experience of the book for me. Yes, it is gorgeously written. Yes, the characters are engaging. Yes, the intrigue and suspense are done well. And yet, the book's lack of setting completely threw me out of the story time and time again. I often say I don't read for setting and don't even think about it unless it is done astonishingly well or is astonishingly lacking. This book falls into the latter camp. I have no idea where/when this is taking place. I didn't know going in that the construct of the world was this flimsy and wasn't prepared, so as I started reading the questions kept piling up. It is the most reminiscent of Puritan colonial times. Not early, but later-I would say second quarter of 18th century. And yet, it's not that. The places are not the same, there are these mysterious enemies called "Homelanders" (how lame and lazy is that?), and yet there are elements of our world too. When I see these are like Puritans, I mean it quite literally. They dress like them, have a similar society set-up, and use the Bible. There are other hints too that this is clearly supposed to be part of our world. But it's not. And it bothered me constantly. I discovered after I finished that the author addressed this in an interview with School Library Journal. In it Berry says this: I knew I needed to create the world that Judith’s story required, rather than tether her story to an actual historical timeline. I love historical fiction, but I didn’t want Judith’s story to take on the weight of the genre’s conventional expectations. To which I say, malarkey. What genre expectations? Readers are the ones with expectations, and as a reader I expect ANY book I read to have a proper sense of time and place, whether created in a fantasy world or built on the actual one. This book is in no way fantasy. But it's not at all historical fiction either. Or maybe she was referring to the expectation many of us have for historical fiction to be accurate, and she didn't want to be bothered with the research aspect. I don't know if that's true, but it was what I kept thinking as I was reading and the lack of place kept bothering me. She also has this to say in that same section regarding the made-up setting: I wanted her narrative to enjoy the prerogatives of contemporary fiction, where character can reign supreme, and the backdrop can be Anytown, USA, Now-ish—as non-specific as Roswell Station feels. And again, I have to say WHATTT???? Character reigning supreme is a prerogative of contemporary fiction. No. It's the prerogative of the writer telling the story regardless of genre. You think character can't reign supreme in historical fiction? Read Elizabeth Wein. Read Gary Schmidt. Read Jepp Who Defied the Stars. Read The Wicked and the Just. And that part about Roswell Station feeling non-specific makes me want to laugh. Or cry. It doesn't fell non-specific. It feels like Puritan New England around about 1740 (or possibly 1640 though Judith's statement about them not having stoned/burned any one in her lifetime make me think probably not), but without actual real details to back it up so the reader is constantly wondering where the heck they are.
Yes, that aspect ruined the entire book for me. You may feel different and that I'm exaggerating the importance of actual setting, but for me it was a big deal. It was continuously problematic for me as I was reading, and the it's all I can think about after. It's tainting the entire reading experience for me. I know a lot of people who loved the book. The sad thing is I could have too. I wanted to. I loved the characters and themes. But I can't love a book when every other page an element is causing me to be thrown from the story and want to bang the book against something hard. (less)
I enjoyed the concept of this story, which is a lot like Ever After High: The Storybook of Legends but with a more solid thought through world buildin...moreI enjoyed the concept of this story, which is a lot like Ever After High: The Storybook of Legends but with a more solid thought through world building behind it. It is a retelling of "Sleeping Beauty" and "Bluebeard" combined, which in itself is genius. Who would think to combine those two??? And I really wanted to love it, but I had too hard of a time liking the main character, Mira. When EVERYONE you meet is telling you that a guy is dangerous stay away, he runs a shady casino, and is a little too suave, maybe you should pay attention. Her stubbornness regarding this, particularly once she knew what was going on was more than I could buy into. Another thing that bothered me was the Felix plot thread left dangling at the end. Where was he? What was he planning? I did like Blue's character a lot, and the dialogue and interactions between him and Mira. The other supporting characters were also enjoyable and I would be happy to read more of their stories set in the town. Particularly Freddie's story now that is hero act is over and Layla's story because I love "Beauty and the Beast" and I loved her.(less)
Originally posted here at Random Musings of a Bibliophile.
Despite loving all of Melina Marchetta's realistic fiction, I had never gone back and picked...moreOriginally posted here at Random Musings of a Bibliophile.
Despite loving all of Melina Marchetta's realistic fiction, I had never gone back and picked up her debut novel, Looking for Alibrandi. I thought it was high time I did.
Looking for Alibrandi is not as smooth and finessed as Marchetta's later works, but it is still an excellent book. Josephine is typical of Marchetta's main characters: self-absorbed at times, flawed, sometimes whiny, and yet also loving, loyal, and hard-working. She is real and human. The secondary characters are also wonderful, particularly Josephine's family. My favorite parts of the novel were the evolving relationships between Josephine and her father and grandmother. This is a generational story, and in this you see the beginnings of Marchetta's brilliance in addressing this that comes into even greater brilliance in The Piper's Son. In the conversations with her grandmother in particular, an interesting glimpse is given into immigrant life in 20th century Australia and the Italian community in Sydney. It was fascinating. The secondary characters are not as well drawn as they are in Marchetta's later works, but they are still very real and Josephine certainly carries her own story beautifully.
The plot itself is not connected to any one event. It is the story of Josephine's last year of high school and covers her changing dynamics with family and friends, her crushes, her ambitions, and her mistakes. All told in her first person voice it, the book reads almost like a diary and this format works perfectly for the episodic nature of the plot.
One thing I always appreciate about Marchetta's novels is the frankness and honesty with which she addresses teenage sexual situations, and that is particularly strong in this novel. I like the way that she shows several different perspectives and situations and how different people will make different decisions depending on what they believe about themselves, the person their with, and the world in general. I loved Josephine's assurance and confidence when she told Jacob she wasn't ready for sex. It is actually one of my favorite conversations I've read in a novel in a long time. And I love the way she and her friends discuss their various experiences towards the end. There is a lot of profound stuff there.
I can't believe I waited so long to to read this, and am so glad I finally did. If you enjoy her other books, particularly Saving Francesca and The Piper's Son, this is one you will want to red too.
And yes, I have tagged it as historical fiction as hard as it was. If a book takes place 20 years ago, it is historical fiction. (less)
Biggest Flirts is my first read by Jennifer Echols and I really enjoyed. It is a story that takes place in the midst of a high school marching band. What's not to like about that?
This is a review of an ARC provided by publisher in exchange for a fair review.
Tia is a girl who is crazy smart and a talented drummer, but breaks in to hives at the thought of any sort of responsibility. She sabotages herself on a regular basis, mostly out of fear. Fear that she may want more than she can have. Fear that she will fail. Fear that she will let other people down. If no one expects anything from her, they can't be disappointed, an she won't be disappointed in herself. Could I relate? No, but I found myself feeling for her and her situation. Like her best friends, I wanted to see her make better choices because she was selling herself short. Will is the new kid in town. I can not even imagine how hard it would be to move right before your senior year. I moved summer before junior year and that was bad enough. Will is leaving a school where he was supposed to be Drum Major and Student Body President for a school where he is a no one and knows nobody. Furthermore the change causes him to realize some things about himself that has him readjusting his entire way of thinking. He is at a point of crisis in many ways. Tia and Will are exactly perfect for each other at this moment. They just need to figure out how they are going to make themselves fit. Neither one of these characters is completely likeable. They both have rough edges and do stupid things. I felt this reflected their ages and made complete sense in the story being told. Is Will a jerk a couple time? Yes. Is Tia? Yes. Are they both also kind and good people most of the time? YES. I really loved the supporting cast of characters too. Tia's two best friends (who will be getting their own books), the other members of the band, Sawyer, and even the band director were all wonderful additions to the story. I liked how the people and details in both Tia's and Will's lives were mentioned making them full and real without bogging down the story.
The plot is a bit predictable and there was quite a bit of drama, particularly towards the end. It is a little more drama-rama than I tend to like in a book, but I didn't feel any of it was unrealistic. There were some over-reactions, but they were typical for 17 year old characters. What I like best about the plot is all the details about the band. I liked it so much that as soon as I finished reading it, I bought Echol's previous book, Major Crush, which is also about marching band. I'm looking forward to reading it and more books by her.
There will be two companion novels to this coming out, one each about Tia's best friends. I can't wait to read more about these characters.
CONTENT NOTE: This book has more descriptive sexy scenes than you ordinarily find in YA. If you try to avoid those, be warned.
I read an e-galley made available by the publisher, Simon Pulse, via Edelweiss. Biggest Flirts is on sale May 20th. (less)
Steve Sheinkin is the master at non-fiction. I love how he builds the reader's outrage over the injustices suffered and sympathy for the sailors slowl...moreSteve Sheinkin is the master at non-fiction. I love how he builds the reader's outrage over the injustices suffered and sympathy for the sailors slowly and thoroughly before he even gets to the details of the explosion, "mutiny", and trial. As always his pacing is brilliant and his details and facts well chosen and presented in an enthralling way. I had no idea this had ever occurred so I'm also appreciative of him writing this book so I could learn about it. (less)
Originally posted here at Random Musings of a Bibliophile.
If Endangered had not been a National Book Award Finalist a couple years ago, I may...more4.5 Stars
Originally posted here at Random Musings of a Bibliophile.
If Endangered had not been a National Book Award Finalist a couple years ago, I may have never discovered Eliot Schrefer and that would have been sad, because I love his writing. I just don't tend to gravitate toward books like Endangered and his latest, Threatened. As I said in my last review, I don't do survival stories, especially if they have anything to do with animals, so the fact that Schrefer is able to keep and hold my interest and, more importantly, make me care and feel every bit of these tense situations is a testament to the fine writing in these books.
In Endangered Schrefer took us out of our comfort zone and into war torn Congo. That book has a protagonist who grew up in the US giving readers at least some connection to the life she had. Seeing Africa through the eyes of someone with a similar paradigm made the story seem more comfortable, at least starting out. In Threatened Schrefer takes this last bit of comfortable connection to US readers away, and it works beautifully. Luc is an AIDs orphan working to pay off his dead mother's hospital debt to a moneylender. The story is told in first person from by him and a couple sentences was all it took for me to fall completely into the spell of his voice and story. I have no concept of Luc's reality. I've never seen most of the things he describes and I can not come close to imagining the life he lives, which is why I appreciate this book. It is a window into a world I will probably never in my comfortable life even glimpse. Luc is someone I felt like I knew even after a few brief pages though. His voice pulled me into his world and I felt as though I was right there with him. Schrefer has a real talent for making you feel a character's emotions and experiences. It isn't just Luc's world in Gabon that the reader is pulled into though, it is also the world of the chimpanzees in the jungle, or as Luc calls it "the Inside". And here is where the writing really impressed me because I never thought I could come to love a group of chimpanzees and see their individual personalities like I did the ones in this book. When I say I am not an animal person, I honestly mean I don't think about them unless they're right in front of me for some reason and then my attention is brief, so that I found my self growing attached to fictional apes is a testament to the skill of the author telling their story. From adorable baby Mango to her fierce older brother Drummer to the patron of the clan, I found myself by turns fascinated by, concerned for, and troubled with their lives. The man who brings Luc into the jungle goes by the name of Prof and he is also an intriguing character. The small details of his life that are revealed make him into a nuanced and deep character. His intentions are good, his methods are not always. Of course all of the information on the other characters is coming from Luc and his voice has so much power that he made me feel the doubts, hesitations, loyalties, and tenderness he was feeling towards all of them.
The jungle setting of the book is eerily beautiful. Schrefer's vivid imagery brings the place to lush hot life. I found myself swatting at imaginary bugs and feeling like things were crawling on me more than once. While not exactly pleasant, I am impressed by how immersed I was in every aspect of the book. This is a story of the relationship between man and his environment and the creatures who share that environment. Schrefer does an excellent job at highlighting the similarities between humans and chimpanzees and through this highlighting the dangers facing the chimpanzees in the wild. Never does the book take on a didactic or self-righteous tone though. All this is told through Luc and ultimately it is the story of him finding a family he loves and wants to protect. I think this is summed up perfectly in a quote spoken in the book by the Prof: "You know, when you think about it, all survival stories that end happily are also family stories."
I read an ARC received from the publisher, Scholastic, at ALA Midwinter. Threatened is on sale February 25. (less)
From the moment I discovered what Something Real by Heather Demetrios was about, I wanted to read it. I am not a fan of reality TV shows that follow families around and document their lives, partly because I just feel like the worst sort of voyeur, but mainly because I feel it is an exploitation of the children involved who have no real choice or agency in what is going on. A book that explores this sounded fascinating. I was also a little hesitant because the synopsis made me think it could go places that I was uncomfortable with. The book did make me uncomfortable, but for all the right reasons and it is truly an excellent novel.
Bonnie Baker is finally recovering from the reality TV circus that was her life for so long. She is in school for the first time and is now going by Chloe (as that is her preferred name, it is what I will call her from here on out). She and her brother Benny are moving on with their lives. They have friends. They have a life. Benny even has a boyfriend, and Chloe has a boy in her life that could be ready to move from crush to relationship. Their lives are thrown in to turmoil when their mom and stepdad decide to reboot the family show that caused so much turmoil in the first place. And no one will let them out of it. This is particularly hard for Chloe, who was a big part of the reason the show was canceled in the first place after she swallowed her parents' medicine cabinet full of pills and had to have her stomach pumped at the age of 13.
Chloe is a bit of a mess as you can imagine. She suffers from what anyone can see is PTSD. Anytime a camera goes anywhere near her she freaks out. Building up enough courage to take her senior picture was an ordeal. Then she goes home to find the cameras have invaded her life again: The telltale signs of my childhood are everywhere: vans with satellite dishes on top, the Mercedes with the familiar BRN4REEL license plate, and the ropes of thick black cables that crawl around the house like prehistoric predators, squeezing everyone inside until they suffocate. That is Chloe's voice, full of pain, truth, and harsh cynicism. She can also be funny, snarky, and playful and it all combines to make her so real. Her journey through this book from terrified victim to a girl who grasps her own future and has agency over her own life is a truly remarkable one. It is filled with a lot of drama and bumps in the road, but watching her grow and learn from each one makes this a fantastic read. It is a book that I actually had to put down and walk around a bit while reading due to the amount of rage I was feeling toward her mother, who is the most selfish narcissistic leech on the planet. She is a terrible human being all round. The relationship between them is also portrayed realistically. Beth is Chloe's mom. Chloe feels loyalty and even love toward her despite everything. Chloe is manipulated, her privacy is invaded, and she is never listened to, but she still feels this fierce need to protect Beth and her siblings. It is a perfect picture of what a warped and dysfunctional child/parent relationship is like.
The book has a large cast of characters from the TV people, family, and school. The individual younger siblings are not focused on much, which is okay because Chloe spends little time with them really. The three oldest, who are all the same age due to a surrogate carrying two of them, are the main focus of the sibling dynamics and I loved this part of the story. Chloe and Benny have always been extremely close and the rebooting of the TV show brings them closer than ever. They both have reasons for hating it. Benny worries about Chloe falling back into depression. Chloe worries about Benny drinking too much like their father. Benny is also concerned about his relationship with his boyfriend, Matt, which they have been keeping secret. The bond and solidarity between these two is something special. They have each other's backs and work together to preserve their sanity and lives. Benny's twin sister Lexie has a more complicated relationship with them. She actually liked the show, but is dealing with her own issues from it even if she doesn't seem to realize. The three of them grow closer and become more of a team as the book progresses and I loved tracking their relationship. Great sibling stories are one of my favorite types of stories and this is certainly one of those.
It is also a great story of friendship. The way Chloe's friends react to the news that she is Bonnie Baker is very realistic, but the way they circle around her and work hard to show her how much they care is extraordinary. They are helpful. The give good advice. They push Chloe to see things in new ways. And they are incredibly supportive of both her and Benny.
Then there is the romance, which was my greatest concern going in. I really didn't want this to be a broken girl finds boy who fixes everything story. And it is not. Hallelujah. Patrick is pretty amazing and mature for a teenage boy, but boys like hime do exist in the world. He knows what he wants out of life and one of those things is Chloe. He is not afraid to pursue her even when she is trying to push him away for his own good. But he is not a magic presence that fixes Chloe's life. He gives her a lot of support and help. He is someone she can talk to and go to for comfort. In the end though, it is CHLOE who works to save herself. She makes the choices. Patrick is there to have her back and help her in those and I LOVED this about their relationship. It definitely had its moments of drama, but what relationship between 17 year olds doesn't come with that? It is the way they dealt with it all that made their relationship a positive aspect of the book.
Basically this book was everything I wanted it to be and more. It is working with the same themes and ideas Don't Call Me Baby and You Look Different in Real Life do, but this book does all of it so much better.
Content Warning: language, underage drinking and smoking, discussions of sex(less)
Originally posted here at Random Musings of a Bibliophile.
The Latte Rebellion by Sarah Jamila Stevenson has been on my TBR for years. It's one of thos...moreOriginally posted here at Random Musings of a Bibliophile.
The Latte Rebellion by Sarah Jamila Stevenson has been on my TBR for years. It's one of those books that I just kept pushing down the list for newer ones as they came out. Then I saw it on display while at the library a couple weeks ago and decided now was the time to read it. I'm glad I did.
Asha is a character easy for me to relate to. She is driven and good at organizing things. She also has a deep seeded fear of failure and disappointing her family. The idea to form the Latte Rebellion was not strictly a social awareness campaign. It started as simply a way to raise money for a post senior year trip and as a way to quietly express annoyance at some of the racial slurs that had been so easily thrown at them by some members of the school. Asha herself is surprised by how much the Rebellion comes to mean to her. I liked how her character developed as the story unfolded and how she came to see that there was more to this issue than just herself and opened up to all of it. I also liked the realistic portrayal of the changing dynamic in the friendship between Asha and Carey. The story here definitely belongs to Asha though it takes a while to get to the point where you feel she actually understands the importance of what she has started.
The story unfolds over Asha's senior year. At the end of each chapter, there is a scene from the disciplinary hearing to determine whether or not Asha will be expelled for incidents resulting from the Rebellion. The contrast between the building movement and Asha's fear over what will happen to her builds suspense. This is countered somewhat by how many details of meetings and meetings and more meetings there are. I did find myself skimming a bit here and there. Overall though, I really enjoyed the story and the themes Stevenson explored through it. The complicated relationships, both in Asha's friendships and family, made this worth it for me. (less)
Any time I find a fantasy that does something new and different I am excited. When the new and different is also done well and...moreOriginally posted here.
Any time I find a fantasy that does something new and different I am excited. When the new and different is also done well and is an engrossing read, it is even better. I found such a book with The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson. I am the first to say that this won't be a read everyone will enjoy, but I sure did.
Chalk drawings: who would have thought they could be used in such a way? In The Rithmatist Sanderson has created a world in which chalk drawings can be brought to life and used for nefarious purposes. Like eating a person until all that is left is a mangled messy corpse. A concept like that could have turned quickly into the ridiculous, but Sanderson's writing keeps that from happening. This book is a page turner filled with mystery, intrigue, and a quest to find a killer whose weapon is CHALK. (I'm still not over the creativity of that.) There is a definite creepy element to the chalklings, but the true horror in this book comes from the feelings of fear and panic the people trapped by them experience. Sanderson brings his characters to vivid life and describes what they are going through in a way that the reader feels s they do.
I adored Joel. He is focused, brave, intelligent, and a complete nerd. He loves Rithmatics and dedicates all of his free time to studying theories and defense moves. He is not a Rithmatist himself, but longs to be one. Unfortunately he was not chosen so must watch the Rithmatists from a distance and help in any way he can. Fortunately, a Rithmatic professor at his school takes an interest in him and brings him on as a research assistant in the case he is investigating. During this time Joel befriends Melody, a Rhithmatist who needs remedial attention. Her chalkings have amazing abilities, but her defense circles are weak. Together these two make a fantastic team. They are brilliant foils for each other and their friendship developed in exactly the perfect way. Melody is a bit odd and her favorite chalklings to draw are unicorns. I loved that about her.
The chalk drawing involves a lot of math and theory and Sanderson goes into a lot of detail about this, which is why this may not be the best book to hand just any reader. But for readers who enjoy puzzles and strategy games, it is a perfect fit. I was riveted from beginning to end and can not wait to read the next book in the series. (less)
I read Sarah Jamila Stevenson's The Latte Rebellion earlier this year and enjoyed it. When I discovered she had a new book coming out this year that took place in Wales and had a ghostly element to it, I couldn't wait to read it. The Truth Against the World delivered nicely on its promise.
Wyn is fascinated by the history and folklore of her great-grandmother's native Wales. She has grown up listening to the stories and hanging on every word. She even recently began trying to learn to speak Welsch. Gee Gee's dying of cancer and wishes to return to her homeland one more time and it Wyn and her parents are taking her. Wyn is deeply upset by Gee Gee's impending death. They are very close. This is what I really loved about this novel. I liked Wyn's relationship with Gee Gee, her relationship with her parents (even when strained), and father's relationship with his grandmother. This book is all about the ties of family and history, how those things affect our present and future. Stories that explore these things are favorites of mine and I think Wyn is an excellent character for exploring them with. Gareth Lewis, the boy who finds Wyn online after having a disturbing encounter with a ghost bearing her name, is also an excellent character for this. His great-grandfather lives in the same town Gee Gee is from. He and Wyn have an eery amount of things in common, including the strange things that are happening to them. I appreciated how genuine both of these characters read. They are both only 15 and their parents are heavily involved in all of their decisions and actions. The interactions between both teens and their parents are ones that occur in households the world over every day. They both sound young, because they are young, though intelligent.
This is a slower story. It unfolds piece by piece. Don't go into this expecting to get a thrilling tale of creepy hauntings with twists on every page. It is not that sort of book. The mystery that Wyn and Gareth are unraveling is not all that difficult to figure out as an outsider (and an adult), but I thoroughly enjoyed watching them make the discovery themselves at the same time discovering each other, the town of their heritage, and the past. If you enjoy the sort of book that does all of these things well, this is one you should definitely pick up.
I read an e-galley received from the publisher, Flux, via NetGalley. The Truth Against the World goes on sale June 8th. (less)
I fun, light read that is exactly what I needed last night. I enjoyed the descriptions of Italy (most especially the food). It brought back memories o...moreI fun, light read that is exactly what I needed last night. I enjoyed the descriptions of Italy (most especially the food). It brought back memories of my own time there. I wasn't a big fan of the second boy and all the angst that caused. I would have liked this far more if it had merely focused on Darren and the growing relationship between Pippa and him. Too much unnecessary angst with Bruno, especially as Pippa was causing a lot of eye-rolling with her stupidity over that. BUT every other part of the book I adored. (less)