Reviews-A-Plenty

Hi folks, so I’ve been keeping up with my creative goal to read a book a week! Thought I’d better catch you up on the wonderful things I’ve been reading.

caravalCaraval by Stephanie Garber | Scarlett’s grandmother has told her and her sister Tella stories about Caraval since they were young– an audience-participation game that is like a magical carnival. Scarlett has always longed to go, but getting tickets now— less than two weeks before her marriage to a mysterious count she has never met– is not the ideal timing. At Caraval, Tella goes missing, and the game revolves around the sisters. Julian, the young sailor who brought the girls to Caraval, is shrouded in mystery too, and Scarlett can’t tell who is friend or foe, or whether the game is really just a game.

It’s intense, has gorgeous imagery, and keeps you guessing the entire time. I am happy to say that I did not figure the ending out ahead of time!! This is a must read, folks.

cursed-childHarry Potter & the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany | I think I went into this screenplay with reasonable expectations. I waited quite a while to read it because I knew that it was not going to be like “the 8th Harry Potter book,” as some stores touted. First, it’s a screenplay, not a novel; I knew I couldn’t expect the same thing. Because I went into it with realistic expectations, I loved it!

The story picks up about nineteen years after the Battle of Hogwarts took place; Harry’s youngest son Albus is headed to Hogwarts for the first time, and it is hard living in your father’s shadow, especially when your father is Harry Potter. Albus isn’t like his dad, and they butt heads, which leads Albus and his friend Scorpius Malfoy (Draco’s son!) on an adventure that gets worse and worse and worse … until it all comes together in J.K. Rowling fashion. I loved getting to revisit the characters. The important thing, I think, is not to treat it as the 8th book but as what it is: the script for a play that takes you back to the wizarding world for one more adventure.

poem-she-didnt-writeThe Poem She Didn’t Write and Other Poems by Olena Kalytiak Davis | This one was staggering. I absolutely adored it. It was like e.e. cummings had become a female spoken word artist. The rhythms were impossible to miss, even without hearing them, and I was exposed to a new vocabulary. I thought it the poem topics were really brave, and there were quite a few that she approached from such a stunningly unique perspective. The title poem, in particular, was mind-blowing. I will be purchasing her other books.

chinoiserieChinoiserie by Karen Rigby | This was the 2011 winner of the Sawtooth Poetry Award– and well deserved. Beautiful writing, rich imagery, the poems took me to other places, something I always love. I was happy to let this collection sink into my bones.

Review [via Insta]: Best Thought, Worst Thought by Don Paterson

This has been on my radar a while. Starting tonight.

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#BestThoughtWorstThought by Don Paterson

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#BestThoughtWorstThought Man, I need a new phone with a better camera. I shouldn't even be allowed on insta.

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#BestThoughtWorstThought

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#BestThoughtWorstThought

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All that to say, read it! Paterson’s aphorisms are a cross between poetry and personal essay, and I gobbled it up.

Review: When You are Happy by Eileen Spinelli

when you are happy.jpgEveryone needs a copy of this book in his or her home.

I’m a fan of Eileen’s husband Jerry (Stargirl; Love, Stargirl; Maniac Magee, among many others). In a recent interview with Shelf Awareness, Jerry answered one question like this:

Book you are an evangelist for:

When You Are Happy by Eileen Spinelli. Yeah, I know, she’s my wife. But this 32-page picture book hits my trifecta: language, illustrations, message. Never before has so much humanity been packed into so few pages.

I thought, I need that.

I was right. This is what I posted on Instagram in the moments after finishing it.

insta

 

Review: Scythe by Neal Shusterman

Even though I really loved Neal Shusterman’s Unwind Dystology (spoiler-free review), his new series wasn’t really on my radar. Then the first book– Scythe— kept getting rave reviews from my favorite book bloggers, so I knew I needed to read it.

scytheIT. WAS. SO. GOOD.

Here’s the set-up: it’s the distant future, and the internet “cloud” has accumulated all knowledge and become the nearly sentient Thunderhead. Because the Thunderhead now prevents things like disease, war, and even death, the only issue left is population control. There is a worldwide network of scythes who are given the power to glean life and to grant immunity. They are highly respected and rarely challenged. Citra and Rowen are two sixteen-year-olds chosen to become scythe apprentices. Then things get crazy.

I’m hooked. Just like the Unwind books, this series is so thought-provoking. I was especially captured by the question If men become immortal, what will inspire them to create? There is a scene where Citra and Rowen are taken to museum. These days, art has all been perfected via the Thunderhead, but they find that they actually like the “Mortal Age” art better … it is imperfect, but there is passion to it that is rare in their time. I have maybe 70 or 80 years on earth. In what ways does that drive my art?

That’s just one of the questions raised by this incredible book. It’s full of twists and the stakes are high. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts!

Series Review: The Heirs of Watson Island (No Spoilers!)

Last weekend I finished Illusion, the third book of the Heirs of Watson Island trilogy by Martina Boone. This book, of course, builds on its two predecessors, so– in order to avoid spoilers– I just want to share with you what this series is about and the things I like about it.

Three plantations. Two wishes. One ancient curse.

Barrie Watson is a girl who, newly orphaned, moves to South Carolina to live with her Aunt Pru. There, she finds family secrets she never knew; magic that is hard to understand; and a super-cute boy who knows what she wants better than she knows herself.

heirs-trilogy

What I liked:

Eight. My gosh, dream boy. Eight Beaufort is sweet and thoughtful and gorgeous and funny and smart. Love him to pieces.

Barrie. She’s sassy and brilliant and refuses to be trampled on. My kinda girl!

The writing. It’s gorgeous. English is Martina Boone’s second language, and yet she has total mastery of it. The descriptions are to die for.

The south. Southern culture infiltrates every part of this book– but in a totally natural, not-at-all-distracting way.

The cultures. The book has stories and legends from diverse backgrounds, and they make the series so rich. I really appreciate that Boone did her research, and she even includes additional details in the pages after the books end.

Also interesting to note, the second book was my favorite one of the series– which is really unusual for me! Usually the second book in a series is my least favorite, as it often seems to just be a bridge. But Persuasion was my favorite!

Have you read this series? What did you think?

 

A Handful of Book Reviews

I’ve been traveling for work, and that means plenty of time for audiobooks, hooray! Here’s what I’ve recently read:


Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo | This is the sequel to Six of Crows, which I thoroughly adored. It was great to be back with Kaz, Inej, and the gang as they sought revenge and justice after the events of the first book. The characters are just so layered and complicated, something I admire and appreciate. This novel was a little harder for me to get into than its predecessor, probably because the heist didn’t seem apparent to me at first. Another difficult thing was having so many narrators to the audiobook. There were at least six, and while I LOVED some of them, there was one I couldn’t stand. And they all pronounced things differently, which, in a fantasy novel with unique names of people and locations, was especially confusing. All told, I did love it though and think Bardugo is brilliant. I am plot’s antihero, and I so admire writers who master it


Kids of Appetite by David Arnold | I absolutely adored Arnold’s debut novel Mosquitoland. I’d honestly never encountered a character voice as unique as Mim’s. Then I was on a panel with the author and he is just a lovely, hilarious, amazing person, which permanently made me a fan. Kids of Appetite was great, somehow both tremendously ambitious but also simple and straightforward. How Arnold managed the paradox, I’m not quite sure, but he did it well. This is the story of a boy named Vic who falls into step with a group of misfits and together they set out to accomplish Vic’s late father’s final wishes. There is mystery, romance, and GREAT imagery. The novel covers just one week, but it’s not unrealistic to see just how much Vic’s life changes in that short time. Very well done


Tell the Truth Shame the Devil by Melina Marchetta | My favorite author, all time, hands down, as regular blog readers know. This is her first book in four years, so I was pretty much salivating for it. Although Marchetta most often writes YA, this novel was an adult crime novel. Let’s be honest: adult crime novels are not really in my wheelhouse. But Marchetta is, so there was no doubt I’d read it. It. Was. Masterful. Of course it was, she is the queen! At its core, this was still a novel about family, her trademark. And it was perfectly executed and I love the characters and it made my head spin and inspired me and intimidated me. And OH how relevant it is for right now. The story is about a British inspector named Bish (Bashir), whose teen daughter was on a bus when it was bombed in France. His daughter is shaken but unhurt, and all fingers immediately point to a girl on the bus whose grandfather was accused of terrorism. Bish gets pulled into that family’s life as he attempts to figure out who was really behind the bombing. The characters, you guys. I’m so in love. I would honestly read this woman’s grocery lists.

Review (& Thoughts On) The Art of Slow Writing by Louise deSalvo

slow writingSo, this book is called The Art of Slow Writing, but the truth is that I read it very slowly. It’s taken me months to finish this book, not because it wasn’t good (it was!) but because I’ve been so busy and overwhelmed, plus it has content I wanted to take in over time.

I really enjoyed this book– it was a constant reminder to let art run its course, to let books reveal themselves in their own time, to embrace the uncertainty of the writing life, and how important persistence is to she who wants to be an author.

 

 

Loved this:

uncertainty writing

I’m writing slowly right now. But that doesn’t mean I’m not working hard. I spent last Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday doing research, hammering out details, brainstorming, plotting, and finishing up my VERY LONG AND DETAILED synopsis, which is now up to thirteen pages, double-spaced. I could NOT have created this synopsis early on. I needed to spend over a year with this story and let ideas build and build before I could pull this blueprint together.

But now that it IS together, I have a map from the beginning to the end of my novel. I have 60K words written already, but SO MUCH editing to do … plus I’m imagining about another 20K left to write.

This page from deSalvo’s book is Where I Am At:

slow writing quote

It is one thing to amass 50 or 60 thousand words of prose. It’s an entirely different beast to shape those words into a book. I learned so much while writing Lights All Around— and learned even MORE writing Truest— but there is still so much to learn. Every new book is a new mountain. Climbing one mountain does not mean I know how to climb all mountains.

It’s fulfilling work, but it is most definitely WORK.

Review: Dreamology by Lucy Keating

dreamologyAlice has dreamed of Max for as long as she can remember– in her dreams, they are happy and in love, going on the kind of crazy adventures that can only happen in dreams.

When Alice moves to Boston, though, Max is in her psychology class at her new school! Except this Max seems detached … and he has a girlfriend.

I really enjoyed this one! There were some really great lines, and I especially loved the character of Oliver, one of Alice’s new friends. I loved the dream sequences, and it was fun to tweet with Lucy Keating while I read it too. An interesting concept, though the conflict at the end confused me a little bit. All in all, an enjoyable, light read!

 

Review: Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork

0-545-05474-5I loved this book.

I’ll be honest, it’s not one that I would normally pick up from the description. But my editor is reading it right now and encouraged me to read it too. I got a copy from the library, devoured it, and then bought a copy for my personal library.

The premise of the book is simple: Marcelo is on the autism spectrum– he says he’s best described as having Asperger’s but admits that’s not quite accurate either. He goes to a special school that he LOVES. His father, a lawyer, tells Marcelo that if he can successfully handle an internship at his dad’s law firm that summer (in the “real world”), he can go back to his school for senior year. Otherwise, he will need to go to the public school in town.

As I said, a simple enough premise. But the execution is masterful.

The characters– especially Marcelo– are so deep, the conversations are fascinating, the writing is beautiful.

It was one of my favorite reads of 2016.

 

 

Review: The Rose & the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh

rose and daggerI’ve made it no secret on this blog that The Wrath & the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh was my favorite book of 2015The Rose & the Dagger is the sequel, and I could not WAIT to spend time with these characters again. Shazi is seriously one of my all-time favorite heroines, so fierce and stubborn and incredible. She takes zero shit, not even from the king himself.

Speaking of the king– or rather, the caliph of Khorasan– Khalid is one of my top book boyfriends. He is breathtakingly INTENSE and sexy and mature. I love him love him love him.

Plus, we are introduced to new(er) characters in this book too, a few of whom stole my heart. A few of whom broke my heart.

I’m not going to say too much about this book, just that you need to read it. The first book still takes the top spot for me, but this sequel was just the reunion I needed!