Wednesday, September 14, 2016
A baby is missing! That's the crux of this fast-paced mystery. Unfortunately, the only reason I finished this story was that the plot was compelling enough that I had to know the outcome. It was riddled with problems. The writing seemed blunt, oddly choppy, and mostly obvious. There were many repetitive sentences in close proximity to each other (same paragraph, page, or chapter). The detective is repeatedly told "you need to do your job" in one scene, with a recurring answer of "I'm doing everything in my power". Ughh. At one point, the father of the missing girl actually says "We need to focus on getting Cora back." YES! EXCELLENT POINT!
The last truly annoying repetitious bit was the "constantly baffled" suspected parents routine. When questioned by police, the response was usually "We don't see what this has to do with anything." Obviously there is shock and sadness at a disappearance, and people often speak without thinking, but the dialogue seemed incredibly unrealistic-especially the scenes where the husband and wife are frustrated with each other. It's like the feelings (of hate or love) were absent.
Once past the writing, I was disappointed with the treatment of postpartum depression, and women in general. I'm embarrassed to say this often doesn't bother me unless it's blatantly obvious. I've been blessed with wonderful men in my life and don't have specific triggers. The husband is always shamefully bringing it up in conversation, almost as an excuse for any poor behavior. The characters weren't developed enough to feel like real people, as their descriptions were surface level (appearance, job) and vague. There is a lot more I could say about the outlandish twists and resolution, but that would obviously venture into spoiler territory. I'm truly not sure I'd recommend this to anyone. The suspense genre is full of great titles, and sadly, this missed the mark for me.
Monday, September 12, 2016
Expected Publication: October 11, 2016 from Thomas Nelson.
I sincerely feel privileged that Sara Ella put me on the list to receive this Advanced Review Copy. We became friends through Booktube (YouTube channels that feature bookish content) and I've been following her progress. Young Adult and I often have a fraught relationship (which she is fully aware of) so it was a vote of confidence that she still let me review her labor of love! Thankfully, Sara Ella navigates this novel brilliantly, deftly avoiding the tropes I find troublesome with her rich characters and strong writing. Also,
God bless her, the girl gave us a map. For those familiar with my reviews, this always gets bonus points.
My mom died of cancer a little over a year after the author lost her mom. The dedication was simple and perfect. I appreciated how the protagonist Eliyana portrays the ever recurring sense of shock at her mom's untimely death. There is a small part of me that legitimately can't come to terms with the death permanence. It seems like mom will have to show up at some point in my life, because the forever-ness of it is too hard to understand. The "every consolation from a complete stranger invites a fresh wave of sobs" feeling- been there, and in some instances, still there.
There was complex world building with parallels to ours. This made the story feel relatable with actual NYC landmarks (one of my favorite places to visit), but also removed enough with the "Reflections" that we can enjoy this world for the Fantasy that it is. I greatly enjoyed the Tromes, and would live in one if someone would be interested in constructing a model for me!
It's evident the author enjoys Fairy Tales and is putting her own spin on the concept of the good vs.evil story. The light being truth and darkness representing evil has Christian undertones. An enormous benefit to this book is that it has NO profane content, so is safe for anyone capable of reading this level of chapter book. The pervasive message of being worth more than your appearance and not undervaluing yourself is such an important theme in Young Adult. I wish there had been this variety when I was a teenager. It makes me happy that young girls will learn these lessons through Eliyana's struggles.
Kent is amazing. Certainly one of my favorite titles of the year, this brilliant historical fiction narrative was filled with incredible atmosphere and writing. I loved the attention grabbing intro- with pertinent info on Icelandic names and pronunciation, and a haunting prologue from the condemned woman that left my arms prickly with goosebumps.
I realize "emotional" is an overused review word, but it's the perfect summation of how this made me feel. I was deeply sad throughout this account, feeling so connected to Agnes's hardships that I vicariously experienced her lonely, cruel, harsh upbringing, and the fear of her impending execution. When Agnes is thinking of the daughter of the family she's sent to stay with prior to her death: "She is not like me. She knows only the tree of life. She has not seen it's twisted roots pawing stones and coffins." The ledger of her meager possessions put up for auction made me tear up. Meanwhile, my real-life stress today concerned apps not properly loading on my Iphone- #firstworldproblems, #blessed, #perspective.
This is the first story I've read centered in Iceland. Fun fact for all book worms: Iceland has more books published, more books read, and more writers per head than anywhere else in the world. A true historical record reveals Agnes Magnusdottir was well-versed in sagas and poetry. This work is filled with tons of moral topics and insights into the human condition- making it an exceptional book club pick.
The included conversation with the author in my edition- about her writing process, interest in the topic, and general research- added anecdotal info to an already strong novel. I'm thrilled to see that her second book, The Good People, will be available in the US February 2017. Geraldine Brooks provided my favorite backcover blurb "An original new voice, with a deep and lovely grasp of language and story." So, so true. Agnes's plight will haunt me for a long time.
Wednesday, September 7, 2016
Here's the positives: The Borrower delves into sexuality, privacy issues, censorship, and beyond-the-books public library duties with class and sass. I got tickled when Lucy described her apartment decoration in terms of strategically piled books, not art or furniture. This is also one of my new favorite quotes:
"Once a year all the librarians in the county wedged themselves into high heels, tried to pull the cat hair off their sweaters with masking tape, and smeared their lips with an awful tomato red that had gone stale in the tube, all to convince the benefit set of the greater Hannibal region that libraries do better with chairs and books and money." (pg. 36). I love this snarky, observational quote....and can relate with the crazy cat lady/book lover stereotype. Darn cat hairs.
Other than some of these points, I felt disconnected from the story. The plot was interesting enough, and I liked little Ian, but Lucy's character was bland. I didn't feel empathy with her one way or the other, and most of her issues seemed bizarre and pointless. The driving around went on way too long, and her unapologetic attitude for her actions (but self-awareness to know she was in the wrong) lacked sentiment or meaning. She consistently lied and lacked a conscience, so I couldn't feel as much righteous outrage towards Ian's parents. I wanted to believe the journey had a point, but it missed the mark for me.
I think children's librarians will find relatable details to their jobs, and the ending was handled in an interesting way. I will still pick up more from this author, because I did like her writing style (even though I struggled with the content).
Sunday, September 4, 2016
This was a book that had languished on my shelves for several years. I've been reading lots of contemporary relationship-based novels lately, so decided to squeeze this one in. For some reason, I wasn't expecting anything original...especially with the premise of a husband running away with a babysitter.
I appreciated how my expectations were exceeded a little. Eve, the wife left behind, is realistically forced to get on with life in order to pay bills and keep the family intact. While Eve is obviously distraught, the novel doesn't get bogged down in this event, even though it's the "crux" of the story. We get to hear about her career, and the impact she makes as a nutritionist. Her clients are fully fleshed out, and not relegated to one dimensional side characters. Eve has an existence and defined purpose outside of wife and motherhood. How nice to see this highlighted in a positive way, even with her emotional struggles.
There were a couple problems.While I am a huge exercise advocate, and try my best with healthy foods, I found the "health preaching" a little overdone. There were random tips and bits of what Eve was eating (while not with clients) that felt out of place in the context of what was happening in the current scene. I got a bit tired of hearing from her husband's perspective, even though he needed page time in order to make the novel sensical. I wanted to sympathize with him more, but felt he was mostly a huge baby, when what he needed was more of a swift kick in the nether region. However, anyone in a relationship is familiar with ebbs and flows, and perhaps this highlights my vengeful personality:-P
I did appreciate Hanauer's stance on medication, which is one I share. Prescription drug abuse and needless medicines aside, I do think medication is necessary in many instances. Meditation, prayer, lifestyle changes, and "trying" go a long way, but if God created Doctors, Nurses, and Researchers and gave them the ability to give us a pill a day with minimal side effects, but also the ability to recover joy....why not?
As in any book featuring children, I try to relate to the parent's current dilemma. In this, Eve talks about her eight year old son's changing skin smell when she hugs him. Perhaps this sounds odd, but I love smelling my little girls in the nape of their necks- sweet and fresh smelling, like only youth can have before puberty. "He came over and embraced her, and she breathed in his smell, sweet and familiar, though also tinged, she'd noticed lately, with something new: a touch of pungency, a lessening of the sweetness." (Pg. 165). I can't bear to think about this happening, even though I know it's inevitable.
Did it change my life? No, but I think this is a decent portrait of a troubled marriage...especially years into a union where priorities shift, people change, and things need adjusting in general- because life is STRESSFUL. There are some beautiful phrases thrown in as a bonus to any poetry lovers as well.