Tuesday, October 30, 2012

YA + Cocktail Hour

A bit heavy on the YA this month. Yeah. Maybe some of you who are home-bound because of Hurricane Sandy can find something good to read!

Clockwork Prince (The Infernal Devices, #2)Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is the first of Clare's books that has been a chore to get through! I wasn't even planning on reading it but the library was supposed to have Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness but then they didn't so I checked this out instead. :(

Bitterblue (Graceling Realm, #3)Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Maybe slightly lower than four stars. This book is very different from its companions. It was almost a psychological thriller. I enjoyed it for most of the book but I felt like the resolution wasn't as rich as it could have been. Still, I think Cashore is brave for writing a book that deals with some intense mental health issues as well as the larger issue of what to do with a country that has emerged from the 35-year reign of an evil tyrant. Not your average YA, that's for sure.

SweetheartsSweethearts by Sara Zarr

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One of the more thoughtful YA books I've read, that's for sure. There is something in this book to identify with for everyone:

-Your best friend from third grade who was the only one who really understood you.
-Your best friend from third grade who moved away after that. :(
-Things you go through when you're a kid and never tell your parents about until you're older.
-Sometimes putting on a show to make friends...and then having to keep that show up, always.
-Putting away a version of yourself after a move or other big life change.

In the end, this book went somewhere different than I thought it would, which made me lower my rating a little. However, I think the author took the high road by SPOILER ALERT having things NOT end up happily ever after with Cameron END SPOILER.

PS - now that I think about it, there are themes I identify with even as an adult. For example, raising kids while you're going to school and working - are you giving them enough attention? Can the lack of attention during one period be made up during another period, later on, when you have more time? Etc. Very interesting.

Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of ForgetfulnessCocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness by Alexandra Fuller

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was afraid to read this book, even after I loved Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight. Especially because I loved Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight. I didn't want anything to taint the beauty of that book.

Fortunately, Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness is almost as lovely. It focuses on the author's parents instead of her own childhood, and the stories are just as good. I found myself thinking of Nicola Fuller as a sort of Scottish-African Lady Violet from Downton Abbey, full of one-line witticisms that end in "I suppose." (My dad had the same opinion.) But alongside the humor, there is plenty of heartbreak. Fuller revisits a few of the more tragic episodes from Don't Let's Go, this time through the eyes of an adult rather than the nebulous, inexact understanding of a child. In a way, that destroyed some of the magic of the first book - to find out what actually happened. But I also kind of wanted to know, you know?

Fuller herself reminds me a little of Hugh Nibley in the way she writes so deprecatingly about her own family (when they dare to refer to Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight, they call it the "Awful Book.") She's obviously whip-smart, too, and always ready with apt analogies and sweeping generalizations that are also somehow really insightful.

A few favorite passages:
"The pathos and the gift of life is that we cannot know which will be our defining heartbreak, or our most victorious joy." - love that word 'pathos'!

"In her view, the immediate peril of a situation is always weighed against the glamorous obituary that might be written if the thing killed you: 'I suppose that's why I've never seen the dangerous side of riding. For me it was always a brave and gallant sport.'"

"She took a sip of wine. 'And another thing,' she said. 'They'll all have read the Awful Book and they'll be counting my drinks. I'll resent that.' 'Maybe they'll be drunk themselves,' I tried. Mum ignored me. 'Or they'll go on about how happy and smiling all the locals are.' Her brow sank over the rim of her wineglass. 'Well, of course the locals are always smiling - that's the expression least likely to arouse suspicion.'"

"Surely until all of us own and honor one another's dead, until we have admitted to our murders and forgiven one another and ourselves for what we have done, there can be no truce, no dignity and no peace."

"No one starts a war warning that those involved will lose their innocence - that children will definitely die and be forever lost as a result of the conflict; that the war will not end for generations and generations, even after cease-fires have been declared and peace treaties have been signed. No one starts a war that way, but they should. It would at least be fair warning and an honest admission: even a good war - if there is such a thing - will kill anyone old enough to die." - This is one of the best things I have ever read. EVER.

Every Other DayEvery Other Day by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Meh. Thoroughly unengaging and yet not distinctly unlikeable. I would say this would be a good read for younger pre-teens except that some of the violence would be too much for them. Younger pre-teens who are into overly bloody fight scenes, then?

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