Saturday, May 28, 2011

Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen

Bright Young Things

by Anna Godbersen

Rating: PG-13; 3 ½ stars

Summary: Cordelia Grey and Letty Larkspur are leaving boring Union, Ohio for the glitz and glam of New York City in 1929. Astrid Dolan is already living a life of ease in NYC, and is in no great hurry to leave it. Once in New York, Cordelia sets off to seek her long-lost father, and winds up befriending Astrid in the process. Letty seeks for fame on the stage. Before the end of that summer, all three girls will find themselves in over their heads and in need of each other more than ever.

Opinions: First of all, the writing in this book is really well done. Godbersen has quite a bit of skill in crafting beautiful sentences. I just wish that could have carried more into the plot. Now, don't get me wrong—I really did enjoy this book, but it was almost more of a guilty pleasure. Everything seemed to come too easily for the thee main characters. SPOILER: The day they arrive in New York, Cordelia finds her father, who it turns out is a fabulously wealthy bootlegger. END SPOILER That being said, I found the book really hard to put down by the end. The book really drew me into the time period, although I have always felt like I was a flapper in a former life. :) I enjoyed the nods to Romeo and Juliet, as well as the possible nods to The Great Gatsby. I really wouldn't hesitate to recommend this book anyone who wants a light read, and I would really recommend it as a good beach read. But, for the reader looking for more substance, this isn't really the book. It has its moments, but I just found a lot of the plot to be really convenient, from a writer's perspective.

I have a feeling that this book is part of a series, or will at least have a sequel. This is partly due to something from the prologue that is never wrapped up, and also partly due to the note the book ended on. It didn't have the finality I was looking for, although perhaps that's what Godbersen was aiming for. It's possible that there is no sequel or series, and Godbersen just wanted an open-ended, unsatisfying ending. The nature of the book is such that it could go either way.

I gave this book 3 ½ stars, because although I really enjoyed it, I couldn't get over the ease with which her characters arrived at their circumstances. Though it definitely didn't stop me from reading, the convenience of it all bothered me. As for PG-13, I'd say this is a light PG-13. It has no swearing that I can recall, but there is some sexual content. It's nothing graphic, but characters are having sex, and the reader is aware of it. There is also some violence towards the end.

In general, this was an enjoyable book. It has its weaknesses, but nothing so glaring that the book can't be enjoyed anyway, particularly by someone who is just looking for a light read.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Lament by Maggie Stiefvater

Lament by Maggie Stiefvater

Rating: 5 stars, PG-13

Summary: Deidre Monaghan is sixteen, a gifted harpist, and a girl with terrible pre-performance nerves. She can also see faeries. A summer music competition brings her her best performance, as well as a boy named Luke who, it seems, can help her nerves. But there's more to Luke than meets the eye. Luke knows Deidre can see the faeries, before she knows this herself. As Deidre tries to find out more about Luke, she learns more about herself and her abilities. Before she knows it, Deidre is fully swept up in the fey, and she must do what she can to stay alive and keep her family safe.

Opinions: After reading Shiver, I was instantly a Maggie Stiefvater fan. It's hard not to be one. Her writing is wonderful, and she has an excellent presence in the online YA lit community. She's funny and smart and, well, you can see that I'm a fan. That being said, it certainly took me awhile to get to Lament. I blame it on being a busy college student. And the internet. And I'm sure Lego Harry Potter might have something to do with it. In any case, when I had some time to read and realized that Lament was available on the Ohio Ebook Project (which is FABULOUS!), I jumped on it.

This book had me raving like a crazy person. My friends were quite concerned. I read nearly the whole book in a day (BTW, the same day that I'm writing this post), and spent the entire day babbling about homicidal faeries. I also managed to accidentally insult one of friends by calling Deidre stupid and having a friend think I was calling her stupid (I'm sorry, Emily!). Now, being a bookworm, I do tend to become emotionally invested in books, sometimes to a ridiculous extent, but I usually manage to internalize that, unless I'm crying my eyes out. I threw this book down. I yelled at it. I swore at it. In other words, I acted like a crazy person (see above).

Said craziness is only one example of why this is a wonderful book. I find it to be the mark of a good author that I can get angry at the protagonist to the point of yelling at her in public and yet still like her as a character. I also find it a mark of a good author when I can't predict things. Or at least, when my predictions are wrong (as many of mine were for this book: SPOILER—Delia is not a changeling. END SPOILER). Pretty much the only thing I figured out before Deidre (besides things that were given away by the blurb and prologue, where Deidre is not narrating) was the fact that one should not piss off the faeries. Of course, I mostly know that from reading Holly Black's work (which I also recommend), and just from being a knowledgeable reader of fantasy (note to self: must find iron jewelry).

On a side note, I would like to say that Maggie Stiefvater has an annoying habit of writing boys that I want. To date. This is only annoying, of course, because said boys (AHEM, Sam and Luke and James) are fictional.

So yeah, basically I loved this book. I would have liked a little bit more backstory on Deidre's family, but since there's a sequel, I'll wait to pass judgment. Ratings: I think it is rather obvious why I gave this 5 stars. In case it isn't: I love this book. I rated it PG-13 for violence. There's very limited swearing. There is also very limited sexual content, although sex is suggested through the words and actions of one character in particular (I'm talking about you, Freckle Freak). Basically, read this book.

Ok. I wrote this review well over a month ago, and the writing isn't my best, but I wanted to keep the genuine emotion behind the frenzy that was the reading of Lament and subsequent writing of this review.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Wintergirls Review

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

Rating: PG-13; 5 stars

Summary: Lia is a wintergirl. Frozen in a world of thin is in, she is like the walking dead. Only now, she doesn't have her friend Cassie to struggle with her. Cassie died, alone, in a motel room. Before her death, she called Lia thirty-three times. Now, Lia has to fight her body's need for food on her own, as well as dealing with the torment of losing her best friend and parents who don't have time to care. But as long as Lia keeps getting thinner and thinner, she is in control. She is winning.

Opinions: This book is scary. I'm not talking scary like Steven King, or scary like Saw. I'm talking so scary because you know it's real. You know that this is something that thousands, if not millions, of people go through. When I started reading this book, I read for over an hour and a half straight without talking, noise-canceling headphones on. I don't recommend this. When I finally returned to the real world, I felt incredibly alienated. Anderson doesn't tiptoe around putting the reader in the story. From the very beginning, you are in Lia's world.

I have read very few books that drew me in as much as this one. When I was reading, I was Lia. I'm nowhere near anorexic, but that didn't matter. I didn't judge Lia; I was Lia. Anderson wrote this brilliantly and in such a way that I had no trouble believing in Lia or her world. I would like to think that people don't think the way Lia and Cassie do, but I know that's not the case.

When I was a sophomore in high school (God, that was three years ago!), I read Speak in my English class. It was assigned on the first day of class, and we had to read like the first chapter. I read the entire thing in one sitting. Laurie Halse Anderson is known for writing exceptional books about difficult issues. I found Wintergirls to be even more stunning than Speak. Sure, I didn't read Wintergirls all in one go, but I'm very glad I didn't. I was incredibly alienated after just an hour and a half; I hate to think of how out of it I would have been had I read the whole thing in one go.

I rated this book PG-13 because of violence and language. Also, it ought to be known that this book could potentially be triggering to someone who struggles with an eating disorder; after every food in the book, Lia lists how many calories are in it. I imagine that this could trigger some people. I originally rated this book 4 ½ stars, simply because it's so emotionally heavy. However, as I wrote this review, I realized that the heaviness is what makes it such a memorable book, and that it is definitely 5 star material. This is a raw, powerful example of exactly what realistic characters and beautiful writing can do when put together. I cried at the end of this book. And yes, I cry a lot when I read, but that's not the point. I cried because I felt the end events as Lia did.

Honestly, I can't say enough by this book. I'm still stunned by the places it took me emotionally. It was certainly a very different book from The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, which is the book I read just before Wintergirls. I wouldn't call Wintergirls an enjoyable book, simply on account of the subject matter, but I would definitely say that it is very necessary book. I feel very different for having read it. Not necessarily better, but different.

Also, as an FYI, I'm a bit backed up on posting for now, so things aren't going to be posted in the order I've read them. And I'm making it a summer goal to post once a week, so here's to lots of reviews!

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne Valente

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

by Catherynne M. Valente

Rating: PG; 5 stars

Summary: One ordinary in day Omaha, Nebraska, twelve-year-old September is whisked from her house and into Fairyland by the Green Wind. Once there, she finds that fairies are not as they seem in stories. She also learns about the cruel Marquess who has recently taken the throne in Fairyland. As she journeys through Fairyland, she makes many friends and learns a great deal, both about herself and about the inhabitants of Fairyland itself.

Opinions: The minute I started this book I was enjoying it. I probably actually fell in love with it the minute I read the title. It is a wonderful title, isn't it? This book reminded me of a combination of The Tale of Despereaux and Alice's Adventure's in Wonderland. The narrator occasionally breaks the fourth wall, as in Depereaux, but the book has that same sense of magic and wonder that Alice has.

There is such a sense of wonder to this book. There is this tone to the story that everything is new, even to the narrator. This wonder really brings the reader in and makes you want to keep going. I loved the fact that traditional fairy lore was used but was totally reinvented. There's a trend nowadays for fairy books to be very edgy and contemporary, and there's nothing wrong with that at all (I'm a huge fan of several of those books), but sometimes it's nice to come back home to a cozier story.

Not that this story was all rainbows and kittens. There were some downright scary parts to it, and I'm in college; I don't (or at least, I shouldn't) scare the same way the intended audience (ages 10-14) does. The Marquess is quite the frightening lady, though. There's also a scene, involving Autumn, that was rather terrifying.

The story is rather episodic, hence my summary is so short. And everything is really intertwined, so by the time I explain one thing, I'd have to explain another, and soon the whole book is given away. I rather like that about it, though. It means that you can read it in small chunks and still be satisfied, but the bigger picture is definitely what makes the whole thing worthwhile.

I rated this book PG because of the scary parts, and also there's some violence. Not very graphic violence, but there are quite a few mentions of blood. I gave this book 5 stars because I absolutely loved it. I loved the storyline, the characters, the world, and definitely the writing style. I really think the writing is what sold me. This is a book meant for younger audiences, in relation to the YA books I usually read, but because of the way it was written, I didn't feel for a moment like I was too old for the book. Nor do I think that it is inappropriately written for its audience. This is one of those books that I can imagine parents reading to young children (and enjoying as much as the kids do) and older children reading it themselves. In any case, I gave this book 5 stars because of how much I enjoyed it. It was a wonderful book, and I am definitely going to be buying it as a gift for someone in the near future.

This book was sent to me by the publisher.