Creepy and compulsively readable. There are few genuine surprises, but I suspect Flynn wrote it this way on purpose--not wanting to outwit the reader,Creepy and compulsively readable. There are few genuine surprises, but I suspect Flynn wrote it this way on purpose--not wanting to outwit the reader, but instead to make the reader experience the sick cleverness with which the whole web of deceit grows. ...more
Although I found the first chapter hard to stick with, I continued to read Please, Pretty Lights, by Ina Zajac, because I had promised to give an hon Although I found the first chapter hard to stick with, I continued to read Please, Pretty Lights, by Ina Zajac, because I had promised to give an honest review in exchange for receiving a free copy of the book from the publisher. And I must say that once I got past that first chapter, I found the book compulsively readable on several levels.
The plot itself goes from the poor-little-rich-girl exposition of the first chapter to several unlikely-yet-believable twists and turns that really heat things up and make this book hard to put down. Once up to speed, the pace never slackens, but I never got a sense that Zajac was rushing to get the book written. She took time and care with character development and pacing so that I found it hard to put the book down after those first twenty-five or so pages.
The Seattle/West Seattle/Vashon setting--right down to the directions one of the characters gives another to get from West Seattle’s Admiral District to the Fauntleroy ferry terminal--is entirely accurate, and thus, a lot of fun for readers (like me) who live in West Seattle to experience through the lives of main characters Via and Matt.
As mentioned briefly above, the main and supporting characters are well developed, and Zajac really has a talent for showing what each character is like through deftly written dialog and just enough description of their individual quirks to make them memorable and believable. One character quirk scene I found particularly enjoyable was Matt’s obsessive-compulsive episode involving the naming of just about every single rock/grunge/indie/hipster musician or group to originate or gain fame in the greater Seattle area during the past forty or so years . It brings depth to the relationship between Matt and his best friend, Nick, it was an excellent way for Zajac to display her extensive knowledge of our area’s recent musical history, and it makes me proud to be a Seattleite. :-)
The action of the story, centered on main character Via and her countdown to near-oblivion as she tries to blot out the harrowing memory of witnessing her parents’ violent deaths some years earlier, builds to a riveting climax with just enough resolution beyond to make the ending satisfying. To say more would be to ruin a prospective reader’s experience with this book, so I’ll just put Please, Pretty Lights on my recommended reading shelf and look forward to reading more from this talented author....more
I enjoyed getting to know Sweet main characters Boyce and Pearl in their supporting roles in Breakable, the second book in Tammara Webber's Contours oI enjoyed getting to know Sweet main characters Boyce and Pearl in their supporting roles in Breakable, the second book in Tammara Webber's Contours of the Heart series, but I was somewhat concerned I wouldn't love them as much as I loved the characters of Lucas and Jaclyn, on whom Easy and Breakable, the first two books in the series, were centered. Boy was I wrong! I LOVED getting to know the backstory (so sweet!) of Boyce and Pearl's longstanding relationship, and being reacquainted with them as full-fledged adults, as opposed to seeing them mostly as high school students through Lucas's flashbacks in Breakable. It was as delightful as when my former students (I teach junior high students) come back and visit five or ten years down the road and I see what fabulous young adults they've become!
In Sweet, Tammara Webber shows us how time and experience have tested Boyce and Pearl. To give more detail would be to destroy the lovely and heart-wrenching surprises readers have in store for them, but I will say this story was every bit as well-written and fulfilling as the first two in the series. This book can be read as a standalone, but I strongly suggest that prospective readers pick up at least Breakable first so as to gain additional insights into Boyce's background.
Note on editions: I have the first two Contours books in both Kindle and Audible formats, and I enjoyed listening to both of them, but especially Breakable mostly due to the fabulous narration done by Webber's son, Zachary. I would love to see an Audible version of Sweet especially if it were also to be narrated by Zachary Webber--so talented!...more
I did not want to like Elizabeth, Liz, Valchar, the main character and narrator of Between by Jessica Warman. And frankly, as I read the first fifty oI did not want to like Elizabeth, Liz, Valchar, the main character and narrator of Between by Jessica Warman. And frankly, as I read the first fifty or so pages of Between it was quite easy to dislike the entitled high school senior Liz, even though it becomes clear by the end of the first chapter that Liz has, in fact, just died. But as her ghost/soul/consciousness narrates the story of events surrounding her death, it becomes clear that while Liz was vapid and self-involved, there was more to her than just her egotistical exterior.
Part mystery, part meditation on friendship, social position, family, love, loyalty, and truth, Between quickly became a compelling read for me. Because the ghost of Liz seems to be suffering a kind of amnesia about her death and the events leading up to it, her story is revealed in a peel-the-onion way as she tries to figure out how she died and why she hasn’t “moved on” thus allowing the reader to figure it all out just as Liz’s ghost does. Each chapter provides new insights as well into the relationships between Liz, her family, her circle of friends, and those she considered social nothings. By the time I read the final pages of Between I had moved from a feeling of annoyance with Liz, to an understanding of how she played the hand life had dealt her, and ultimately to a sense of compassion for her.
Author Jessica Warman has an excellent command of the written word; in her descriptive narrative she draws the reader in with a well-organized reveal of layer upon layer of both the major and supporting characters’ personalities as well as the layers of events that Liz gradually remembers. Additionally, her characterization and dialog for both teenagers and adults is genuine but at the same time it is never clichéd. While Warman’s Between bears some superficial similarities--the dead narrator, the solving of the mystery surrounding the narrator’s death, the examination of family life--to The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, Warman has in no way written an imitation of Sebold’s work. It would be interesting, I think for a book club, readers’ circle, or a classroom teacher to select/assign both of these books for discussion, response, and comparison. ...more
SUCH a good book! With its slightly outlandish opening premise, a series of adventures and misadventures narrated in alternating chapters by Lily, a cSUCH a good book! With its slightly outlandish opening premise, a series of adventures and misadventures narrated in alternating chapters by Lily, a charming misfit, and Dash, who is bookish and erudite, I was thoroughly entertained. I know teenagers like Dash and Lily don't really exist, but they should!...more
**spoiler alert** As a teacher, I sometimes find myself in a position of giving a student high marks on a piece of persuasive writing in which the stu**spoiler alert** As a teacher, I sometimes find myself in a position of giving a student high marks on a piece of persuasive writing in which the student and I clearly disagree regarding the topic. But I have no qualms about giving high marks as long as the student has presented cogent and compelling arguments in support of his/her opinion. However, J. K. Rowling's The Casual Vacancy is, thankfully, not an assignment I must take care to read dispassionately so as not to give a student grounds to make a claim that I have given low marks for any reason other than poor writing.
In fact, with The Casual Vacancy, Rowling once again clearly demonstrates an excellent command of language, so I initially considered giving it two or three stars. But command of language is to be expected for any published work, and I feel that by giving this book more than one star, prospective readers might get the idea that there is something to like about the plot or characters, but honestly there is not one single uplifting aspect to this book. Because it got off the ground slowly and showed every character in unrelentingly negative light, I nearly abandoned this book after reading the first 50 or so pages, but there were, I thought, small hints that at least one or two characters would be shown to rise above their circumstances. Alas, it was not to be.
I don't shy away from books in which characters hit rock bottom or learn hard lessons or are just horrible by nature (I'm thinking here about the super-creepy Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, which I just finished reading a week or two ago), but I do think really good books show some awareness on the part of a character or even the author that something has changed or will change as a result of the events contained between the covers of the book. That's not at all the feeling I came away from this book with. I just felt distressed, kind of the way I feel after learning of some particularly gruesome world event. There are, I imagine, other readers who have read this book and appreciate Rowling's warts-and-all look at life in a small English town, but if I want something like that, I'll just turn on the news. ...more
The idea of a circus that magically appears and disappears intrigued me. But The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern was too disjointed, moved too slowlyThe idea of a circus that magically appears and disappears intrigued me. But The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern was too disjointed, moved too slowly, and had protagonists who seemed to be pawns not only of their villainous mentors but of the author as well. I finished the book only because my daughter had read it and said it had an interesting premise and some beautifully described settings as well as an imaginative climax. And while I agree with her in all three of those regards, the contrived relationship of the two young lovers, a distracting number and variety of subplots and secondary characters, and the author's equally contrived and distracting use of present tense to tell the story left me feeling underwhelmed.
For someone who enjoys innocent-victim protagonists, lavish descriptions of setting, and fantasy-based romance novels set in the late 1800's-early 1900's this might do the trick, but for readers (like myself) who appreciate tight writing and characters who are more worldly-wise, I would suggest giving The Night Circus a miss....more
Ten, twenty, even thirty pages in, I just about gave up on Golden by Jessi Kirby, but I'm glad I didn't because it really added up to more than the suTen, twenty, even thirty pages in, I just about gave up on Golden by Jessi Kirby, but I'm glad I didn't because it really added up to more than the sum of its parts. On the surface you could call this a teen romance novel, I suppose, but by the time I reached the last page, I found myself reflecting on a number of deep questions Kirby subtly raises. Among the most significant of these were the following: 1) What price is too much to pay to follow one's dreams? 2) Is there any way to reconcile a conflict in duty to one's parent(s) and duty to oneself? And 3) Which punishment is worse: One imposed by society or that which we inflict upon ourselves?
The three central characters--Parker, Kat, and Trevor-- sometimes seem more like literary devices Kirby uses to get at the story-within-a-story of the fate of Julianna than flesh-and-blood people in their own right. Yet there are scenes, mostly in the latter half of the book, that absolutely sparkle with beautifully written interactions between these three characters and several moment-of-truth scenes which were particularly compelling to me. These moments of truth brought the book to a conclusion that was both satisfying and somewhat open-ended, another plus in my opinion. In these scenes Kirby draws the characters in such a way that many young readers, I think, would like to have them as friends, not because of any sugary sweetness among them but in the realistic way they care for each other with a little bit of hard love.
As a middle school teacher I am always on the lookout for books I can recommend to my students, and I can see myself encouraging them to give Golden a try. My one caveat is that there are several instances of what main character Parker refers to as "trucker mouth." While f-bombs are certainly much more commonly seen in current teen literature and heard coming out of the mouths of today's teens, I know that at least some of my students' parents and some of my colleagues are a little squeamish about allowing 12- or 13-year-olds to read books that contain this type of language. I understand that, and I certainly don't condone an author's gratuitous use of the f-word; however, I do have to say that one of the most realistic exchanges between the main character, Parker, and her best friend, Kat, contains not one, but two, f-bombs, and I would challenge anyone to have a go at rewriting that scene minus the profanity and make it as compelling.
Although I stand by my rating of 3 stars, I wish it were possible to split those stars in half and give it 3.5 stars because Golden really improved as I continued to read. All in all, I think this book is a solid read for young teens, and it would provide a great launch point for discussion of some of life's most significant questions....more
Really, if I could give this book 4.5 stars, I would. This book is just as much about how Americans deal with presidential assassinations as it is aboReally, if I could give this book 4.5 stars, I would. This book is just as much about how Americans deal with presidential assassinations as it is about the assassinations themselves, and Sarah Vowell has managed to make her take on the assassinations of 3 U.S. presidents (Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley) both tender and funny. If you want a dry, chronological recitation of historical facts, look elsewhere; Vowell gives us plenty of information on the when, where, and how of each incident, but she also writes about the VIP victims in a way that makes them seem more human, more ordinary, and about the assassins in a way that makes them seem, if not sympathetic, at least understandable. She also shows very clearly the currents and eddies of U.S. political life through time and wittily shares her feelings on politics. The one minor quibble (and it is VERY minor) I have with this book is that it sometimes seems to be a who's who of friends who went with Vowell to this or that historical site. Other than that one distraction, Assassination Vacation is an informative, thought-provoking, and entertaining travelogue. ...more