Thursday, September 19, 2019

Still here

Well, I'm pretty sure that's the longest radio silence I've had on the blog since its inception, more than a decade ago. 

But inactivity on here equates to frantic activity in my real life, which means news is coming.

Look forward to sharing soon.

In the meantime, I've got a bunch of reviews to trickle through.  Keep watching.

P.S.  I'm really touched to see there are still people clicking through daily to check for updates.  Bless your hearts.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

The Boy Who Steals Houses

The Boy Who Steals Houses, C.G. Drews
I listened to an audiobook of S. E. Hinton's The Outsiders while I read The Boy Who Steals Houses and the High School English teacher in me cannot get enough of how deliciously this played out.  These would be soooo good to study alongside each other. (Guys, they both even opted for initials-only bylines! The conversations that could be had!) 

The premise is dynamite, the opening smashing and the language imagery-rich.  I couldn't look away.

Of all the things that impressed me about this book, most of all I applaud the aftertaste.  Without being preachy, there are messages here, and there are consequences (something I'm often sorry to see glossed over in some other hard knock stories).  The wrap-up is handled with expert finesse.

Advisory-wise, there's some colourful language and some violence.  No sex scenes.

A great discovery for fans of Holly Goldberg Sloan -- The Boy Who Steals Houses is a contemporary, both-eyes-open redemption tale with a big heart.

Review copy received from Hachette.

Monday, April 29, 2019

The Quiet at the End of the World
The Quiet at the End of the World, Lauren James
A cousin cover to this appeared on SK a couple years ago with the directive, "Just read the book, not its reviews."  The covers have some semblance for good reason -- in both books, ya get Jamesed; you know, when you're sucker-punched with surprise but that somehow satiates all your narrative cravings? In addition to appreciating the corresponding branding, I liked the en pointe sparse marketing for this title.

As well as being a slice of satisfying entertainment (and an easy, one-afternoon read), James elegantly tackles some big questions, making a significant contribution to the contemporary SF canon.  Questions I'd considered some via Marissa Meyer and Bernard Beckett were framed in a subjective, integrated way that made me sit up and try to answer them.  I respect that.

Another thing I feel James does incredibly well is share worthy morals without clobbering me with them.  Her books don't read preachy but those I've read make me think, "I'd love for more YA to be reading this kind of YA."

If you liked The Loneliest Girl in the Universe, you should check this out.  And if you like this one, you should check out Unnatural...because...the premise is essentially identical (but there's a lot of divergence thereafter).  (So yes, when I saw promotional material appearing my heart sank a little.  But hey, widespread infertility is a crisis I'm happy to see addressed again and again.)

Review copy received from Walker.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Seven at Sea

Seven at Sea: Why a New York City Family Cast Off Convention for a Life-Changing Year on a Sailboat, by Eric Orton & Emily Orton
Three ARCs have languished on my shelf over summer until they've degraded to simply RC's.  And boxes of books keep arriving.  So when three people I love said they'd finished a book not on my trade list and would I like to read it, I thought, "I'll get to it when I can."  But yesterday I was guided by a sudden exigent need for their rec to jump the queue.  I read all afternoon.

For the sake of transparency, it must be said I'd already heard of the Ortons.  The aforementioned recommending trio has lovingly spoken of this family for years; I even have Karina Orton on my Spotify playlist -- and not just because the recommendations of people I love matter, but because I really like Karina's music.  But I've never met the Orton family or communicated with them.  It's possible my awareness of a single degree of separation between us heightened my connection with their story, but I don't know that I could read Erik and Emily's writing and not connect with their tender honesty, under any circumstance.

Their story is an interweaving of recounted experiences and family philosophy, both of which I found compelling and resonant.

I began reading with a degree of disconnect founded on my certainty I'd struggle to relate to these people who had done something I couldn't fathom even considering.  I'm open to risks and adventure, but braving the beautiful and terrifying ocean?  With my kids?  I surely would find these sea people, other; I'd be just fine viewing them like fascinating specimens with whom I didn't consociate.

I was so wrong.  I felt their family meetings, mulled on their marital growth, nodded at their mantras, and reflected with gratitude on my own spouse's unfailing support of my "day jobs" (home-schooling and writing) and unconventional pursuits (like opening an art gallery at a very inexperienced 21).  I felt alive reading the Ortons' story. 

They weren't this other, Sailing Sort I'd assumed they were.  They were instead dreamers who consciously set goals and became sailors in spite of not inherently being that.  The well-selected opening chapter lays excellent exposition, clarifying the Ortons' exceptional experiences were something they bravely claimed instead of a privilege they were born to.  I was shedding weak suppositions left and right as I learned Emily once feared deep water, that they all experience motion sickness, and how their sailing experience came by way of inventive frugality.  Suppositions shed, I was primed to project all over the place, which for me, makes for seriously emotional reading.  And it was!

The prose itself is nice to read; I pursed my lips with amusement at Erik's love for puns (and corniness generally) and caught my breath at Emily's sudden bursts of contemplation in amidst surface retelling.  Then there's the honesty.  Holy crap the honesty is good.  These people got mad sometimes.  They got stuck in funks.  They had doubts.

I collected little gems as I read -- turns of phrase and imagery I want to hold onto -- sloths on deck, dinghy dates, and friends willing to suck diesel / be electrocuted for you.  There are quotes I've recorded to keep for rereading because I don't want to forget what I felt when I read them.

I'm so glad I read this book and think anyone with a dream (or even the tickle of one forming) would be glad to read it too.

Friday, April 5, 2019

King of Scars, More Grishaverse

King of Scars, Leigh Bardugo
This is the first in a duology about Nikolai.

I've been impressed with all of Bardugo's books, but in King of Scars the narrative voices are more distinct and nuanced, the romance is richer and the dialogue is almost perfect;
  • The story is told from multiple perspectives, but each is engrossing and unique.
  • Queer and bicurious voices are integrated in a way I think significantly contributes to the movement.
  • I wanted more from the romance in some of the earlier books (okay, mostly Six of Crows), but here I found romance that didn't drive the narrative but that made the story better.  It's an art.
  • Although there is apparent attraction, there are no sensual scenes.
  • The world-build is exquisite.
  • Of everything that is strong, the strongest for me has to be the dialogue.  I wanted to read sections aloud all the time because I wanted to replay and share how good it was.  It is so so good, and many of you know, good dialogue is important to me.
  • The only downside I found, is that I have read these as they've come out, and so a lot of time has passed since I read the first books.  Sometimes I make time to reread leading up to a new release, but this new year that hasn't been feasible.  The expositional catch-up and review portions are pretty solid, but I knew I didn't have the depth of appreciation and connection with the characters I could have had if the earlier books had been a recent undertaking.  So if you're coming to this late, you're in for a treat to be able to read them all back-to-back and come into Nikolai's portions with that heightened love for all the players.  (Because there are a lot of players you know and love here!)
  • This book may be about a king, but the women pack all the narrative punch.  I mean, for sure, Nikolai's story and battle is an underpinning, interwoven thread, but the women are the powerhouses here.  So many great ladies!  Ah!
Available in bookstores now.

Review copy received from Hachette.

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