Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Flashback Review: Beauty & Rose Daughter

Flashback reviews are where I review an older book that I've reread recently.

"Beauty" and "Rose Daughter," by Robin McKinley.


The other day I was in one of those reading moods where only a well-beloved reread would hit the spot. So I curled up with Robin McKinley’s “Rose Daughter,” since it had been a while since I last read it. And when I finished it, I immediately felt this need to read “Beauty” by the same author as well. So I did. If you haven’t read these two books (shame on you), they’re both retellings of Beauty and the Beast. You may think it’s impossible for an author to write two separate books based on the same fairytale and pull it off, but Robin McKinley not only does it, she does it perfectly.

I don’t think I’ve ever read “Beauty” and “Rose Daughter” back to back before, so when I did it this time, I compared them a little more than I usually do. Of course they both have the same basic storyline: a merchant family, with a father and three daughters, falls on hard times and moves to the countryside. As they finally sort out their new life, the father gets called back to the city, but when he returns he gets lost in a snowstorm and stumbles on the Beast’s enchanted castle. The father takes a rose, which infuriates the Beast, and the Beast demands that the father send his daughter Beauty as recompense. Beauty agrees to go and, well, I bet you can guess what happens after that (hint—it ends with a happily ever after).

The thing is, for both being based on the same fairytale, the two books are completely different. The two Beauties, while at their core are both honorable, brave, and kind, are different in execution. The Beauty in “Beauty” is a plain, anti-social, horse-loving scholar, while the Beauty in “Rose Daughter” is a beautiful peacemaker who loves to garden. The two Beasts are different too, with the Beast in “Beauty” being a bit more communicative and present, while the Beast in “Rose Daughter” is more elusive and solitary but no less intriguing and, well, swoonworthy.

But beyond the characters, the details of the two stories are wildly different. “Beauty” is a simpler, more straightforward story, while “Rose Daughter” is longer and much more complex. While “Beauty” focuses on Beauty’s developing relationship with the Beast, “Rose Daughter” is centered slightly less on that than on Beauty’s determination to save the Beast’s dying roses and bring life back to the castle. I could go on and on about how else the two stories are different, but I won’t—I’ll leave that discovery to you.

Both these books are completely wonderful, and I really can’t say that I prefer one over the other. Each one is lovely in its own way, and neither fades in comparison to the other. I recommend both of them, along with everything else ever written by Robin McKinley.

Rating: Both 5/5, obviously

Monday, October 29, 2012

Review: Code Name Verity

Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein. The GoodReads summary:
Oct. 11th, 1943--A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Its pilot and passenger are best friends. One of the girls has a chance at survival. The other has lost the game before it's barely begun.

When "Verity" is arrested by the Gestapo, she's sure she doesn't stand a chance. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, she's living a spy's worst nightmare. Her Nazi interrogators give her a simple choice: reveal her mission or face a grisly execution.

As she intricately weaves her confession, Verity uncovers her past, how she became friends with the pilot Maddie, and why she left Maddie in the wrecked fuselage of their plane. On each new scrap of paper, Verity battles for her life, confronting her views on courage and failure and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from the enemy?
After taking a full 24 hours to try to figure out what I thought about this book. I’m still a little undecided. But I think, since the time has come for me to commit to an opinion, that it was a book that I really admired but didn’t really love. Because while there were some things the book did absolutely brilliantly, I never really felt that level of investment that I need to indisputably adore a book.

The book takes place in World War II England and France. Now, I’m a bit of a history nerd, especially when it comes to military history, but even I thought there was a bit too much of a history/aviation lesson at the beginning. I mean, it was interesting, and I learned some things, but it held back the story from really taking off, and as a result I didn’t get totally into the book until about halfway through.

I also never felt a particularly deep connection with either Maddie or Julie. I mean, they’re both really talented and brave, but Maddie came off as a little bland while Julie I never felt like I really got to know. I did like Queenie though, which was weird (you’ll understand why it’s weird that I liked Queenie but not Julie if you’ve read the book). I just thought Queenie, as described by Julie, was so glamorous and awesome, while Julie and Maddie didn’t seem to have that same spark.

And now for what the book did bloody brilliantly! The book was SO good at messing with my head. Just when I thought I knew what was going on, it would turn out I really didn’t. Events weren’t what I thought and neither were the characters. It’s like the first half of the book had me believing one thing, and then the second half completely turned that on its head. I’m trying not to go into spoiler territory here, but it’s really hard, since a lot of the specific things I thought the book did well are kinda impossible to describe without spoilers. But seriously, I can’t remember the last time that I read a book that threw me for a loop as often as this one did. And then, when I did find out what was going on for real, it was fun to think back and find all the hints that the author left that I didn’t pick up on the first time around.

Overall, I’d recommend this book if either you like history, or if you want a book that’ll play some mind games on you. If you do decide to read it, it might take you a while to get into the book, but persevere! I think it’ll end up being worth it.

Rating: 4 / 5 (probably it’s more of a 3.5 for me, but the spoilery surprises I can’t talk about were so awesome they bumped the rating up a bit)

Friday, October 26, 2012

Friday Favorites: The Scorpio Races

On Fridays I post a little shout out to one of my favorite books and explain why I love it so much. It gives me the chance to fangirl over books I never reviewed on this blog and lets me post about some not-necessarily-YA books I love.

Which book?
The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Stiefvater

YA fantasy

Summary? (from GoodReads)
It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.

Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition--the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.

When did I first read it?
Almost exactly a year ago.

Why did I first read it?
The buzz. Some bloggers I trust loved it, so that was all I needed.

What did I think about it then?
You can read my original review here, but basically I fell head over heels for this book. I’m a sucker for horse books anyway, but Kate and Sean are fantastic protagonists and the language is beautiful to boot.

What do I think about it now?
Though I’ve read some really good books this last year, “The Scorpio Races” is hands down my favorite of those. It’s indisputably earned a place toward the top of my favorite-books list. It’s just . . . so good. And beautiful. A little slower and more reflective than most YAs, but I wouldn’t change a thing about it. Maggie Stiefvater nails the narrative style in this one. And Sean . . . I think he’s number 2 on my list of swooniest YA boys. I'll be rereading this book in November for sure.

Have you read this book? What did you think?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Review: Quintana of Charyn

Quintana of Charyn (Lumatere Chronicles #3), by Melina Marchetta. The GoodReads summary:
Separated from the girl he loves and has sworn to protect, Froi must travel through Charyn to search for Quintana, the mother of Charyn's unborn king, and protect her against those who will do anything to gain power. But what happens when loyalty to family and country conflict? When the forces marshalled in Charyn's war gather and threaten to involve the whole of the land, including Lumatere, only Froi can set things right, with the help of those he loves.
I’m just warning you now that maybe I’m not the best person to write an unbiased review of the book, due to the deep and abiding adoration I have for the Lumatere Chronicles. After all, I ordered this book from Australia all because I couldn’t handle knowing that the book was out over there but wouldn’t be out in the U.S. until next March. I just love, love, love everything about this series (and considering how few series I’m willing to admit to even liking, that’s saying something).

“Quintana of Charyn” is the final book in the trilogy, which simultaneously made me beyond excited to read it and a little sad that it was going to be the end. This one was slightly different from “Finnikin of the Rock” and “Froi of the Exiles” in that it doesn’t introduce new characters—it is a continuation of the story started in “Froi of the Exiles.” And, man, was I so glad to be back with those characters: Froi, Quintana, Lucian, Phaedra, Lirah, Gargarin, Arjuro . . . the whole crew was back and as wonderful as ever. Melina Marchetta has this amazing talent for writing characters that are far from perfect but still so strong and goodhearted, and my admiration for each one grew as every scene revealed a little more about their character and motivation.

Froi and Quintana are separated for most of the book, but that didn’t diminish their strange chemistry at all. Their love for each other was practically palpable, and besides, although Froi and Quintana were together very little, Lucian and Phaedra did get a few scenes together. And let me tell you, I adore Lucian and Phaedra. Theirs is a rocky romance if ever there was one, and I spent so much time in this book and the last holding my breath that they would be able to sort their problems out once and for all.

You also get to know Quintana better in this book than the last. I had a growing admiration for her in “Froi,” but she’s been through unspeakable things and is so messed up by them that it’s hard to feel like you know her. But in this book, you get some more insight into her character and see her come into her own, and even though I’d probably be scared of her in real life, I came to admire her a lot.

I only had one niggling complaint about the book, and it’s that you don’t get to know more about Celie and Banyon’s story, as introduced in Marchetta’s short story “Ferragost.” I was just really hoping their story would get a little more closure. But I can see why it wasn’t included in the book—since it was the subject of a short story and not actually part of the books, it would’ve felt out of place to readers who had been reading the series but hadn’t read the short story. Still, it would’ve made me happy to know what ultimately happens between them.

Overall, this was pretty much everything I could want for the ending of this series. If you haven’t started the Lumatere Chronicles—um . . . get cracking. After all, they’re by Melina Marchetta, and it’s impossible to go wrong with anything she’s written.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

The Lumatere Chronicles:
Finnikin of the Rock
Froi of the Exiles
Quintana of Charyn

Monday, October 22, 2012

Review: The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, by Jennifer E. Smith. The GoodReads summary:
Today should be one of the worst days of seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan's life. Having missed her flight, she's stuck at JFK airport and late to her father's second wedding, which is taking place in London and involves a soon-to-be stepmother Hadley's never even met. Then she meets the perfect boy in the airport's cramped waiting area. His name is Oliver, he's British, and he's sitting in her row.

A long night on the plane passes in the blink of an eye, and Hadley and Oliver lose track of each other in the airport chaos upon arrival. Can fate intervene to bring them together once more?
My first though upon finishing this book was, “Awww . . . that was adorable!” And it totally was. It was a really cute story. But it also had way more depth than I was expecting. For some reason, I was expecting the entire story to revolve around Hadley and Oliver at the airport, but it turns out that’s only the first half of the book. The second half is more focused on Hadley’s rocky relationship with her dad and her trying to sort out her issues with him. I don’t know what it would be like to have a parent remarry, but Hadley’s reaction to it seemed pretty understandable. She’s equal parts angry at him and missing him, and her emotions felt totally believable.

Hadley, herself, I wouldn’t necessarily be BFFs with in real life—she’s a little too impulsive and unfiltered for my taste. But I still enjoyed reading her story and getting to know her. Oliver is cute, but did anyone else think he was a little too cagey?—or is it just me? It seemed like he always gave Hadley joking or evasive answers to all her questions about his life, so by the end of the book, I don’t think she actually knew anything concrete about him.

Overall, this was a super cute book, but it wasn’t so fluffy that it lacked substance. It struck a nice balance between the romance and the family issues. I’m definitely looking forward to this author’s next book, which sadly doesn't come out until spring of next year.

Rating: 4 / 5

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Review: The Raven Boys

The Raven Boys, by Maggie Stiefvater. The GoodReads summary:
Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.

His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.
I’ll admit I entered into this book with some trepidation. While I loved “The Scorpio Races,” I wasn’t that into “Shiver,” and since I heard this book was nothing like “The Scorpio Races,” I wasn’t sure what to expect and if I’d like it. And it’s true—this book isn’t at all similar to “The Scorpio Races”; I don’t know if anything can be. But nevertheless, I’m happy to report that this book was entirely wonderful.

This book took me by surprise actually. While it’s true I didn’t know what to expect, I did worry that it would end up being a paranormal romance, which, while that’s a perfectly fine genre, it’s not a genre I tend to like. But happily for me, that wasn’t this book. I mean, it has fantastical, magical elements to it for sure, but it’s the psychics and ley lines and wishes granted kind of paranormal and not the vampires, werewolves and faeries kind. And there really isn’t much romance either. Usually, I like a bit of romance in my books, but I was totally fine without much of it here, because the friendships in this book are so central that I think a strong romance would have ruined it.

While Gansey and Blue are the main characters (and what brilliant main characters they are), the secondary characters are so vivid and necessary to the story that I don’t know if they can really be called “secondary.” I love it when an author manages to bring all her characters to life and get me equally invested in all of them no matter how much page time they get. And oh man, I love me those Raven Boys: Gansey, Adam, Ronan, and Noah. I don’t even think I could pick a favorite one, because each has his own strengths and weaknesses, and I like them all for completely different reasons.

But I think one of the things that I admire most about this book is that it’s a good first book for a series. This series is going to be four books long, so pacing across the books is going to be important. I feel like often in series, the first book either contains too much of the story, preventing the subsequent books from being as good, or the first book contains too little of the story, making it a bit boring. But “The Raven Boys” strikes a really good balance between the two extremes, and despite my general disdain for series, I’m actually really excited to see where this one goes.

Overall, a great book with all the things I need to enjoy a book: likeable characters, talented writing, and a unique premise. I think I’m in danger of becoming a serious Maggie Stiefvater fan.

Rating: 4 / 5

Monday, October 15, 2012

Review: The Night Circus

The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern. The GoodReads summary:
The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des RĂªves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per¬formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.
I’d heard so many good things about this book, that I was a little disappointed when I didn’t love it as much as everyone else seems to. And I’m pretty sure I know why it fell a little flat for me—I never really connected to any of the characters. The book is written in a kind of dreamy, removed style that, while beautiful, kept me from feeling like I ever really knew what the characters were thinking and feeling. It was more like watching a movie than reading a book—I could observed the characters’ actions, but I had to take their word about their motivations because I never got to see inside their heads.

But despite my inability to fully connect with the book, there were couple things that the book did indisputably well. One was the circus itself. The author creates a breathtaking, magical (and I mean that in both the literal and figurative sense) atmosphere at the Night Circus, with its black-and-white color scheme and tents filled with the amazing and unbelievable. I felt like I was really there, because I could practically smell, taste, and see everything the author described. It was all quite spectacular, really.

I also thought the book was brilliant in terms of incorporating two seemingly unconnected stories, spaced years apart, into a cohesive whole. When Bailey’s story first enters the book, it seemed jarring after having spent so much time with Celia and Marco, and I wasn’t sure why it was included. But as Bailey’s story began to slowly intertwine with the main story, I got more and more excited to see how it would all come together. And let me tell ya, when the two stories finally caught up to each other at the very end—it was perfect, and it increased the tension before the story’s climax in a truly wonderful way.

Overall, it was a perfectly good book, I just never felt that connection that I need to really love a story.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Friday, October 12, 2012

In which I meet Maggie Stiefvater

Earlier this week, Maggie Stiefvater came to my local bookstore to do a signing! I was all excited to go, because I love, love, LOVE “The Scorpio Races,” and at the time of the signing, I was a significant chunk of the way through “The Raven Boys” and totally into it. I hadn’t been to very many book signings before (I’ve only been to two others: one was completely by chance and the other was one that my sister wanted to go to), and for all intents and purposes, THIS was the first book signing that I actually planned on and looked forward to attending.

When I got to the bookstore, I was happy to see a couple awesome people I knew already there. I also got to put faces to names of some local book bloggers and meet a few completely random people, as well. I realized, at the bookstore, that while I had just brought my copy of “The Raven Boys” for Maggie Stiefvater to sign, everyone else had brought their entire collection of her books. I was like, “Well, duh.” I don’t know why I didn’t bring more of her books to be signed.

I know I haven’t been to many book signings, but this one felt particularly entertaining. I don’t know what I was expecting Maggie Stiefvater to be like in real life, but she was hilarious. It was like a one-woman show. Seriously. She told some anecdotes, complete with acting, that had everyone laughing. I was not expecting her to be so animated, but I loved it!

When it was finally my turn to get my book signed, I wasn’t as awkward as I normally am, thankfully. At least, I don’t think I was awkward, but maybe I’m not the best judge. Anyway, it was totally painless, and Maggie was so nice, and I walked away with her signature in my book, which was what I came for anyway.

Have you ever been to a book signing or met an author? What did you think?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Review: For Darkness Shows the Stars

For Darkness Shows the Stars, by Diana Peterfreund. The GoodReads summary:
It's been several generations since a genetic experiment gone wrong caused the Reduction, decimating humanity and giving rise to a Luddite nobility who outlawed most technology.

Elliot North has always known her place in this world. Four years ago Elliot refused to run away with her childhood sweetheart, the servant Kai, choosing duty to her family's estate over love. Since then the world has changed: a new class of Post-Reductionists is jumpstarting the wheel of progress, and Elliot's estate is foundering, forcing her to rent land to the mysterious Cloud Fleet, a group of shipbuilders that includes renowned explorer Captain Malakai Wentforth--an almost unrecognizable Kai. And while Elliot wonders if this could be their second chance, Kai seems determined to show Elliot exactly what she gave up when she let him go.

But Elliot soon discovers her old friend carries a secret--one that could change their society . . . or bring it to its knees. And again, she's faced with a choice: cling to what she's been raised to believe, or cast her lot with the only boy she's ever loved, even if she's lost him forever.
First of all, I love this cover. Second of all, I love the title. I’ve thought it was gorgeous since I first heard of it, but now that I’ve read the book and know how perfect the title is . . . I’m pretty sure it’s one of my favorite titles of all time now.

I knew this book was based on Jane Austen’s “Persuasion” going into it, and I deliberately made sure I read “Persuasion” first so I could have a better appreciation for this book as an adaptation. And let me tell you, it was a fantastic adaptation. I’m not really sure what genre it falls into—kinda vaguely steampunk with elements of post-apocalyptic, maybe? If you’ve read “Dearly, Departed,” “For Darkness Shows the Stars” is the same kind of genre as that. Basically, they’re living in the future, but due to the human race almost getting wiped out, society has regressed to something similar to the 1800s. Only they still have some futuristic technologies. Hmmm . . . this description is even confusing me, so I’ll move on.

Like I said, I thought this book was a brilliant adaptation of “Persuasion.” You don’t need to be familiar with Jane Austen’s book to like this story, but if you have read it or seen the movies, it makes it easier to appreciate all the ways that Peterfreund takes the basic story of “Persuasion” and makes it her own. In fact, I don’t think there was any part of the adaptation that I didn’t like. I wish I could go on and on about each modification Peterfreund made to the story and how genius they all were, but then this review would go on for way to long. So just trust me that it’s all perfect.

Elliot (because in “Persuasion” her name is Anne Elliot. Get it?) I liked even better than Austen’s original character. Elliot has all of Anne’s sense of duty and loyalty and selflessness, but she also has a hidden rebellious streak and more of a backbone, which I really liked about her. I also liked that Elliot and Kai (the Captain Wentworth equivalent) talk to each other a little more than in the original. That was one thing that I disliked a bit in “Persuasion”—they never really had any conversations. I also really liked that Elliot’s older sister Tatiana (Elizabeth’s equivalent) is given a bigger role and more personality—she’s still shallow and selfish, but Tatiana’s not as clueless and bland as Elizabeth is.

Overall, in case you couldn’t tell. I loved this adaptation. And it can stand on its own too. I know I’ve been going on and on about how this book compares to “Persuasion,” but it’s a wonderful story in its own right. I would’ve liked it even if I didn’t know the storyline of “Persuasion.”

Rating: 4 / 5

Monday, October 8, 2012

Review: Persuasion

Persuasion, by Jane Austen. The GoodReads summary:
Twenty-seven-year old Anne Elliot is Austen's most adult heroine. Eight years before the story proper begins, she is happily betrothed to a naval officer, Frederick Wentworth, but she precipitously breaks off the engagement when persuaded by her friend Lady Russell that such a match is unworthy. The breakup produces in Anne a deep and long-lasting regret. When later Wentworth returns from sea a rich and successful captain, he finds Anne's family on the brink of financial ruin and his own sister a tenant in Kellynch Hall, the Elliot estate. All the tension of the novel revolves around one question: Will Anne and Wentworth be reunited in their love?
Yes, it’s true! I finally read “Persuasion.” As you may recall, I love the story and have watched the movies, but I’d never actually gotten around to reading the book. But no longer! I’ve cleared that hurdle and can hold my head high from here on out in conversations about this book.

But what did I think of it? Errr . . . I discovered it was really hard to read this book and not compare it to the movies. But I made a sincere effort to take this book on its own merits and not let my previous opinions influence me. So here are my main thoughts:

1. Jane Austen is going to kill me with her writing style. In all fairness, it’s not Jane Austen herself, it’s the time period. Really, compared to other authors I’ve read from that period, Austen’s breeze. But I kept wanting to yell at her to quit wasting time making witty observations on human character and tell the story already! And yes, I do realize that making witty observations on human character is what Austen’s known for, but I stopped caring about 5 pages in. I just wanted her to focus on the plot already.

2. Anne is a very . . . mellow . . . main character. I was expecting that going in, but I didn’t realize just how unexciting she is. And I don’t mean that in a bad way. I like Anne, I really do. I like that she’s thoughtful and kind and patient and selfless. But sometimes I wanted to grab her by her collar and tell her to stand up for herself. I appreciate her quiet strength, but I wanted her to show some not-so-quiet strength too.

3. Wentworth and Anne don’t have nearly enough conversations. I realize that the foundation of their relationship was built before this book began, but come on! They have, like, three conversations the entire book. It’s not like I think this makes their love superficial, but for my own gratification I just wanted them to TALK to each other instead of stare longingly. I also wanted them to go make out in the shrubberies, but I knew enough not to expect that to happen.

4. The last 20 pages make this book. As I neared the end, I was starting to doubt my love for “Persuasion” all these years. I was starting to think I should’ve actually read the book before declaring my undying love. But then I got to the last 20 pages, thank goodness. They saved the book for me. Partly because of Wentworth’s letter (uh, duh, it’s only the most romantic letter of all time), and partly because that’s when you get to find out what’s been going on in Wentworth’s head all this time. He’s been a mystery to the reader as well as to Anne up to that point, and frankly I was starting to doubt that he was worth Anne’s misery. But then it’s all explained, and I felt perfectly justified in allowing Wentworth back into my good graces.

So overall, while I didn't fall completely in love with this book like I wanted to, I ended up being happy enough with it in the end. I still think the story line of the book is the most romantic thing ever—it’s just the execution that I struggled with. And I’m okay with that.

Rating: 3.5 / 5 (Am I allowed to give a rating to a classic? Or is that some kind of sacrilege?)

Friday, October 5, 2012

Friday Favorites: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

On Fridays I post a little shout out to one of my favorite books and explain why I love it so much. It gives me the chance to fangirl over books I never reviewed on this blog and lets me post about some not-necessarily-YA books I love.

Which book?
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Historical fiction

Summary? (from GoodReads)
January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb….

As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.

Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever.

When did I first read it?
A year and a half or two years ago, maybe?

Why did I first read it?
My friend and I share a Kindle account, and she bought it, and I thought, “Hmmm. This could be interesting.” So I read it.

What did I think about it then?
I loved Juliet immediately. There are just some characters I love from the first page, and Juliet was one of them. She’s witty and self-deprecating and caring, and reading her letters was like reading letters from a friend. Also, there’s a lot of talk of books and writing in the story, and since those are two of my favorite things, it was an added bonus.

What do I think about it now?
I’ve come to realize since I’ve been doing this Friday Favorites thing, that there are quite a few of my favorite books that I really haven’t read that many times—and some I’ve still only read once. But that is not the case with this book. Even though it hasn’t been that long since I first read it, I’ve reread it at least 4 times. And not just the kind of rereading where I read my favorite parts and skim the rest—I reread every single word of this book. It’s just so well written and engaging. It’s one of those books that I can recommend to practically anyone because there’s something everyone can enjoy in it.

Have you read this book? What did you think?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Review: Something Like Normal

Something Like Normal, by Trish Doller. The GoodReads summary:
When Travis returns home from a stint in Afghanistan, his parents are splitting up, his brother’s stolen his girlfriend and his car, and he’s haunted by nightmares of his best friend’s death. It’s not until Travis runs into Harper, a girl he’s had a rocky relationship with since middle school, that life actually starts looking up. And as he and Harper see more of each other, he begins to pick his way through the minefield of family problems and post-traumatic stress to the possibility of a life that might resemble normal again. Travis’s dry sense of humor, and incredible sense of honor, make him an irresistible and eminently lovable hero.
I’ve been having good luck with books lately, so I keep waiting for the book that’ll break the streak. Happily, “Something Like Normal” wasn’t it. It’s New Adult, and it’s short—I read it in three hours or so—but I didn’t feel like its brevity was because it was lacking anything. It felt quite complete, actually.

Travis, the main character, has it rough: he just got home from fighting in Afghanistan, he’s got post-traumatic stress disorder, his family life is coming apart, his brother has stolen his girlfriend while he was gone, he doesn’t fit in with his friends from home anymore, while his best friend died in combat, and the list could go on a little more. But I think he handles it pretty well—or, at least, he handles it the best he can, which is all I can really ask for. He makes some really stupid choices as well, but he knows they’re stupid and when the consequences come back to bite him, he’s mostly mature about it.

This book is from Travis’s point of view, and as a result I felt like Harper’s character wasn’t as fleshed out as I would’ve liked. The biggest thing I wish would’ve been better explained is why, when she’s disliked Travis her whole life, Harper likes him when he comes back this time. I mean, I’m glad she does, because she helps Travis feel more centered and less crazy, but I just couldn’t figure out the shift in her opinion of him. I do like Harper overall though—she’s not showy but she doesn’t let people walk all over her either.

Overall, I thought this book was really cute. Well, maybe cute is the wrong word, because the heavier issues that this book deals with gives it more depth than just “cute.” But hopefully you get what I’m trying to say here.

Rating: 4 / 5

Monday, October 1, 2012

Review: A Little Wanting Song

A Little Wanting Song, by Cath Crowley. The GoodReads summary:
CHARLIE DUSKIN loves music, and she knows she's good at it. But she only sings when she's alone, on the moonlit porch or in the back room at Old Gus's Secondhand Record and CD Store. Charlie's mom and grandmother have both died, and this summer she's visiting her grandpa in the country, surrounded by ghosts and grieving family, and serving burgers to the local kids at the milk bar. She's got her iPod, her guitar, and all her recording equipment, but she wants more: A friend. A dad who notices her. The chance to show Dave Robbie that she's not entirely unspectacular.

ROSE BUTLER lives next door to Charlie's grandfather and spends her days watching cars pass on the freeway and hanging out with her troublemaker boyfriend. She loves Luke but can't wait to leave their small country town. And she's figured out a way: she's won a scholarship to a science school in the city, and now she has to convince her parents to let her go. This is where Charlie comes in. Charlie, who lives in the city, and whom Rose has ignored for years. Charlie, who just might be Rose's ticket out.

Told in alternating voices and filled with music, friendship, and romance, Charlie and Rose's "little wanting song" is about the kind of longing that begins as a heavy ache but ultimately makes us feel hopeful and wonderfully alive.
I knew as soon as I finished “Graffiti Moon” by this same author that I wanted to read anything else she’s written. But I was a little nervous, because I was worried that maybe this book wouldn’t be as good. There was no need to fear, though, because I ended up loving “A Little Wanting Song” just as much as the other.

This book is less about the romance than “Graffiti Moon” was. Don’t get me wrong, there’s an adorable romance in this book, but it was more about friendship and about finally getting brave enough to show people who you really are and what you really want. I loved both Rose and Charlie (who’s a girl, by the way). They’re so different from each other, but they manage to find a common ground where they can help each other. I could relate more to Charlie, since her personality’s more similar to mine, but that didn’t stop me from liking and sympathizing with Rose too.

In fact, I adored all the characters in this book. The story alternates between Rose’s and Charlie’s viewpoints, which meant you got to see everyone from two different perspectives. Like, you get to see Dave from Rose’s point of view, who’s know him all her life, and from Charlie’s, who’s always crushed on him but never really gotten to know him. All the characters are so layered and well characterized, and the ones that I never grew to like, I at least grew to understand.

Overall, this was one of those books I just wanted to hug when I finished it. It was everything I was hoping it would be, and even a little more. I recommend it for sure—just ignore that awkward cover.

Rating: 5 / 5
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