I'm sad this book didn't win any YA awards. It didn't even make BBYA, when to my mind it's definitely one of the best books to come out last year.
ThisI'm sad this book didn't win any YA awards. It didn't even make BBYA, when to my mind it's definitely one of the best books to come out last year.
This book is awesome. It has so many great elements in it, but if I tried to list them all it'd sound like a strange book. Suffice it to say that it'll make you cringe, cry, and cheer, possibly in that order but more likely each one more than once.
I particularly admire this book's painfully accurate depiction of emotional abuse. Physical abuse is something almost everyone understands, but emotional abuse is harder to define, and this book lays it all out there. What emotional abuse can do to families is no less devastating than the physical kind. I'm grateful to Justina Chen Headley for showing that....more
Oh, man. This book was heartbreaking in so many ways. I give it extra points for making me cry, something few books do nowadays.
How do you heal an entOh, man. This book was heartbreaking in so many ways. I give it extra points for making me cry, something few books do nowadays.
How do you heal an entire country? How do you move on from trauma too vast to be measured? This is Queen Bitterblue's task, after inheriting the country of Monsea from her sadistic and cruel father, King Leck. Leck poisoned the minds of everyone around him, torturing others for pleasure and forcing people to commit unspeakable crimes on his behalf. Bitterblue doesn't know the extent of her father's atrocities. She tries to ask, but her advisers waver between obfuscation, incompetence, and something approaching madness, and Bitterblue doesn't know who to believe or what to think. So in order to get to know her country better, she sneaks out of her castle at night to explore the city in disguise.
But this is no typical adventure story. It's the story of a broken kingdom trying to heal itself, and sometimes failing. It's the story of some people who have been hurt so badly that they will never heal, and others not sure if they can. It's about the power of telling the truth, of telling our own stories, and about how the truth can hurt as well as it can heal. We must move forward, but we can never erase the past, no matter how painful it is.
I now understand why Fire's story had to be told before this one, and although I don't know if I can ever bring myself to re-read the part with Leck/Immiker taking his father through the mountain tunnels, I do want to read that book again now that I have more context.
As for how this book stacks up compared to the others, I don't know if anything can match the simple perfection of Graceling, but this book isn't meant to be simple. It's complicated and messy, because it has to be. I would rank it below Graceling but above Fire in awesomeness levels.
Special awesomeness shout-outs for the snarky librarian named Death and his cat. I always like books better when they have a cat....more
I first encountered this book when my library was weeding its children's paperback collection. I grabbed several out of the pile destined for the recyI first encountered this book when my library was weeding its children's paperback collection. I grabbed several out of the pile destined for the recycling bin, including this one. I knew Lowry's work, but I didn't know this was her first novel, or how good it would end up being.
I loved it. It was beautifully written from start to finish. The setting was rich with detail and made me want to move to the New England countryside and start my own garden. It was a bit slow to get going, but once the older sister started to get sick, I couldn't put the book down.
I'm not sure whether to classify it as children's or YA. The protagonist is young, but the tone is sophisticated enough for teenagers. It was in the children's section of my library, but with the recent explosion in YA publishing, I have to wonder what it'd be classified as if it came out now.
I had to wonder if it was partly autobiographical--and it seems it is--because the family dynamics in the book seemed so real to me. Several of the passages, such as this one, could have been lifted directly from my own childhood. I'm a younger sister of a sister, and my father's a professor, so I especially identified with those aspects of the book: the older sister being the "easy" one, while the younger one was more rebellious; the absentminded professor father who invites his students over for Thanksgiving and spends hours alone in his study.
My one complaint is the title. Not only does "A Summer to Die" make it sound like an R.L. Stine thriller, but it gives away the entire plot. There's a reason why Bridge to Terabithia isn't called "Bridge to Terabithia... OF DEATH." No wonder the library weeded it--if I were a kid I wouldn't pick up a book called "A Summer to Die" either.
There are so many great recurring images and themes in this book--flowers, photography, country houses, gardens, quilts--I find it hard to imagine that it was impossible to pull a better title out of one of those. If I ever meet Lois Lowry, I'll ask her if it was her first choice.
Title aside, though, this book was a wonderful surprise. I was in the mood to read something from the 70s-80s era of children's lit after reading Shelf Discovery, and I'm glad I picked this one....more
I read this when I was a kid and too young to really get it. Rediscovered it through its essay in Shelf Discovery, and reread it in a day.
Do they evenI read this when I was a kid and too young to really get it. Rediscovered it through its essay in Shelf Discovery, and reread it in a day.
Do they even write books like this anymore? Books that describe so achingly what it is to come of age, to love and hate and rage against the world. It reminded me of A Ring of Endless Light in tone, and in the island setting, but its scope is broader. It's a quiet book that doesn't shout, just quietly pulls at your stitches until you are undone....more
So... this is the best book ever, right? I mean, is there anyone who's read this book who hasn't cried their eyes out? Just read it, if you haven't alSo... this is the best book ever, right? I mean, is there anyone who's read this book who hasn't cried their eyes out? Just read it, if you haven't already. Or even if you have!
A couple of things struck me on this, my third reading. First is the fact that Liesel only steals books on a "need-to-have" basis. Even though she only has a few books, she gets as much mileage out of them as possible before acquiring another. I like that, and it made me look at my own bloated book collection differently.
The other is the idea that Papa's soul was light because he had given so much of it to others. It's a good thing to aim for....more
I don't know why I'm always so surprised when everyone is gushing about how good a book is and then I read it and it's reallyWELL THAT WAS FANTASTIC.
I don't know why I'm always so surprised when everyone is gushing about how good a book is and then I read it and it's really fucking good. This one definitely lives up to the hype. Yelena is awesome, the rest of the characters are awesome, the setting is awesome, the plot is awesome. If you like fantasy, spies, and/or ambiguously dystopian worlds, read this.
I say "ambiguously dystopian" because the world the book is set in seems dystopian at first glance, but turns out to be more complicated than that. The territory of Ixia has traded a corrupt, classist monarchy for a strict, controlling autocracy. The new government is much fairer, but also rather totalitarian, with a strict code of law that accepts no excuses for breaking it. The new system has some benefits--greater equality, for one--but also many disadvantages, one of which is what lands our heroine in her predicament in the first place.
I think this is more realistic than if either type of government had been portrayed as unambiguously good, since in real life nobody's been able to discover a perfect system yet. The contrast reminds me a bit of The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia, and I'd like to see it explored more in the sequels.
I'm not a huge fan of summarizing plots in my reviews, because you can get that information elsewhere and personally I don't like to know too much about a book's plot before I read it. But one thing I'd like to mention that I don't see a lot of other reviews mentioning is this book's portrayal of a transgender character. That's rare in fiction and I appreciated it very much here.
I adore this book. I hear the others in the series aren't quite as strong, but you better believe I will be reading them as soon as possible.
This book is brutal and amazing. I devoured it in a fever. Though the two books have similar themes, I liked this a lot better than Cracked Up toWow.
This book is brutal and amazing. I devoured it in a fever. Though the two books have similar themes, I liked this a lot better than Cracked Up to Be. It felt more satisfying, and I related more to the main character, who does bad things and has bad things done to her. Everyone's been on both sides of that line at one point or another.
I'm glad I didn't go to high school where Courtney Summers went to high school. The mean-girling and backstabbing in my school was way less harsh. More "we will refuse to sit with you at lunch," less "we will try to make you get raped." The book felt authentic to the core, though. I don't doubt that there are people out there having experiences like this and worse.
Another one of those YA books with completely oblivious parents. I don't care in this case, because what was going on with the teenagers was way more compelling, but I do feel the need to mention it. The adults in this book don't get involved because the characters know that getting them involved would do as much harm as good. That is often the case, but it would have been nice to see a fleshed-out adult or two instead of having them move like ghosts through other rooms.
I like that Summers focuses on themes of forgiveness and redemption. How do you forgive yourself when you know you've done something horrible? Young-adulthood is often the time where our illusions of ourselves as Good People are first challenged, sometimes shattered. Learning to deal with that is part of growing up.
A compelling version of Rumpelstiltskin, with a strong heroine at its center. Spookier than I thought it'd be--had me leery of shadows. One of those bA compelling version of Rumpelstiltskin, with a strong heroine at its center. Spookier than I thought it'd be--had me leery of shadows. One of those books I stayed up half the night finishing because I couldn't bear the suspense. A solid addition to the fairytale-retelling canon....more
I re-read this after reading Bitterblue, and I liked it a lot this time around. I must have liked it last time too because my review was simply "I lovI re-read this after reading Bitterblue, and I liked it a lot this time around. I must have liked it last time too because my review was simply "I loved it," but somehow in the meantime I had grown to think of it as far inferior to Graceling.
I think maybe the pacing of this book is a little off. I don't know if Cashore was being pressured to write faster, but I think this book could have used some re-structuring. We get a lot of Fire's backstory before we really get to know and care about her, and it takes a while for the action to get going. Maybe that was deliberate--it is a quieter book, more about Fire's inner journey than the action going on around her. But it doesn't immediately pull the reader in the way Graceling does.
I identified a lot with Fire on this re-read. I think now that I'm not comparing her to Katsa, I can see her strengths more clearly. She's actually a lot more like Po--her power is mental. She's trying to learn to deal with her power, and how to use it wisely, without abusing it as her father did. People resent her for it, much like those who learn Po's secret resent him, but she can't help having that ability. What she can choose is what ends to use it for.
Spoilers for Bitterblue: (view spoiler)[I was so happy to see that Fire and Brigan are still together nearly fifty years later. It's curious that the Dells is presented as a peace-loving realm, though, considering all the war they went through in Fire. I have to wonder about the intervening years, and how they came to such a peaceful arrangement. And what they thought when they first found the tunnel to the Seven Kingdoms, and what's going to happen to the two realms now that they've found each other... (hide spoiler)]
There are so many more books Cashore could write in this world. If she does, I'll be very happy.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This book was pretty amazing. I think it lived up completely to the promise of the first book and I thiOkay, I need to go cry for like five hours now.
This book was pretty amazing. I think it lived up completely to the promise of the first book and I think I even like it better than the second. I'm sure I'll have more detailed thoughts later when I've had time to recover from the -OMG OMG OMG-.
Actual star of this book: Buttercup, Y/Y? (Real/Not Real?)
ETA: Things I loved (a partial, not-too-spoilery list):
- The etymology of "Panem" (I am a word nerd) - The explanation for Snow's blood-breath - The Team Peeta/Teem Gale resolution - Buttercup (some more) - Finnick - Real/Not Real - Castor and Pollux (Their NAMES omg) (I am a word nerd AND an astrology geek) - Boggs - Everything about the ending after the big spoilery thing happens that I won't talk about (And that I was SPOILED FOR, because people on the internet don't THINK before they SAY THINGS *shakes fist*) - The fact that Katniss kept coming back to thinking about the ordinary people, the people on the ground (or in the mountain), who weren't major players on either side, and how they got stuck in the middle of all the politics and fighting through no fault of their own - The surreal quality of having everything filmed and edited like a reality show ("That's a wrap!") - Crazy Cat - THE HANGING TREE SONG. SO MUCH OMG.
I can't say I LOVE the physical torture and mental torture and people dying in horrible ways, because it makes me cry and threatens to give me nightmares, but I love that it's there, and I love the way it's written. Collins pulls no punches. This isn't like Harry Potter where he's been kept under the stairs his whole life but shows remarkably healthy mental development. This is actual horrible shit happening and people getting really fucked up because of it. I kept having to take breaks during reading to go do something light and fluffy for a while.
Is it ever okay to become your enemy in order to defeat your enemy? What if you can't win unless you are as brutal and heartless as they are? Where is the line between acceptable and unacceptable violence? Justified and unjustified war? At what point, in fighting evil, do you become evil yourself?
I honestly think these books will be classics. Read over and over again for a long time. Their themes resonate deeply and their images stick with you long after you've put the books down, like the names of the dead Katniss will never forget....more
Aaaah so good! Kate, you should definitely read this.
I loved all the little details of Miranda's life. Everything was brought to life so well, and I lAaaah so good! Kate, you should definitely read this.
I loved all the little details of Miranda's life. Everything was brought to life so well, and I loved Miranda herself, who read like a real kid to me. The writing didn't talk down to its audience at all, and that's awesome. It's in the tradition of the great children's books of the 60s-80s, including, yes, A Wrinkle in Time.
It's impossible to properly describe what this book is about, so I'm just going to say read it, and take the time to savor all the details....more
Dear Sarah Dessen, HOW ARE YOUR BOOKS SO GOOD. NO BUT FOR REAL THOUGH. Sincerely, a fan who read almost all of this book in one sitting and cried likeDear Sarah Dessen, HOW ARE YOUR BOOKS SO GOOD. NO BUT FOR REAL THOUGH. Sincerely, a fan who read almost all of this book in one sitting and cried like a baby....more
I think I like this book best of the three because it names all the characters. And there are a lot of named characters. PreMoar Eugenides nao... plz?
I think I like this book best of the three because it names all the characters. And there are a lot of named characters. Pretty well-fleshed-out ones, too. I won't say much about the plot because I don't want to spoil for all three books. I will just say that it is awesome. And I can't wait for the fourth book....more
I forgot how utterly awesome this book was until I re-read it. Tightly plotted and suspensefully paced, it makes Newbery Honor book The Thief look likI forgot how utterly awesome this book was until I re-read it. Tightly plotted and suspensefully paced, it makes Newbery Honor book The Thief look like a mere prequel. As readers of the earlier book will know, Megan Whalen Turner is the master of the unreliable narrator. Never quite lying, but carefully laying out exactly what you need to know and no more. Several times in this book, you'll find yourself leafing back through earlier chapters in surprise, wondering how she tricked you, and realizing it was your own assumptions that were incorrect.
In Eugenides, Turner has created one of the most indelible characters I've ever come across. Her "historical fantasy" world evokes shades of ancient Greece and feels as authentic and accurate as if Eddis, Sounis and Attolia were just off the map. I can't wait for the fourth installment, A Conspiracy of Kings, coming in March....more