Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Bardugo Tales

The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic, Leigh Bardugo
This book is exquisite.  Sumptuous illustrations bloom through the stories in gorgeous, understated dual tones that allow the careful beauty of the forms within the compositions to speak loudest.  I am completely smitten with their style, and was captivated by the way they grew and culminated at each story's end. 

Add to this that Bardugo's wordsmithery is at its finest in these shorts, and you have the makings of a fine book indeed.   I cared so quickly for her characters, was engrossed from the opening paragraphs of each story and was swept away by the heady world-builds.  Each narrative is dark and haunting, resonating with the sort of substance I usually equate with century-old lore.  

As a delightful bonus, I venture these would read beautifully and coherently for a reader unacquainted with the Grisha world (although I myself have read all the Grisha novels...they're good). If you're already a fan of Bardugo, I don't see how you could be disappointed by this lavish little collection.

A treat, I suspect, for fans of Laini's Lips Touch.

Advisory notes:  The third tale is quite disturbing.  There is no swearing though, but some content that may cross over into shadows too dark for some readers.  Minor sensuality, including same-sex attraction. 

Review copy received from Hachette.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Chinese Cinderella
Chinese Cinderella: The True/Secret Story of an Unwanted Daughter, Adeline Yen Mah
A number of young women and grown women have recommended this book to me.  I wanted to pick it up when I had something that could brighten me up after it was done.  Even with the promise that comes with linking a memoir to "Cinderella," I knew I was to become acquainted with hardship.  I was sure the story would deeply effect me for the duration of my reading, and beyond.  Correct.

I've seen some scathing reviews which take issue with the author's suggestion of neglect in a narrative simultaneously expressing privilege.  I get pretty angry reading those reviews. They are right, Yen Mah had some relation to physical provisions and education.  But Yen Mah was deprived love, security, inclusion and protection.  We shouldn't compare people's hardships!  And if people insist upon doing so, then Yen Mah was deprived the things that matter most.  Yes, her household had a cook.  Yes, she went to school.  But she was emotionally and psychologically tormented for her entire childhood, told she was worthless, and forced to endure heart-aching cruelty and spite.  I also refuse to believe anyone's social condition qualifies or disqualifies sharing his or her personal story. 

As to the quality of the prose, I was carried away by it.  The power is in the details.  Although I was never overwhelmed by poetic language I was regularly impressed by Yen Mah's discerning articulation.  I was captivated by the specifics.

In terms of content, there is nothing so horrific that I would hesitate to recommend it to young adult readers (something I cannot always say with memoirs apparently intended for this audience).  It isnt' easy to hear of course, but none of it is offensive to the spirit, just saddening. 

I'm on a roll with audio books lately.  I listened to this story via my library's digital collection.  This edition is read by the author.  More than once, Yen Mah's voice wavers as she recounts the abuses endured.  It was incredible to consume it this way.  I highly recommend it.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Saving Francesca

Saving Francesca, Melina Marchetta
I've led with that cover first since that's the one that displayed on my phone as I listened to this via BorrowBox (through my library).  That's right, I played the audiobook of this title!  *gasp*  It's not my usual style, I know...but  Rebecca Macauley's reading worked for me (especially at x1.25 speed).  It made doing laundry and pruning hedges a whole lot more fun for a week. 

Marchetta's a YA master.  This is known.  But I was surprised I hadn't heard more about this particular title.  It shares a lot of the heart, authenticity and depth of The 10pm Question -- which is saying a lot, since I consider that a well-crafted masterpiece.  It's also so. darn. funny.  I laughed out loud more than once.  There's some swearing, so it ended up being played through headphones.  I wonder if I would have liked it even more if I'd read instead of listened to it.  We'll never know! 

Marchetta reads honest, and I really like that.  A great contemporary YA read.

Friday, March 9, 2018


Disruption, Jessica Shirvington
I listened to this one too!  Well, until half-way, then I switched to reading...I had to, I knew I'd like my imagined delivery of dialogue more.  It's always the way, but the margin is smaller with some readers than others.  Anyway, I couldn't resist the synopsis on this, since it sounded like a Feichangbei Match Complex!  And it is, it is! A fun read for fans of Delirium, Matched and UgliesThere's an abundance of cliches, minor sensuality and violence, and some unhealthy friendships...but the narrative and tech are well-paced and interestingI've asked my library to get Book 2 for me, ha!

Thursday, March 8, 2018

How to Hang a Witch

How to Hang a Witch, Adriana Mather 
This book is a great piece of YA entertainment.  I think it'll resonate with people struggling with atypical bullying.  For those wading through scenarios that fall outside the usual mean-girls-gang-up-on-the-new-girl-paradigm?  Maybe not.  Be warned, cliches abound.  There are mean girls, brooding love interests, love triangles, clumsy-but-cute protag's, evil stepmothers, centuries-old-boys appearing in bedrooms, goths in Salem, and supernaturally-gorgeous in-crowd.  I wouldn't go so far as stamping it as derivative, but I would say it's formulaic.  And for that reason, it is a satisfying read if you are craving this very thing.  Fortunately, I was in the mood for YA entertainment and found it fun.  It was fast-paced, funny enough and suspenseful.  I appreciate Mather has simplified history for her target audience, but I would have reveled in further depth through the details (and what a bonus that this, of all things, could be clocked up as an #ownvoice narrative!).  The link between Puritanical witch-hunts and bullying felt more tenuous than it should have -- since I think it's fair to draw a parallel between these two evidences of humanity's tendency to single out and be cruel to those different.  The greatest disappointment: that so many adults are unequivocal jerks in this narrative!  The best pleasant surprise: that the heroine doesn't let the haters get her down!  There's no wallowing, no consideration of quitting, and no resorting to unhealthy management of pain -- what a treat!  I loved reading about a girl with some spunk who digs in when the going gets tough and holds to what she knows to be true, rumours be damned! (Which brings me to a side-note: Happy International Women's Day!  Hitting the bookstore or library for a copy of this to read at your place would be a great way to celebrate!)

Advisory notes: there's attraction but no serious sensuality, very little swearing, little violence but a fair amount of disturbing imagery.  Also: witchcraft...obvs.  From the title alone, I would hope any readers with still-smarting memories related to nooses should steer clear.

Review copy received from Walker.

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