My daughters read this one for book group and loved it; I confess I only read parts of it but what I read I liked, especially the dragon, Star. (I lovMy daughters read this one for book group and loved it; I confess I only read parts of it but what I read I liked, especially the dragon, Star. (I loved where his name comes from: how his body shines like stars at night). I also loved the concept of a luck dragon, but really wished it had been developed more in the story....more
There is no better way to fall in love with history than to time-travel back into history via a story - especially if you are time traveling with younThere is no better way to fall in love with history than to time-travel back into history via a story - especially if you are time traveling with young King Tut hismelf. I read an early version of this story and loved it, and am thrilled to see the published version available now! ...more
Written from the perspective of a 5th grade girl, Rose, diagnosed with high functioning autism. My 7th and 5th graders were assigned this for book cluWritten from the perspective of a 5th grade girl, Rose, diagnosed with high functioning autism. My 7th and 5th graders were assigned this for book club, and we were all surprised how much we liked it! It was insightful (and fun) to see the world through the eyes and voic) of someone who sees things very differently than us. Rose likes routine; she times everything done to the minute. She is very serious about rules and is not allowed to ride the school bus because she yells at the bus driver for breaking rules - like forgetting to signal (grin). Her two most important things are her homonyms list and discovering new homonyms, and her dog Rain (Reign, Rein).
This books tackles all kinds of issues but in a graceful, non-intrusive way. Her single father is an alcoholic and struggles to her understand her. Her classmates also struggle with her lack of social skills and her obsession with homonyms and rules, but the teachers really make an effort to help Rose navigate the difficulties of socialization, and it's neat to see how things work out with the other kids.
My favorite part (but also the hardest part) was how the importance of keeping rules gets Rose into a thorny situation with her beloved Rain. It's all tied in with a hurricane that sweeps through upstate New York and throws everyone's lives awry....more
Thoroughly enjoyed this and felt the confusion and hurt and emotions of both love stories (past and present), were genuine and relatable. If you are tThoroughly enjoyed this and felt the confusion and hurt and emotions of both love stories (past and present), were genuine and relatable. If you are the kind that isn't afraid to soul search, I think you will like this story. If you don't like digging deep, then this story may be way too uncomfortable. If you don't like getting deep into other people's heads, VERY DEEP, deep into all the honest yuck, then this may not be for you.
My favorite parts: 1) getting to see love from different angles: the first falling-in-love part, riddled with misinterpretations and uncertaintly and hope and hormones, the "are we brave enough to last through this thing after we've discovered what is really hard about each other" (right before getting engaged) and then, over a decade later with marriage and careers and kids and a certain amount of jadedness, another big scary test.
2) the execution of a time-travel device via a clunky old rotary phone landline. Was it real or delusion? Didn't matter. It worked. It gave me a three window view into the story of two people over time, with possibly more tension than a linear story and opportunity for creative literary fun.
3)the skill of a writer who can wield tiny details like magic wands, or swords. Like how we meet Neal through Georgia's line as an artist, a cartoonist who can freehand perfectly straight lines, and ink cute and poignant little characters (who wouldn't want to wake up to a note left by your beloved, but not just a note, a note within a dialogue bubble of a fully inked cartoon character, drawn just for you?) And then this truly terrific author goes even further and writes a scene where
He kissed her like he was drawing a perfectly straight line. He kissed her in India ink.
4)the complication of a best friend of the opposite sex. This was a common problem in my life - I loved my guy friends (like Seth) but I didn't loooooovvvveeee them, but I loved them enough I didn't want to let go of their friendships, even when it complicated other relationship, even when I realized I was using others (and sometimes being used myself). Add to that a work relationship, a necessary to pay-the-bills sort of relationship, and it's one of those thorny problems in life that I haven't seen addressed in literature enough
5)because the facts about underwire bras (and shopping for bras! and wishing you could do it online but you can't) and getting caught in bed when you've overslept in... well... yeah. We're too mortified to talk about these things, but it's kind of fun to read about someone else who's had those same things happen too or feels the same way too.
6)the fact that Georgie and Neal had kids, and how that complicates everything in a relationship, but at the same time I was glad the kids were very young and just had bit parts in the story. I could imagine them having larger parts in the story if they were older and introducing a whole new range of complications (Rainbow, you want to try your hand at that in one of your future stories?)
Having kids sent a tornado through your marriage, then made you happy for the devastation. Even if you could rebuild everything just the way it was before, you’d never want to.
A few things I didn't like: there were a few f-bombs but what bothered even more were all the expletives of Jesus and Christ. He's important to me, so it hurts to see his name thrown around like that.
Sometimes the dialogue went on a little too long for me; and maybe even the introspection... there were a few spots where I wished for a little more activity and a little less talk or introspection. But then again, some of that was the best part of the story.
A few more favorite lines:
“When were you smiling? No one in your family smiles. You're a dynasty of wasted dimples.”
The references to hobbits and hobbit holes.
How at the college party, one of the doors to the bedrooms had a piece of caution tape across it and as a sign that said, "Stay out! If anyone goes in here, my roommmate will end me. Have mercy."
Another awkward party moment I could relate to: grabbing a Zima and pouring it into a cup so she wouldn't look like she was drinking Zima.
Little sis Heather and Kendrick and the pug in the dryer and the puppies.
The Denver airport and the no taxis at the Omaha airport and the whole thing with the snow.
The look Neal gave Georgie during the c-section - so powerfully described. Actually I think that might the most memorable scene for me. ...more
Absolutely loved it! Read it one setting. COULT NOT PUT DOWN.
Beautiful done dual point of views between 17 year old Jill, who used to have everythingAbsolutely loved it! Read it one setting. COULT NOT PUT DOWN.
Beautiful done dual point of views between 17 year old Jill, who used to have everything but has recently lost her father, whom she loved, and related to very deeply... and now she feels like she's losing her friends, her boyfriend, maybe even her mother.
And 18 year old Mandy, who is such a polar opposite, coming from a life of abuse and no love, barely any education, now pregnant, with only a stolen golden watch to fall back on as she bravely leaves her old life behind.
Jill is a real snarky jerk but I still loved her because she knows she's being awful, but she can't seem to stop herself. I remember feeling a bit self-destructive like her once upon a time (for a lot less good reasons than Jill had) so I really related to her.
As wife and mom in her mid forties, I could also really relate to Jill's mom.
And weirdly I could also relate to Mandy, even though I have nothing in common with her, but that's a testiment to how well the author was invested in her... that I could relate to her, and I wanted to relate to her. I think my favorite thing about Mandy was despite the awful way her mother and her mother's boyfriend treated her, she never turned hateful to them. She knew she had to get away from them, and she felt the watch she stole was her "due" because of all they'd put her through, but she was never hateful, and was even able to understand her mother to an extent, as they'd both been pregnant and desperate, but ultimatley chose to "save a life" - save their child.
Other great characters: Dylan and Ravi and Jill's dad, who you get to know pretty well in this story even though he was killed in a car accident.
Loved the setting in Denver, which I know so well - so much fun hearing all the familiar place names! Loved how the author defended the cheesy fun of Casa Bonita! Best cheesy dinner-with-a-show restaurant EVER. ...more
4 stars for the excellent writing, settings, some of the neat ideas; 1 star for the human sacrifice parts (blech!!!) Two of the seven stories involved4 stars for the excellent writing, settings, some of the neat ideas; 1 star for the human sacrifice parts (blech!!!) Two of the seven stories involved a human sacrifice cult. With the cover and title, the sacrifice part isn't really a spoiler. The weird thing is, the sacrifice part of the story sort of felt fake and kind of... beside the point?
I read this for two reasons: 1) it's a Printz award winner, and I had on my list to read two Printzs this year, and this one showed up on the library new books shelf right when I was looking for a Printz to finish my goal this year; and 2) I really really like Sedgwick's book She Is Not Invisible which, let me emphasize strongly, is NOTHING like this book.
Like a lot of reviewers, these are my pros for the book: 1) original 2) vivid writing 3) definitely a page turner 4) has a couple really neat ideas (absolutely LOVED the OneDegree app!!!!)
It was a little spooky, but ehhhh... not really. I did like the Viking vampire though! And the character Erika/Laura who had a lot of fun freaking out those two little kids with her "ghost story."
Here's my favorite quote, from the Viking story:
There was Leif, walking into the center of the longhouse, to stand by the firelight, to give us his words. He was a beautiful man, tall and thin, not one for fighting, though he fought with the others when it was needed so. But his tools were words; those mysterious gifts from the gods, and while most men merely learned how to use them, Leif was one of the wizards who had learned the secret of how to make magic with them.
In the end the book was (to me) sort of like a child playing with red paint (pretending its blood), trying to make something pretty and thoughtful and a little shocking, but really just a child playing.
I felt it was a fun exercise for the author to put together these seven different stories from different time periods and to link them together with some common strands: hares, dragon flowers, bones, sacrifice, "speak of the devil", Erik and Merle in different reincarnations, and then cut the story into puzzle pieces and spread them out across the length of a novel. But the theme supposedly behind all of this just wasn't enough to make this story TRULY memorable.
I couldn't ever really get into this story because I kept feeling the author intruding, dropping breadcrumbs for me, and I'm like, "hey! I see you dropping those breadcrumbs. You're not being subtle at all."
So here's the theme: Love that is strong enough to (view spoiler)[reincarnate, again and again, how lives can be ruined in a single moment by betrayal or violence but it can also be saved in a moment by a few moments of perfect perfection. (hide spoiler)]
But I don't feel like he pulled the theme off. Part of it is because I do believe in how lives can be ruined/saved, but in an entirely different way (yes, clearly my Christian beliefs clash with this story; but I knew going into this story that it was going to clash, so I'm trying not to judge it too harshly on that front, but hey, I am who I am). So it fell flat, to me. Perhaps if he had developed the characters more, I would've connected with it more. This isn't a character-driven story, it's a premise-driven story, and really a collection of ghost/gothic short stories with a few common threads running through them.
What I did like though was how Gunnar changed after the Blood Moon, how he pulled the old temple down and became a fair ruler and "declared there was a new god to believe in, a god he had learned about on a raid to the east, a god who did not hold with sacrifice or magic." Though I realize the author isn't likely alluding to the Christian God, because the God of the Bible does require sacrifice, just a different sacrifice altogether.
Carl Larsson is one of my favorite artists. After reading the controversy about his painting, Midvinterblod (which I'd never seen before), and how the painting is used in this story, I won't be able to look at his paintings ever quite the same way again. Though I don't mean in a negative way; just a more hard life sort of way instead of nostalgic, pretty-picture way. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
One chapter into this book I was hooked by the writing style; short and spare for the most part, but at the same time rich with small setting and sensOne chapter into this book I was hooked by the writing style; short and spare for the most part, but at the same time rich with small setting and sensory details that make the story come vividly to life. The fifth sentence made me settle in with the surety that I was in the hands of a good story teller.
The sun had lowered, and carmelized the color of the things, which meant that she had played cards long enough to be noticed by someone who mattered.
And then near the end of the first chapter, this was what made me sure I would keep reading:
But his refusal touched Kestrel. The stony set of the slave’s shoulders reminded her of herself, when her father demanded something that she couldn’t give.
One of the themes of this story is slavery, plainly, and that has earned it some ire from other reviewers, because this is a deeply sensitive, volatile subject. I can see some of their concerns. But the direction the story went allowed for a very thoughtful and tense examination of slavery from both sides, and I think perhaps the way it was executed shows the magnitude of slavery from a different and powerful perspective. I think the two keys Arin gave Kestrel were a sort of the symbol of the unbearable complications of slavery.
Two or three chapters in, I began to see some parallels with this fantasy world to history, and a quick peek at the author’s note confirmed it. In addition to the excellent writing, here are the two reasons why this book garnered 5 stars and my two highest compliments – it made me see something in a new way, and it made me want to read it again to think about it more:
1) The historical parallels: (view spoiler)[the fantasy Valorian Empire is a parallel to the Ancient Roman Empire and the Herrani are parallel to Greece, conquered by the Romans, but at the same time “conquered” Rome through the backdoor, as the Romans admired the civilization of the Greeks and were in part “civilized” by them (hide spoiler)]
2) The dramatic reversal: (view spoiler)[Kestrel buys Arin as a slave, seeing something of herself in him, but then can’t figure out what in the world to do with him: she can’t treat him as an equal without ruining her own place in society. Though I dearly wish she'd been brave enough to do that on her own, I loved how the reversal (Arin’s underground movement manages to overthrow the colonial Valorians and turn them into prisoners and slaves) forced her to see what life was like from a slave's perspective, though she was protected somewhat from it by Arin. With the roles reversed, they both learn that everything is still just as complicated and heart-breaking. (hide spoiler)]
Those were the two big things that made this story stand out, but a great story is also made up of many little things that resonate too. I loved the references to stories:
“The Herrani tell too many stories.” They had been dreamers. Her father always said that this was why they had been easy to conquer.
Isn’t that what stories do, make real things fake, and fake things real?
One of my favorite characters was Kestrel’s father, General Trajan. He didn’t show up very often, but whenever he did he made me sit up and read everything very carefully. He made an interesting bargain with Kestrel, teaching her war strategy.
“Everything in war hinges on what you know of your adversary’s skills and assets.”
But such talked of war “tipped her too easily between fascination and revulsion.” The poker-like game of strategy, Bite and Sting, plays an important role in throughout the story, both personally between Kestrel and Arin and as a critical part of Kestrel’s character (it’s clearly significant that the very first scene of the story introduces Kestrel while she’s playing a game of strategy). And then later:
She took her thoughts and arranged them like gaming tiles.
I thought it was interesting how playing the piano was so important to Kestrel, though music-playing was considered unimportant enough (just entertainment) to be relegated to slaves.
Music made her feel as if she were holding a lamp that cast a halo of light around her, and while she knew there were people and responsibilities in the darkness behind it, she couldn’t see them. The flame of what she felt when she played made her deliciously blind.
The close third person narrative, alternating between Kestrel and Arin’s point of views, was another strength of this book. Here’s some of my favorite Arin moments:
“Hmmn,” Arin said, turning the packaged dress over in his hands. “What could this be?” “I am sure you know.” He pressed it between his fingers. “A very soft kind of weapon, I think.”
He had fallen silent in the carriage and looked strange, like someone who has drunk wine when he expected water.
His mind returned to that inscrutable look she had given him. He turned it over the way he might a seashell, wondering what kind of creature had lived inside.
And my favorite:
He had threaded desire into the braids, had wanted her to sense it even as he dreaded that she would.
Okay, here’s another Arin favorite:
He looked at his people and smiled, and the smile was a lie – but like writing in a mirror, whose reflection is the inverse of truth.
Here are some of my favorite Kestrel moments:
Arin smiled. It was a true smile, which let her know that all the others he had given her were not.
Kestrel’s feelings were like banners in a storm, snapping at their ties. They tangled and wound around her.
She remembered how her heart, so tight, like a scroll, had opened when Arin kissed her. It had unfurled.
This one is an example of the excellent setting touches throughout the story:
Kestrel sat in the sun room. It was warm, filled with potted plants and their mineral, almost milky fragrance. The sun was already high above the skylight. It had burned through the ripples of rain left on the glass from the night’s storm.
My favorite scene, when Arin tells Kestrel a memory of his mother (this isn’t a plot spoiler, but it might still be considered a little spoilery):
“Every time the carriage turns into the sun, she raises her hand as if reaching for something. The light lines her fingers with fire. Then the carriage passes through shadows, and her hand falls. Again sunlight beams through the window, and again her hand lifts. It becomes an eclipse.”
Kestrel listened, and it was as if the story itself was an eclipse, drawing its darkness over her.
“Just before I fell asleep,” he said, “I realized that she was shading my eyes from the sun.”
She heard Arin shift, felt him look at her.
“Kestrel.” She imagined how he would sit, lean forward. How he would look in the glow of the carriage lantern. “Survival isn’t wrong. You can sell your honor in small ways, so long as you guard yourself. You can pour a glass of wine like it’s meant to be poured, and watch a man drink, and plot your revenge.” Perhaps his head tilted slightly at this. “You probably plot even in your sleep.”
There was a silence as long as a smile.
“Plot away, Kestrel. Survive. If I hadn’t lived, no one would remember my mother, not like I do.”
Kestrel could no longer deny sleep. It pulled her under.
“And I would never have met you.”
Another favorite moment:
The song stopped and the night resonated with a silence that was itself a kind of music.
When Arin brings Kestrel her piano:
She shouldn’t touch the cool keys, or feel that delicious tension between silence and sound.
I loved this myth that Kestrel's beloved Herrani nurse tells her:
Once there was a seamstress who could weave fabric from feeling. She sewed gowns of delight: sheer, sparkling, sleek. She cut cloth out of ambition and ardor, idyll and industry. And she grew so skilled at her trade that she caught the attention of a (view spoiler)[god… the god came to the seamstress and said, ‘I want a shirt made of solace.’ ... A cloth made of love… he felt the plush of velvet, the skim of silk, the resilient woof and weft that would not fray… ‘Weave me the cloth of yourself’…. “The god let her choose, and she did. You, Kestrel, haven’t made your choice.” (hide spoiler)]
Another snippet of wonderful writing:
Slaves came to her, their faces a map of the empire, of the northern tundra and southern isles, the Herran peninsula.
Loved how the concept of the winner’s curse shows up at the beginning, as a small thing: the winner of the auction. and then, in a sort of irony, at the end, with much higher stakes: a country’s freedom; an empire’s survival.
He must have heard, as Kestrel did, her father’s voice coming out of her mouth. That cadence of calculated certainty. The emperor’s posture didn’t change, and neither did his expression. But a finger lifted off the throne and tapped once against its marble, the way it might against a bell to hear the sound of its ring.
Two last things from the ending that gave me delicious chills: (view spoiler)[
But he saw a hawk – a small one, a kestrel – swoop over the city and dive toward the general. The man pulled a tube from its leg and opened it. He went still.
And this one physical detail really drove the ending home:
Across her brows was a glittering line of gold dust and myrrh oil. It was the Valorian sign of an engaged woman.