Perhaps if someone had bothered to tell me, as a child, that this involved the Holy Grail and a group of rather delightful siblings and a mysterious gPerhaps if someone had bothered to tell me, as a child, that this involved the Holy Grail and a group of rather delightful siblings and a mysterious great-uncle and adventures on holiday by the seaside, I would've read it sooner.
*shakes fist at all the people who neglected to recommend this to me way back when*...more
Kirsten Hubbard is one of my favorites for a reason.
Like her YA titles, this is brimming with heart, with little details that tickle your nose and resKirsten Hubbard is one of my favorites for a reason.
Like her YA titles, this is brimming with heart, with little details that tickle your nose and rest gently on you like warm sunlight through an open window. Every character is real and deep and thought-out.
Particularly a little girl who her brother believes is 98% starlight. And every word makes you believe she is.
I'm already filing this away on my "aggressively recommend to everyone I know who loves middle grade" list. Watch out. ...more
[This review is not final. Quotes removed for reposting here, but you can find them in my blog post.]
My knee-jerk, first things first thought on closi[This review is not final. Quotes removed for reposting here, but you can find them in my blog post.]
My knee-jerk, first things first thought on closing This Is Where It Ends could be summed up in three words.
"I'm not okay."
And that, I think, is okay. Because this is a book that ends on a note that you should absolutely, 100% not be okay with.
This Is Where It Ends is deeply, darkly visceral and gripping. It takes you by the throat and tugs you downward into emotional compromise and utter panic. It all too realistically portrays every parent or guardian's nightmare and the event that every student cannot imagine occurring on their campus, to their friends, in their lifetime.
In the span of 54 minutes - just 54 - every student and faculty member present in the auditorium of Opportunity High School, Alabama, is fighting for their lives against one boy, one of their own. Only now, instead of being their brother or classmate or ex-boyfriend...
He's the boy with the gun.
I mean, the summary alone should tell you what's coming. I'm not sure how I still was so detached from what was coming at the very beginning, but Marieke makes sure to acclimate you to the assembled cast. They are ordinary, wonderfully diverse American teens. They are bored by the principal's default sermon to usher in the new semester, worried about younger siblings or fraying relationships or trouble at home.
They are all expecting to stand up, gather their belongings and file off to their relevant classrooms.
And that's what starts to drive this home, as things go from bad to...I don't know, is there something past utterly wrong and tormenting? What frightens us about a school shooting is that it can happen anywhere. On my campus, we talk in orientation about what we should do, where we should go, who we should listen to. We're introduced to the emergency phones, the fire escapes, the concept of being calm, quiet and orderly no matter what catastrophe has us in its clutches.
But there's a difference between hearing about that and being thrust headlong into it.
And, though everyone in This Is Where It Ends reacts differently, I had to tear up and press my fist to my mouth for all of them. Because you never know how you will react. You never know what action may be the last you take on - even if it's something that will make you a hero.
The narrative is beautiful, equalizing and real. I gave a particularly watery smile in a moment where Tomas and Fareed, best friends and brothers no matter what - in a situation where it truly, deeply counts and cuts into you - are doing their best to rescue their classmates, friends and siblings.
Even in that moment, waiting for some sort of outside help and trying to form a solid strategy, Tomas spares a thought for Fareed and how, with his Afghani heritage, accent and Muslim faith, he may seem a threat to the police officers rather than a hero.
You know me. Even when my heart is in my throat and I'm turning pages as fast as I can without cutting myself, I've got that eye for Muslim representation.
I found myself getting very reluctantly attached to all the teens, but Fareed in particular had me closing my eyes and telepathically wiring messages to Marieke's brain: Marieke, I love you. You wouldn't do this to me, right? ...Right?
(For all the scientifically minded, the fact that Marieke has shown no sign of receiving said messages concludes that we have yet to break the telepathic barrier.
Or maybe it's just me and you should get a better test subject.
Anyway - and avert your eyes, because this may or may not be a spoiler! - [spoiler]she didn't do it to me.[/spoiler] She's evil. But not that evil.)
I think the thing that hit me the hardest about This Is Where It Ends is that skillful blend of tragedy and hope, darkness and light. Some of it felt a little strange to me - a first kiss in the middle of worrying over a wounded, potentially dying sibling, for instance - but I'm holding off on the judgey side because, again, who the heck knows what they'd do in a particular situation when they don't know what else is going to happen?
I certainly don't. And I have plenty of witnesses that can confirm that I don't claim to know everything. Okay? Okay.
But, overall...the ending. It just catches in your throat. Nothing is going to be okay. I started the preview off on that note. I'm telling you right now, guys. Nothing is going to be okay.
Newtown happened. The Aurora shooting happened. Columbine happened. Everyday, there's something vicious and violent that bites down into our world and rips families and friends and loved ones apart, leaving us to grieve with no proper answers and no promise that we'd ever feel whole or healed again.
It's not okay. It's never okay. But one way or another, we will never forget. And we will never lose hope....more
(This is a knee-jerk reaction/not at all full review. Stay tuned for that.)
Well. This was a wild ride from start to finish.
Before I start off with the(This is a knee-jerk reaction/not at all full review. Stay tuned for that.)
Well. This was a wild ride from start to finish.
Before I start off with the rambling, I'm going to do something very unconventional. Not that anything I've written here has ever been conventional. I'm dedicating this post, like it's a finished manuscript or something I plan to publish.
I'm all full of feels right now, you see, and it feels appropriate.
In the middle of finals and BEA prep and goodness knows what else is currently slipping my mind, I owe my even taking a break and reading this title to my best friend Moira. She asked me if I'd heard of The Rest of Us Just Live Here, I admitted that I'd just been approved for an e-ARC, and for the first time since I first started attending BEA and actually called her at one point while waiting in line to meet Libba Bray, just to ground myself in the midst of all the...BEA-ness, she asked me if I could bring a copy back for her.
Just this ARC.
You guys, Moira is the Jared to my Mike. Or maybe, the Mel to my Mike would be more appropriate. She's like family, and she's better because I got to choose her. (Let's just ignore the fact there are fundamental differences between me and Mike, and Moira and Jared. You get the idea.) She's my voice of reason, the one who often uncurls me when I've become a fisted wad of anxiety. So, far be it from me to deny her a future possibility of an ARC for review when I had a copy on my Kindle.
So I started reading it right then and there.
And thus, it's all Moira's fault. Like most things are. Including this blog.
Now, first things first.
I am a ridiculously picky contemporary reader. I've talked about this in other posts and I think at least one guest post and to the air in front of me, but ever since I was actually a teen (like, circa 2007-ish), it's been really hard to whet my reading appetite with anything that wasn't fantasy or historical or involved dragons and heroines with shiny swords.
That said - The Rest of Us Just Live Here is the first book to have me hanging on every word since probably How to Say Goodbye in Robot.
(How to Say Goodbye in Robot is the holy grail of contemporary favorites for me. It hasn't been knocked off its pedestal yet).
You can probably already tell by the summary, but Patrick Ness is a pretty cool sort of author-guy and he decided that writing about the Chosen One(s) isn't as exciting as writing about all the people who have to deal with living in the same world as the Chosen One(s) and their invaluable quests/prophecies/what have you.
So, we're in a small town in the state of Washington, where there are vampires falling in love with humans and vice versa and kids being chosen to save their world and the school constantly being demolished by some catastrophe or other...
And we're following the lives of a group of friends who are discussing the new boy in class and their homework projects and graduation.
It's like being in Forks and not having it be all about Bella. (Seriously, this town reminds me a lot of Forks, which I'm not sure was meant on purpose or not.) Or, maybe, being at Hogwarts and not getting to hear about the Golden Trio except in snatches of rumor and third-person eyewitnesses - if Hogwarts were a high school where indie kids are the ones constantly having brushes with danger and everyone else tries to look out for themselves and worry about the important stuff like, you know, that big argument with a parent and anxiety over life as we know it and painful, deep, unrequited love.
As if that wasn't juicy enough in the best way, the chapter headings. I could write a whole, full review on the chapter headings. Just try me.
(I'm already sitting on my hands because I'm trying to remind myself that this is a placeholder review and a reminder to myself to actually review the whole thing when it releases for once, and I really want to because I was so fascinated with the possibility of discussing nitty-gritty details and I might even do a trial vlog for you guys, that's how hyped up I am.)
To me, the biggest selling points you can use on someone to recommend this book are the little "meanwhile, back in the fraught life of our current Chosen One" intervals you see in every chapter heading (it's the greatest thing), and the dialogue. Ness absolutely has his teen speak down and it's all very real and there's humor and there's also angst (though some angst was more hard-hitting to me than others, but remember that I'm not and have never been a teenage boy, so it might be very powerful for them) and as a result, some of the lines in this title are solid gold.
And, if all of that wasn't good enough, there's diversity. I guess some people would call it "casual diversity". I call it life. Henna's biracial. Jared's half-Jewish. There are enough people alluded to, here and there, for you to know that THIS IS REAL LIFE AND THERE ARE DIFFERENT, REAL PEOPLE HERE.
There are also discussions about eating disorders and OCD and anxiety and how it feels to constantly want reassurance and feel like a needy, greedy mess because of it. I totally felt that, and I'm saving the quote that made a lump rise in my throat for the actual review, because I'm going too far here already.
And, just so no one comes after me with the pitchforks once they get a copy of this and say, "You really oversold this one in that ARC sneak peek/reactionary "I just came home from university and sat down and wrote this in half an hour when I should have been studying" post of yours, Kaye!"...
You know what, guys? It's not positively perfect in every single way. I can admit that, and that might just be my bias as a picky reader. I'll have to talk with you about all of this and all the questions I still have and what I originally expected and how not getting all of it was absolutely okay at a later date, but I'm absolutely aware not everyone will like this.
But I think you'll find it a little hard not to.
At least a teensy bit.
(And if all of this coming from me doesn't make you at least curious?
Try reading it to the very end and seeing that nice, lovely blurb from that nice, lovely person known as Angie Manfredi. I cannot say how much I trust that lady enough. She's good people, and she's good people who knows her YA titles.
So, if you won't take it from me, take it from Angie. Who, you know, is a librarian and full-fledged professional while I'm still here procrastinating on papers and having passionate outbursts about post-colonial South Asia.)...more
I am at a loss right now for the right words to string together[This is an ARC preview. A full review to come.]
The utter wealth of this book.
I am at a loss right now for the right words to string together – which is just as well, as I don’t trust myself right now not to spoil everything.
And that is a beautiful thing in itself. This is A Thousand Nights, after all: the timeless classic, the story of the girl who won back her life with carefully woven stories and well-placed cliffhangers. It might seem as though, after years of retelling and renditions, there’s nothing left to spoil.
But you haven’t read this particular story yet.
Here’s what I am allowing myself to tell you:
1. A Thousand Nights is gorgeous. I am not Middle Eastern, but I have shared a meal with Middle Eastern friends, and I could clearly picture the plates, the food, the meats and breads and the pinched morsels between oily fingers. I could smell the spices wafting off the pages, see the goat herds and the humble tents and the bright threads used in a bride’s wedding gown. The language is very carefully chosen and it paints a broad, vibrant world.
2. A Thousand Nights is not about the stories. It is about the woman who uses her wits, so brilliantly, to see the light of day. It is about the woman who forges alliances with those who are worried to let her into their hearts, because they are so aware of the fact that in the morning, she may be another forgotten name as their ruler sets out in quest of a new bride. It is about the woman who is wise, and determined – to set her world to rights, to be strong, and to see the next day with her own eyes.
3. A Thousand Nights is about the women. It is about the women who love devotedly, who sacrifice and lay siege and worship for the sake of each other. It is about sisters and sister-wives and mothers and daughters. It is about protecting young girls and learning at the knees of older women. If there is anything I will likely wax poetic about, beyond the language, it is the women of this world. It is the type of representation and love we should expect from every young adult novel, and exactly what we deserve.
4. A Thousand Nights is not only woven brilliantly - it is woven with respect. A world that is coded brown, and blatantly so, is full of characters who hold their agency firmly. They live, they marry, and they converse without a black cloud of potential stereotypes being unleashed over their heads. It’s unspoiled, because it’s done with care.
5. A Thousand Nights lingers even after you've turned the last page. For much of the reading experience, it may even seem like a quiet title. So much rests in the world-building and the relationships and little acts of magic that are steps forward to larger scenes and crucial defiance. And that is what firmly roots it into your mind. Every little moment is a marvel that leads to a grander denouement.
"If you listen long enough to the whispers, you will hear the truth.
Until then, I will tell you this: the world is made safe by a woman."
E.K. Johnson has firmly settled herself into my list of favorite authors. I cannot wait to see what new stories she will spin, and I cannot wait for you to read this and be able to discuss it with me....more
Mainly five stars, I think, because I heard so much about it from Robyn before I even attained the ARC and I was pre-geared to like it.
I mean, I'm notMainly five stars, I think, because I heard so much about it from Robyn before I even attained the ARC and I was pre-geared to like it.
I mean, I'm not usually a contemporary girl, as you well know, and I wasn't even able to make it through The Fault In Our Stars. I liked this one a bit more, but I'm not sure if it was because I could feel Robyn's voice and subtle, humorous asides in it or if hearing my father's own eyewitness accounts of tragic tuberculosis cases overseas was already making my eyes water.
Literally. Twenty minutes. I would not lie to you. I actually got carsick reading this because I can't read in the car aI read this in twenty minutes.
Literally. Twenty minutes. I would not lie to you. I actually got carsick reading this because I can't read in the car and this is a thing I've known since I was six years old and I still had to read this, as soon as it was officially checked out to me at the library.
Now, I hope no one takes this the wrong way, but –
I really enjoy a good murder mystery.
(Just keep the words in that order and don’t remove the mysteryNow, I hope no one takes this the wrong way, but –
I really enjoy a good murder mystery.
(Just keep the words in that order and don’t remove the mystery, and I think we’ll all be good.) I grew up on Sherlock Holmes, a little bit of Alfred Hitchcock’s mystery anthologies here and there, and Agatha Christie adaptations, particularly Poirot and the beloved Miss Marple – some better than others. Do not get me started on the particular series that features Miss Marple as a patient, innocent bystander, replete with yarn and needles and some kind young man or other that actually gets the job done.
In any case, I am particularly smitten if there is something afoot, plenty of red herrings, and a smidgen of humor to tie everything together.
So it might be a bit of a mystery in itself why The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place was allowed to languish on my shelf for a good few months pre- and post-publication.
I…honestly have no answers for you right now. I can definitely tell you that I regret said languishing and I might very well make up for it in the future with a re-read or two. But let’s talk about what makes me regret said languishing, and why you shouldn’t make the same mistakes.
The Scandalous Sisterhood is comprised of several girls who were endearing to me from the onset and quite beloved at the conclusion: Dull Martha, Smooth Kitty, Poxed Louise, Disgraceful Mary Jane, Stout Alice (my personal, absolute favorite), Dear Rebecca and Dour Elinor.
The little monikers at the beginning of each name was a little confusing at the beginning, but once you’re headlong into the story, it helps to know which girl will react which way – and it also rather adds to the humor of it all.
So. Our fair and often aptly nicknamed heroines are away at boarding school, under the eye of a rather disliked headmistress and her boor of a brother. And then, one night at dinner, both of them drop dead. The meal was poisoned. There is a murderer among them.
Now, in normal society, the proper thing to do (one would hope) is to call the authorities and possibly the local media if you really want a circus, and step back. But Smooth Kitty proposes something different. They conceal the evidence, pretend as though everything is absolutely fine, and find out the murderer for themselves.
And so the mishaps begin.
This is my first time reading anything of Julie Berry’s, and I must say that she has a particular talent for engrossing, often wry prose and appropriately paced capers. My eyes didn’t wander. There were no pointless drops in mood after a particularly tense scene and no unnecessary love interest (and rare as it is for me to say this, yes – the older girls’ love interests were very, very necessary).
I’d give the entire mechanics of the novel a good A+.
This is definitely on the middle grade scale of things, but I think it has pretty good crossover appeal if you like a quaintly written, good old-fashioned free-for-all. Also, a book where all the girls involved in a scheme are friends, genuinely care for each other and look out for each other’s well-being! How very, very refreshing!
My only bone to pick, if anything, is the fact that I’m personally still blinking over the ending. One of the tapped criminals did not make sense in the grand scheme of things to me.
(It was for something besides the murder, which was pretty well thought out and made me a little nervous of eating in the house of anyone who might hypothetically want to see me laid out on the floor.)
In any case, I noted last night that I feel the morbid undertones would be of particular appeal for Tim Burton or Laika Studios to consider an adaptation.
I don’t know how to make this happen, but considering that Laika has a particular eye right now for children’s books (have you heard the good word about the Wildwood option?), I am crossing my fingers that eventually, the Scandalous Sisterhood might fall in the right hands to make that come together.
Proud I read this before it got the Newbery Award - not because I 'beat' the award or it was cooler or anything, but because for once, I knew all theProud I read this before it got the Newbery Award - not because I 'beat' the award or it was cooler or anything, but because for once, I knew all the books on the list. :)
Also, ridiculously proud and impressed yet again with Kate DiCamillo. She always writes things that sink into the heart....more
To be honest, as a kid, I was never really a dark and dreary fairytale sort of person.
One time, I had nightmares because I read a version of East of To be honest, as a kid, I was never really a dark and dreary fairytale sort of person.
One time, I had nightmares because I read a version of East of the Sun, West of the Moon complete with the gory “chop off your pinkie for your true love who turned into a bird and flew off because YOLO” scene.
My mom banned me from the collection of fairy tales for the next few months.
As a brief note on exactly what kind of kid I was, I then merged from fairy tales into Goosebumps. At night. With dim lighting on. (What kind of kid was Kaye back in the olden days? One who didn’t take a hint from her dreams and liked to scare herself silly.)
So, keep in mind that Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy is a story that young Kaye would have devoured, and then scoured the entire household for a flashlight or two to keep herself company afterward.
Ophelia starts out deceptively light – to the point that I nearly put it aside, because the text seemed so very simplistic and childish. I will note that I adore picture books, and they have their warm, fluffy place in my heart even now. However, once you reach the middle-grade tier of titles, you expect something a bit more mature, something a reader – even one outside of the age group – can sink their teeth into without feeling inappropriately condescended.
In picture books, we find happy, small sentences for happy, small fingers: “She went up. She went down. She went into town.”
Ophelia has similar adventures, when she first starts exploring the mysterious museum that is her temporary home, and prison to the aforementioned Marvelous Boy she will need to rescue. She ventures into big halls. She ventures into little halls. She stops to take a peek at something incredible…and then she wanders out again.
It may seem all too light and easy – at first. Because then she finds the Marvelous Boy. And then you have these morbidly engrossing recaps of his adventure and his mission against the evil Snow Queen (not at all an Elsa, mind you – a child-slaying, land-freezing, cold-hearted witch) to look forward to.
Including one brilliant segment where one of the Queen’s evil owls EATS HIS FINGER in a trade, to cast a protective spell on him. There’s more to the scene than that, and it all does make sense once you read it, but that was definitely a point where younger Kaye would start checking her closet and outside her window to see if a snowfall was starting up.
This is not a picture book, ladies and gentlemen. This is a fairy tale that Neil Gaiman or Roald Dahl or Hans Christian Anderson would be proud of. This is the story of a queen who wants to kill a boy so badly that she will lock him up, and wait years to kill him before he can kill her. (I suppose some people would point out that two wrongs don’t make a right, but still.)
This is the story of a little girl, overcoming her grief for her lost mother, and finding her own ways to be brave while facing down man-eating birds, and asthma attacks, and her own young mortality.
And it all works – deceptive language and all. Perfectly. Though I have to admit, there were times I regressed to young Kaye and squeezed my eyes shut before I pressed forward on my Kindle, ready for the worst possible scenario.
(I am only just starting to realize that I was a bit of a softie, back in the day. Considering the way that I torture my own characters now, I wonder where that went.)
The thing was, you can overlook everything that might go wrong for Ophelia. I loved Ophelia. She was the type of plucky Everygirl that you want to see in fiction – the girl who could be next door, or you, just waiting for some evil undead ruler to rise up so that you can set aside your meek and mild-mannered ways and dig down deep to the hero within.
Ophelia has her little ‘puffer’, her quirks and sensibilities – including rejecting all the fantastic beliefs of her lost writer mother – and she has her doubts about a quest for a strange little boy locked away in a museum who has to kill a snow queen. And that is another beautiful thing about this book: it turns expectations on its head.
Ophelia is the type of girl that many would pat on the head and tell her to sit down, and catch her breath, and look at the pretty museum murals while thinking of a way to convince her father to carry out the quest for her. But she doesn’t.
I’ve seen complaints from other reviewers on GoodReads, mainly along the lines of this having been done before, and being done better. The fact is, there is no new fantasy under the sun. Everyone takes out some stitches, adds a few new patches, and their own twist of whimsy locked up inside like a Build-a-Bear heart.
That is what is done here, and I won’t say that it couldn’t have been done better. But it was done the way it was supposed to be done here (though I could have done away with that gratuitous finger-eating scene. That brought back some memories. Not good ones).
If you like Claire Legrand, as I do, you’ll enjoy this. If you enjoy stories where the children win in the end – but not without a lot of gasping and cringing – you’ll enjoy this.
Of note: Mild violence of the fairy tale variety, threats against young children, and some hair-raising scenes that are not out of the norm for the middle-grade set. If you are timorous or faint of heart, you’ll survive. Just keep your flashlight at the ready....more