Friday, May 27, 2016
The Memory of Light, by Francisco X. Stork
Suicide and depression are important subjects, but I didn't find this treatment to be particularly compelling. The kids are nice enough and do a great job of illustrating different manifestations of depression, but so much of their discussions seemed like frivolous filler. There's some effort to explain mindsets, but I didn't really learn much about mental illness, except how easy it is to backslide.
Posted by Paul at 12:38 PM No comments:
Crow Mountain, by Lucy Inglis
The journal is written by another English girl named Emily who came through Montana in the mid-19th century. On her way to Portland to unite with her future husband, Emily's trip goes awry and she is rescued by a frontiersman (with a mysterious past) hiding in the wilds. At first reluctant to stay and eager to get away, Emily eventually comes to love him. This leads her to reconsider her plans for the future and discover the joys of frontier life.
Meanwhile, in the present, Hope and her current-day mystery man embark on a trip of their own, which also goes awry. A series of adventures occur that parallel Emily's in the past.
It ends up being a nice mix of history and adventure. The bad guys felt a bit over-the-top and I hope Inglis got her historical detail better than her contemporary ones ("passport control" in Helena MT?!), but I enjoyed both stories and the way that they intertwined. The historical stuff reminded me of Cold Comfort Mountain in a good way and was the more interesting section of the novel. Overall, this was exciting and engaging, with four strong characters and fluid storytelling.
[Disclaimer: I received an Advance Reviewers Copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review. This book is slated for release on May 31, 2016.]
Posted by Paul at 12:00 PM No comments:
Sunday, May 22, 2016
Up To This Pointe, by Jennifer Longo
Told through alternating chapters of her earlier failure at home and of her search for healing in the present, the novel is an engaging story of failure and reinvention.
There is a terrible melodramatic potential to the idea that a young person can be so wrapped up in a childhood dream that they fall apart -- so much potential in fact that it is instinctive to not take her seriously. But as the story unfolds, it becomes clearer how deeply embroiled she was and why it was possible for her to be so devastated. And, by the end, Longo had convinced me that Harper had truly suffered. The rest was easier. Strong and interesting characters, fascinating details about ballet and Antarctic life, a surprisingly effective Shakespearean plot device, and an engaging story made this a fun read. The ending is bit too cheery and happy, but it felt earned (so I'll let it mostly slide!).
Posted by Paul at 11:35 AM No comments:
Saturday, May 21, 2016
Althea & Oliver, by Cristina Moracho
Distraught from their separation, Althea gets suspended from school and runs away from home, following Oliver to New York. Meanwhile, with lots of time in the hospital to think back on what has happened, Oliver begins to regret his decision to flee. All might have been well if they had managed to reconnect, but fate works against them and they are both plunged into the wilderness. Surprisingly, this turns out to be exactly what both of them need.
It's a weird story that I found hard to track. More precisely, it is really two separate stories. Both of them are seeking to change their own lives, but there have very different paths to take. This is quite obvious from the beginning and, despite Moracho's attempt to depict them as close friends, I never noticed much chemistry between them. They were both interesting characters, but at their best when they were on their own. And while the novel was vibrant and original, Moracho's dialogue-heavy style didn't work for me. Instead, I found it a hard slog getting through lengthy conversations that I could not understand or see the relevance of to the story.
Posted by Paul at 8:58 AM No comments:
Friday, May 20, 2016
I'm From Nowhere, by Suzanne Myers
Being at her Mom's alma mater gives Wren an opportunity of her own to learn about her Mom's history. And harnessing her detective skills, she tries to uncover her mother's biggest mystery -- who is Wren's father? But as she comes closer to an answer, tragedy strikes and a series of events unfold that teach Wren a lesson in the true meaning of family.
While plagued by some pretty crazy fantasy and a few glaring improbabilities, this is actually a lovely story. The key is Wren herself -- one of the more no-nonsense YA heroines of recent memory. She's far from perfect, but comes with great composure, refusing to be dragged down into dramatics. The story is straightforward and free of angst. Even the story's foil (a snooty bully) never really fazes her and the slight bit of romance is pretty matter of fact.
Posted by Paul at 1:37 PM No comments:
Saturday, May 14, 2016
Proof of Forever, by Lexa Hillyer
But then a freak incident in a photo booth transports the four girls back in time to that summer two years ago. And they find themselves in a week-long do-over. At first, they are convinced that they must reenact the past exactly how it originally happened. But it quickly becomes apparent that not only do they not remember the past well enough, but that things are different this time around. Or perhaps, it is they that are different? In the process of reliving the most memorable week of their lives through their older and wiser selves, they discover that what they remember and what actually was going on are entirely different things .
I loved the idea of a story which combined summer camp fiction with the buddy girl story (the blurb hypes this as the new Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants) and threw in a little time travel to boot. Admittedly, the time travel is the weakest part of the story -- it's poorly explained and makes little sense -- but since it is not essential to the story, it can be easily forgotten. The girls are all interesting and the process of discovery through a critical reexamination of their past was lots of fun. I was less taken with the plot's slow pacing (the ending really did seem to drag -- there were simply too many events -- talent show, fencing competition, scavenger hunt, etc. to get through). It could have been trimmed down a lot!
Posted by Paul at 11:32 AM No comments:
Saturday, May 07, 2016
Underwater, by Marisa Reichardt
A heartfelt book that sensitively explores trauma, anxiety, and recovery. I liked this better than the other book about a school shooting (This Is Where It Ends) that I finished earlier this week. Neither book explores the shooter's perspective, but I felt that Reichardt did a much better job of exploring what it means to be a survivor, expressing Morgan's fears, guilt, and willpower. Some minor elements (like the subplot about Morgan's estranged Dad and his PTSD) seemed a bit clunky, but the novel got Morgan's journey right and provided a heart warming, but unsentimental, tale of a strong young woman coming back from the brink of madness.
Posted by Paul at 4:59 PM No comments:
Friday, May 06, 2016
Time Between Us, by Tamara Ireland Stone
Time travel stories are not that common in YA and the combination of teen romance with such a fantasy premise is appealing. It helps that both Anna and Bennett are likeable and that they make a good couple. Also, that it's intelligent writing (time travel books have to be to grasp at all the paradoxes and Stone does a good job of laying out the logic and the principles of time travel without slowing things down during most of the book). Some of that pacing is lost towards the end, but it mostly comes together. What does get lost are some of the subplots (like Anna's running or her relationship with her friend Justin), but overall the novel worked for me and I found it entertaining.
Posted by Paul at 6:35 PM No comments:
This Is Where It Ends, by Marieke Nijkamp
Despite the dramatic potential of the story, there isn't much of a tale to tell. People ruminate and tremble with fear, while others die. And with a large cast of characters, it was hard to get overly attached so the casualties are mostly just a body count.I never felt invested in anyone, although I remained curious about who would live and who would die.
I am stuck on the question of what it is all for? It's a lively adventure, but what is the appeal? There's certainly not much of an exploration of what drives a person to commit such an act. And none of the characters seem to have grown from the experience.
Posted by Paul at 6:19 PM No comments:
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