Friday, February 28, 2014

Book review: "We Were Liars" by E. Lockhart

Title: We Were Liars
Author: E. Lockhart
Publisher: Delacorte Press, 2014

Note: This book will be published May 13, 2014 

I'm not even sure how to categorize this book. Everyone says it's better to go in not knowing anything, and that's probably the best way to read this book.

All you need to know about the plot is Cadence Sinclair Eastman is the first granddaughter of a very wealthy family (think Kennedy-esque minus the politics) on the East Coast of the U.S. She and her two first cousins, Johnny and Mirren, and Johnny's friend Gat spend their summers on Beechwood, a private island owned by their Granddad, along with their mothers and siblings. In summer fifteen, Cadence and Gat fall in love. In summer fifteen, Cadence's life changes forever.

After returning home to Burlington, VT, she can't remember most of summer fifteen--just that something terrible happened and caused her to end up at the small beach half underwater with a bad head injury that now causes her terrible migraines. When she goes is ready to rejoin her family on Beechwood for summer seventeen, she sets out to remember what happened.

So, here is my review. I started out not really liking Lockhart's prose very much. I felt it was overdone and too dramatic with the metaphors of Cadence's emotional and physical pain, and I think I still stand by that. I am not a fan. BUT I started to really get into the story, and I needed to find out what had happened two summers ago.

My favorite aspect by far was the fairy tales sprinkled throughout that are obviously meant to be parallels to the Sinclair family and Cadence's life. I thought they were really well written and well executed, and they reminded me of Anne Sexton's collection of poems, Transformations.

When I did finally finish, all I will say is that I kept thinking about this book for a good long time. I can't say it's my favorite, but it is very much worth reading. This is definitely a title to keep an eye on; I wouldn't be surprised if it garnered attention for some awards.

Disclaimer: I received an e-galley of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Book review: "Navigating Early" by Clare Vanderpool

Title: Navigating Early
Author: Clare Vanderpool
Publisher: Delacorte Press, 2013

After his mother dies suddenly, Jack Baker is sent to a boy's boarding school in Maine, far from his home in Kansas, his distant father who has just returned from the warfront, and all of his memories of life before. He doesn't feel at home at Morton Hill Academy and tries to fit in with mixed results until he meets Early Auden, "that strangest of boys." It becomes clear that Early's brain works differently than most people's, and this eventually leads both boys on an adventure in the Maine wilderness, up the Appalachian trail in search of something. Whether it's the end of the story of the number pi, the great Appalachian black bear, or something a little less attainable, Jack and Early go and seek it out.

I enjoyed this 2014 Printz Honor title much more than I thought I would. It is a grand adventure, with pretty real danger, a fully human cast of characters (with perhaps the exception of the bear and dear old Bucky the frog), and grief in many forms. I think every character deals with some sort of grief, and each processes it in a different way.

I'm not sure I completely liked the parallel of Early's story of Pi, who is a character with his own tale, and Early and Jack's story. There was just a bit too much suspension of disbelief that these two stories so closely mirrored each other, mostly with the Ancient One part. It just felt off to me. But it's a small quibble, because in the end everything comes together beautifully, with some nice twists and turns in the journey, much like the Appalachian Trail itself.

Take a look at this book if you like a tale within a tale, reading about the Maine wilderness, mystery, quests, or a good old-fashioned adventure story.

Disclaimer: I received a free galley of this book from the publisher... a year ago. Sorry it took so long!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Review of "Relish: My Life in the Kitchen" by Lucy Knisley up on The Broke & the Bookish

I'm making progress on my 2014 Hub Challenge! I just finished Printz Honor book Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool, which I liked much more than I expected I would, and I reviewed Alex Award-winner Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley on The Broke and the Bookish today. Check it out! 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Book review: "Midwinterblood" by Marcus Sedgwick, winner of the 2014 Printz Medal

15792870Title: Midwinterblood
Author: Marcus Sedgwick
PublisherRoaring Brook Press, 2013

Seven tales are told, all set on an island called Blessed, spanning through the years. Though they are separate, together they tell one story, of pure and intense love that is heedless of time.

The seven tales begin with one set in the future, on a remote island the day a stranger arrives. It quickly becomes clear that something isn't right, and we are left feeling rattled and uncertain by the end of this first part.

Each subsequent tale takes place farther back in the past, telling the story of families, lovers, children, and violence. At first there are only the most tenuous of connections, but eventually we begin to see pieces falling into place.

This is a weird little book. I can definitely see why the Printz committee wanted to award this with the high honor, as it is full of rich symbolism, imagery, beautiful language, and layers upon layers of meaning and details a reader can unpack to see the whole, complex picture. I went back many times to check on little clues in previous stories to make sure I was making the connections I thought I was meant to make, and the smallest details are worked into the whole, with particular symbols showing up over and over. It's not a very long book, being under 300 pages, and I was able to finish it in a day, but it is very dense and could probably do with a reread to find things missed the first time around.

Yet at the end, I am kind of baffled as to how this came to be published for the young adult market. Not many of the characters are teens, and in fact most are adults. Even though there is nothing particularly racy or "adult" about the content, this book seems to be for not only mature readers, but sophisticated and discerning readers. I'm sure there are some teens who would love and appreciate this kind of literature, but I'm not sure what rationale the publisher had when it decided to place it under a young adult imprint.

Honestly, at the end I was left feeling very unsatisfied. However, it did leave me thinking for a long time, trying to piece together more clues and details long after I had finished. I wouldn't say I liked it, not really, but I can certainly appreciate it. This would be a great recommendation for people who liked the book Cloud Atlas, I think.

Disclaimer: I obtained this book through my local library.
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