If you've read Cinder, you know where it leaves off. If not, I won't spoil it for you. So let's just say that Cinder's story arc continues. Meanwhile,...moreIf you've read Cinder, you know where it leaves off. If not, I won't spoil it for you. So let's just say that Cinder's story arc continues. Meanwhile, in France...
Scarlet Benoit's grandmother is missing and has been for about two weeks. Scarlet is worried sick but doesn't know where to start looking for her. None of the villagers are willing to help because they think eccentric Grandma has just finally gone off the deep end and wandered away. A new street fighter shows up in town and he seems to know something about Grandma's disappearance. But can Scarlet trust him?
I didn't like this quite as much as Cinder but I definitely still enjoyed it. By introducing Scarlet, Marissa Meyer managed to avoid my common complaint that the second book in a series is just filler. Had she stayed exclusively with Cinder's story, I'd probably be complaining. By shifting the focus, she fills in a lot of back story without a big info dump and we learn everything in a way that feels very natural. Hats off for that one! It's apparently a hard thing to do.
My problem was with Scarlet herself. She was angry and yelling for at least 85% of the book. At least it felt that way. If she wasn't yelling, she was thinking about yelling, and very occasionally she was crying. The girl goes through a lot of stress, so to a point it felt authentic. But after that point, I wanted Scarlet to grow emotionally and feel something other than anger or sadness. That's a little unfair but not completely so. I'm not sure if that's how the author wrote her or if that was just the narrator's interpretation. And while I'm picking on that end of things, it irritated me that Scarlet was the only character in the book with an accent. There are other French people who don't have accents. I guess it was a way to remind me that this was Scarlet and not Cinder speaking? I don't know but it bothered me.
I really liked the other new characters though. I liked Wolf, the street fighter, a lot. I thought I had him figured out but I was never entirely sure of where he stood or what was going on with him. Even narcissistic Thorne won me over. He is what he is. I appreciate that kind of self-honesty. There are hints that there are bigger things to be seen from him, but right now, we're good.
As for poor Emperor Kai--I just want to tell him that everything's going to be okay, even though I have no idea at this point if it will be or not. He has no idea what's going on with Cinder. He has no idea if his emotions for her are real or if he's been manipulated. But while he's dealing with his own personal pain and confusion, he's doing his best for his people, even at great personal cost to himself. I really, really like this guy.
Other than Scarlet's...anger issues...I still like Rebecca Soler's narration. Her voice is age-appropriate and she gives the characters life and emotion. I'll keep listening to the series on audio, at least for one more book. I may have to switch to print if Scarlet stays this shrill though.
I highly recommend this one for anyone looking for a very different take on some classic fairy tales. This series gets huge points for originality.(less)
Author Meera Lee Sethi travels to Sweden one summer to volunteer at a bird observatory. Her time in the mists and mountains of Sweden led her to write...moreAuthor Meera Lee Sethi travels to Sweden one summer to volunteer at a bird observatory. Her time in the mists and mountains of Sweden led her to write a collection of contemplative essays that are collected here.
What beautiful language! I was in deep like from the beginning and in love by the closing sentences of the first chapter.
"We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls. What you are reading was supposed to be a book about birds but it is about this, too."
Aren't you just ready to sink into Sethi's writing and follow wherever she leads?
This slim book is imbued with layers of meaning. There are the surface stories about the birds and the landscape of Sweden and then there are the ways in which Sethi ties those things back into human experience. In the first chapter the migratory cuckoo becomes a metaphor for the wanderlust and yearning for other lives we all feel sometimes. In another the isolation we each occasionally feel is linked to the poor "vagrant" birds who get blown so far away from their native lands that they will never make it back. And so it goes throughout the whole book.
The fjälls of Sweden are so beautifully described that I'm ready to catch a plane and visit. Not being a fan of cold weather, Sweden isn't high on my list of places to visit, so this is really saying something.
I loved that there is an index at the back listing some of the birds that Sethi mentions in the book. When I'm reading I really don't stop to look up things I want to know. I always think I'll do it later but, of course, when later comes I've forgotten the names of what I want to research. I'll be hitting Google in a few minutes to look at these birds for myself.
And that brings me to the one thing that could really make this book better. I think it is just begging to be illustrated with watercolors or charcoal sketches that match the author's evocative yet spare style. I would buy that edition in a heartbeat. There's nothing wrong with it as is but I want the deluxe illustrated edition.
Bird-watchers should enjoy this but those with a scientific leaning or even a tendency toward the philosophical will enjoy it as well.
Thanks to the author for sending me a copy for review.(less)
Homicide Detective Robbie Brownlaw was promoted a few years ago after a crazed arsonist threw him out of a sixth-floor window. He obviously survived t...moreHomicide Detective Robbie Brownlaw was promoted a few years ago after a crazed arsonist threw him out of a sixth-floor window. He obviously survived to tell the tale, but he was left with a form of synesthesia--he sees people's words as colored shapes. He's learned to use this ability as a primitive lie detector. He's called in when a former cop is found murdered.
My attention wandered a bit a lot while I was reading this, but I can't say it was necessarily the book's fault; I've got a lot going on at the moment. Even so, I wasn't particularly surprised when I found out whodunnit. I even managed to figure it out a little before it was laid out plainly.
I found Robbie to be irritating. His marriage is falling apart but he just goes on and on about how special his wife is. I saw her as a spoiled brat who had a lot of growing up to do. Then I started to see him as just being a step away from a stalker. He got a little pathetic. That's not how I want to see my heroes. And the whole synesthesia thing was kind of...redundant? Came off as a crutch? Something like that. It was just an easy way for Robbie to know if someone was lying without having to do a lot of footwork to actually prove it.
I did enjoy narrator David Colacci's performance, but otherwise, this audiobook was forgettable for me. I enjoyed Cold Pursuit by this author much more.(less)
Molly Ayer has messed up one too many times. She's caught up in the foster system and her latest mistake has left her with a choice of either fifty ho...moreMolly Ayer has messed up one too many times. She's caught up in the foster system and her latest mistake has left her with a choice of either fifty hours of community service or going to juvie. Her boyfriend searches around and finds out that his mom's employer, 91-year-old widow Vivian Daly, needs help cleaning out her attic. Everyone agrees that this can be counted as community service so Molly heads over to the old woman's house. She initially sees it as a chore but she's pleasantly surprised when she realizes how much she and Mrs. Daly have in common.
In New York in the late 1920s and early 1930s, Niamh Power is left an orphan when her recently-immigrated family is killed in an apartment fire. She lives in an orphanage for a few months but then the Children's Aid Society sends her out to the Midwest on an "orphan train." Chaperones would take scores of kids around to different venues and basically give them to whomever wanted them. No one knew which would be worse--not to be chosen at all or to go to a bad family. Either way, the entire process was humiliating and nerve-wracking.
This was such a good book. I hadn't ever heard of the orphan trains, but they were a reality in American history from about 1850 to 1930. Apparently over 200,000 children were relocated in this way. Can you imagine? With all the red tape today? Just show up at the train station and pick yourself out a healthy-looking boy to help Pa out around the farm. Of course you'll promise to send him to school but who's going to check up on that? Nobody. And who's going to make sure that you're feeding him enough? Again, nobody. And if Pa occasionally gets a little too rough with the discipline, well, it's not like he's family or anything. Maybe it was better than slowly starving to death on the streets of New York, but it was a deeply, deeply flawed process. Holy cow.
In a dual narrative like this, I think every reader will enjoy one story more than the other and that was true for me here. I couldn't wait to get back to Niamh's story. There was nothing wrong with Molly's present-day story but the draw for me was the history. I related a little more to Niamh too. She's a good girl who tries her best to blend in and do as she's told while Molly, outwardly at least, is more of a rebel. I'm always going to understand the Niamh personality more than the Molly personality, at least in general and up to a point.
I hope this is okay to share...
I read this with my book club. One of my friends couldn't wait to talk about her reactions to the book. She's been through the foster system herself and she was blown away by how spot-on the whole book was. From the insecurity to learning to work the system in your own favor, she said every word was accurate. I've never been through anything like this (Thank heaven for a loving, supportive family) but I would guess that the rest of us liked it because it rang true. I'm going to get into the dangerous world of stereotypes here and say that most readers are an empathetic bunch so we're going to notice if something just doesn't feel right, whether it's a situation we've ever personally experienced or not. This one felt right.
The book was not without its flaws but they are easily overlooked. There's at least one huge coincidence that left me rolling my eyes. Events occurred that I just knew were setting up a future conflict that never happened. The ending was a little too tidy and it was definitely abrupt. Our whole book club agreed on that.
Read this for a look at a little-known piece of American history, to feel a little more thankful for your family if you're fortunate like me, or to feel a little less alone if you've been through situations like this. It was a fast read and I thoroughly enjoyed it.(less)