I am only on page 9 but already I am completely befuddled and dazzled. I feel a bit like I've been struck by lightning, and a bit like I've been asked...moreI am only on page 9 but already I am completely befuddled and dazzled. I feel a bit like I've been struck by lightning, and a bit like I've been asked to dance by Tilda Swinton. When I finish the book I will review it for real, but so far, I am in love, and it's making me dizzy.
An update: Having finished it, I am now even more gobsmacked. Looking forward to writing my review.(less)
We found this book by accident, roaming a bookstore, as one does. I'm so glad we picked it up. Each entry is a type of geographic or geological termin...moreWe found this book by accident, roaming a bookstore, as one does. I'm so glad we picked it up. Each entry is a type of geographic or geological terminology -- esker, delta, moraine, etc. -- but instead of the book being a dry dictionary, the editors asked writers to create definitions based on their own responses to, and knowledges of, the words. The result is gorgeous, both a brilliant reference book and a reminder of the ineffable link between language and land. I will be "currently reading" for a long while because each entry requires me to sit and soak it up. (less)
Bearing in mind that I am not far in yet at all... So far I like it although the use of italics is making me slightly crazy. There are more italics in...moreBearing in mind that I am not far in yet at all... So far I like it although the use of italics is making me slightly crazy. There are more italics in this book than in a James Patterson book. Because I think this author is super good at the writing thing, I am going to sit back and assume that the italics mean something. Like maybe they are SUPPOSED to make all the characters sound sort of the same. I don't know. That's my review for now though -- interesting and intriguing, but whoa with the italics.
Update: I did eventually finish the book... I wanted to love it. I wanted to be consumed with adoration. And yet I wasn't. Perhaps I just wasn't in the mood, I don't know. I thought the pains the author took with the book's details, especially with formatting and style, were really interesting and effective in terms of flavoring the book, but every now and again I thought it got in the way of the narrative. And really, that's why I read novels. I want the STORY. If I am so bogged down in things that the story gets lost (and this is true of super elaborate purple prose, also, not just interesting style/format things), I am not a happy reader.
I read this in one long sitting this afternoon. I am now tired and sad.
Save Yourself is one of the saddest books I've ever read - the tragedy comes f...moreI read this in one long sitting this afternoon. I am now tired and sad.
Save Yourself is one of the saddest books I've ever read - the tragedy comes from the relentlessness of the sorrow. The reader spends time in the heads of three characters - Patrick, Verna, and Caro - and each is drawn with compassion and intelligence. It's about small people in a small town, whose decisions turn everything inside out. It might be more accurate to say that it's everyone's dithering that causes the problems, but in fact the book is a weird haze of people being paralyzed by sadness until they do something desperately stupid because either they want to feel something or they believe the wrong person. This book has been compared a lot with Gone Girl and Breaking Bad, but I thought it was about nine thousand times more tragic than either of those, and also much better. It was, I suppose, a lot more Dreiser than Flynn.
And then it gets worse.
Everything that happens is wholly believable, which is kind of awful, because one ends the book wanting to take a shower and go look at pictures of kittens. Most of the book is just grim and gritty, a sad story about sad people from a miserable little city in Pennsylvania, but near the end the precipice on which Braffet has stranded her readers gives way, and BAM everything gets SO MUCH WORSE. There is a tinge of melodrama in the awful things that happen in the last part of the book (and particularly in the ringleader of the horrible things), and while I believed them, I wasn't pulled in quite as deeply as I had been for the rest of the book. Still and all, though, I certainly didn't stop reading. I couldn't.
Poor Patrick. And poor Caro. And poor Verna.(less)
I am a big fan of Graywolf's The Art of... series, so it's possible I'm a bit biased here. Even among the other books in the series, though, this book...moreI am a big fan of Graywolf's The Art of... series, so it's possible I'm a bit biased here. Even among the other books in the series, though, this book is fantastic. D'Erasmo's approach to what is between (between characters, between ideas, between books, between WHATEVER) is innovative and invigorating, and I'm adding this to my short stack of Writing Books That I Need All The Time. The examples she's used to illustrate her points are unusual and will probably have some impact on your TBR piles; even when they're books you've read before, you'll want to revisit them to see what she means. Too, D'Erasmo has a quiet authority throughout the book that makes everything she says make perfect sense. I tend not to write in books, because I find marginalia so distracting, but I am going to have to get a second copy of this one so that I have one copy for plain reading and one copy for interactive reference. It's that good.(less)
I went into this book planning to love it, because I always love McCann's books. Perhaps I had a moment of wariness because I'd seen a review or two t...moreI went into this book planning to love it, because I always love McCann's books. Perhaps I had a moment of wariness because I'd seen a review or two that seemed not quite dazzled, but once I opened to the first page I was lost. I started it and then I read it and then I finished it.
This is a book about who we are and how we define ourselves, especially when we are people who are constantly being defined by others. The way McCann uses language is just bewildering in its power and texture and gorgeousness. (less)
I have more mixed feelings about this book than four stars might suggest, but it has stuck with me. So. Four.
One of the challenges of a book like this...moreI have more mixed feelings about this book than four stars might suggest, but it has stuck with me. So. Four.
One of the challenges of a book like this, about a rather snarky young man and his famous, irritating father, is that two-thirds of the criticism of it has been speculation about whether or not we're meant to read Sam as author Owen King and Booth has Owen's famous father Stephen King. I did not care about this problem as I read the book, but I was deeply aware of it as I read, and I found having to think about it (even to dismiss it) annoying and distracting. So I wish that Owen (whom I interact with on Twitter and like) had written a book that did not lend itself to speculation this way.
About the book itself... There are moments, especially among supporting characters, that are just spot on terrific. The narrative is a little squirrelly, moving backwards and forwards in time asSam experiences the now or remembers the then. I'm not sure it needed to be quite so weavy. Sam is not a particularly sympathetic character - and because almost all the other characters are also not very sympathetic, sometimes one gets tired of dealing with them.
And yet. I kept reading, and I think about the book a lot. It's not a perfect novel, but as Sam comes to terms with (some) of his past, the story comes together more smoothly. It finally starts to make sense, and the points that Sam makes throughout the book with themes, scenes, and lines from his favorite movies finally gel into something resembling resolution. I can't say much more without spoilers, I guess, but I should mention that I will be thinking about the movie-within-a-novel that circulates on the midnight movie circuit, about that sad, odd Satyr, for a long time.(less)
This novel is not perfect, but it's damn good.I will have a longer review up soon at Cobalt Review, but the short version is that Elliott Holt knows h...moreThis novel is not perfect, but it's damn good.I will have a longer review up soon at Cobalt Review, but the short version is that Elliott Holt knows how to pull a reader in. There is hardly a word out of place, and she does setting beautifully, which is a particular focus of mine as I read. Anyway. More to come. Just read the book.(less)
Love it, love it, love it. Ivey does a great job of leading you, the Avid Reader, on a path through spruce trees and frozen lakes, and never quite let...moreLove it, love it, love it. Ivey does a great job of leading you, the Avid Reader, on a path through spruce trees and frozen lakes, and never quite letting you freeze to death in the loveliness of the writing. I always knew more or less how it would end...but I had no idea how Ivey would do it.
Set in early 20th century Alaska (I think in the Mat-Su region, based on some geography things and the size of the vegetables they grow in summer), The Snow Child tells the story of Jack and Mabel, a somewhat Older couple who move to AK from Pennsylvania to homestead. They struggle with the horrible cold and with loneliness, both burdens that are only somewhat mitigated by their neighbors George & Esther Benson (neighbors, loosely; they live about 20 miles away). One frozen night they build a child out of snow - the next day, the snow child is gone, and a small girl with golden, flower-tangled hair and bright blue eyes starts to appear in the woods, staring at them.
What they each think of the girl, what she means to them, and what she does to both their lives and the Bensons' lives frames the rest of the book. It's very, very good.(less)
For reasons that are not yet clear to me, it took me a minute to get going with this one. It wasn't that the beginning is slow, or that I didn't like...moreFor reasons that are not yet clear to me, it took me a minute to get going with this one. It wasn't that the beginning is slow, or that I didn't like it...but then yesterday I sat down and read the damn thing, and holy cats. As with many recent outstanding YA books, I can't really explain WHY it is so awesome without giving you All the Spoilers, but it's really very, very good. The characterization is very strong, and Taylor's settings are clear and interesting. Of all the books in which I have ever encountered Prague, for example, this is the one that seemed to best capture what Prague is really like, with its wars and its magic. Laini Taylor did a lot of things very well in this book, but I am most impressed by the way that she takes what should be fairly commonplace YA fantasy situations - there's a girl who is mysterious and beautiful, and a boy who is mysterious and beautiful, there are angels and there are demons (here, chimaera, and amazing) - and then she blows them up. Much of the book has to do with destroying the binary of angel=good/demon=bad. There are strange (and yet entirely engaging and appropriate) musings on colonization, class, assimilation, language, etc. There is compelling new mythology. But most of all, there is Karou, who is one of my new favorite characters of ever. (less)
I read a lot of books about the art/craft/business of writing, and for the most part, they're replete with overlapping information. Some of them are r...moreI read a lot of books about the art/craft/business of writing, and for the most part, they're replete with overlapping information. Some of them are really useful, and some are sadly redundant. This book, Mary Kole's Writing Irresistible KidLit , is now one of my favorites. As the title suggests, Kole has put together a handbook on writing fiction for YA and MG audiences. I picked it up because I am familiar with her as an agent and on Twitter, and I figured she would have a lot to say. I am super glad that I did.
This book is a fantastic guidebook to the quirky and complicated landscapes that comprise YA and MG reading/writing/publishing. Kole does an excellent job of walking readers through the different types of MG and YA books, explaining genre and category calmly and thoroughly. I read a lot of YA and pay attention to YA publishing as an industry, so most of this was not new to me, but the way she put the information together was extremely helpful. She's not afraid to offer both opinion and expertise, including the point fairly late in the book when she Goes There and addresses the ever-rumbling debate about Is YA Too Dark head-on. Her view is, essentially, that the opportunity for catharsis and connection is necessary for readers, especially teen readers, and it's our responsibility as writers to offer that connection.
Really, though, Kole's commitment to her writers, readers, colleagues, and audiences is clearly conveyed throughout the book. She loves MG and YA books without any filter, and that makes me, as a writer, want to write better. This feeling is bolstered by her extremely wide selection of examples - the book talks about all types of YA and MG books, and Kole has quite skillfully rounded up an enormous blend of titles and editors to illustrate her points. She's also included recommendations from authors and editors about books they consider helpful or exemplary. One of the strengths is that she has not only used, for example, YA paranormal to illustrate points about YA paranormal. Instead, Kole uses whatever books best suit her point - about issue writing, setting, characterization, voice, etc. - regardless of the books' categories. The Hunger Games appears as an example of half a dozen topics, as do Wintergirls, Paper Towns, Graceling, and many others. Then, to cap it off, she includes a list of every book she's excerpted or mentioned in the back of the book, as a helpful reference.
As I said, I've read many, many books about writing. Sometimes I like them, but sometimes... This one is probably the most useful I've seen. There are no exercises, but I think that Kole is working under the assumption that her readers are already writing and practicing. In addition, although the book is very directly oriented to MG and YA writers, a lot of the points she makes about different aspects of the craft would serve writers of any kind of fiction equally well.
Generally, really good writing books are like really good travel books. They give you a solid sense of where you're going and how to get there, and what not to miss on the way. Writing Irresistible KidLit, however, is different. While other good books about writing are like going to a place you love and staying in a wonderful hotel, using this book to guide you in your MG and YA writing is like going to a place you love and staying with a friend. I am extremely pleased to have read it, and recommend it highly.(less)