Tuesday, March 25, 2014

17 & Gone by Nova Ren Suma

I fell absolutely in love with Nova Ren Suma's novel Imaginary Girls, which I actually bought a finished copy of after reading an advance copy of because I knew I would want to reread it in the future (and I do). Her writing was haunting and vivid, and she instantly made it on my "must read YA" list. However, her most recent novel, 17 & Gone, just didn't excite me with the premise as much so it took a little while (almost a year) to pick it up. 

17 & Gone by Nova Ren Suma is the story of 17 year old Lauren who begins having visions of girls, all of whom are seventeen and missing. She begins searching for clues and trying to solve what is going on, both to the girls and to herself. 

As expected, the writing in 17 & Gone is flawless. Suma has a way with description and imagery that is hard to describe except to say it is pretty much perfection. However, the characters themselves were just not as interesting and complicated as those in Imaginary Girls, and the story itself was not as enigmatic or surreal either. 

The mystery of 17 & Gone was a little too predictable and expected to me, but there is still a disquiet to the book, and combined with the vivid writing, made it something I still really enjoyed. However, I would easily still recommend Imaginary Girls instead when referring to Nova Ren Suma, but if you are craving a little more from her you may want to give 17 & Gone a shot. I am definitely not deterred from picking up future books by Suma, with writing like that she has me completely under her spell.

Release Date: March 21st 2013  Pages: 354  Source: Personal  
Publisher:  Dutton Juvenile Buy It: Book Depository

Saturday, March 22, 2014

A Death-Struck Year by Makiia Lucier

I was actually pretty excited to pick up A Death-Struck Year by Makiia Lucier because back in the 8th grade I did a science fair project about the Spanish flu and I couldn't believe nobody had told me about it and that it wasn’t more well-known. I also was convinced that there would be another flu pandemic and this was back before SARS and stuff so years later I definitely felt validated. Anyway because of not-so-inner science nerd, it was pretty exciting to see a novel set during that period and focusing on those issues. Honestly, if I wasn't too lazy to write historical fiction, it is definitely a period I would love to cover.

Enough background though. A Death-Struck Year itself is about Cleo Berry, ends up alone during the time that the Spanish flu is reaching Portland, Oregon, something that at first seems impossible but is later inevitable. Cleo has never quite known what she wants to do in her life, besides make some kind of difference, and she takes her independence as the perfect opportunity to volunteer for the Red Cross. She also has some past experiences that contribute to her wanting to help strangers that might not get help otherwise.

The story is decent and well-researched, but unfortunately A Death-Struck Year well a bit flat for me, and I probably wouldn’t pick up anything else by Lucier unless the topic really grabbed me again. Maybe it's because of my own knowledge on the topic, but I just wanted more intensity and emotion out of the book. The writing is easy to read and follow, and probably appealing to a younger YA audience, but I felt like it had more potential than it fulfilled. There's also a bit of a "romance" that I was very indifferent too. I definitely thought the story was stronger when it came to friendship and family, but the story as a whole felt more like it was told me rather than it was something I was really living.

A Death-Struck Year is a novel with all the right parts, it covers really interesting issues from many angles and is well researched, but the writing lacks the depth and emotion that it needs to take Lucier's book from something that was decent, to something that was truly memorable. But I am definitely hoping this is not the last novel about the Spanish flu!

Release Date: March 4th 2014 Pages: 288  Format: Egalley
Source: Netgalley  Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers  Buy It: Book Depository

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Crow Memory + The Blood Keeper by Tessa Gratton

I found the first book in the Blood Journals Duology (that's what you call it when it's two books, right?) an incredibly addictive and delicious surprise. Blood Magic was an original, clever, well-written and passionate debut, and I was incredibly excited when the follow up novel, The Blood Keeper by Tessa Gratton, was released. I thought it would be an easy favourite.

Unfortunately, I didn't account for one important factor: The Blood Keeper isn't a traditional sequel. It features two entirely different narrators than Blood Magic, and although it is set in the same universe and there is a connection, this is a totally different story. While it's still a good story, I was honestly nowhere near as fond of the narrators in this novel as I was in the first, which meant The Blood Keeper was a surprising letdown to me. I spent most of the book longing for Silla and Nick from Blood Magic, and although the male narrator this time round, Will, was pretty good, I honestly found myself quite bored during many of the female narrator, Mab's, sections. It was really just too bad because I wanted to love this book the way I loved book one, and although I still firmly believe in Gratton's writing, her books are definitely less of an "insta-read" for me after this experience.

The story itself was interesting in The Blood Keeper, but with disappointing narration as well as a lot of description  about preparing to do different things and planning and less of the actual doing, it had a difficult time keeping my interest as well as the previous book. I actually still read it very quickly over 2 days, but the feeling I had while reading it and even afterwards is a lot more indifferent than excited, which makes it difficult to recommend and I'd prefer just to stick to Blood Magic which I really did love.

If you are interested in a little more of the characters from Blood Magic-- and I definitely am-- Gratton has published an online short story called Crow Memory from the perspective of a character in that novel, whose identity I won't share because, spoilers (although it's obvious if you've read Blood Magic). You can read it here on her website. It's short and I don't have an awful lot to say about it, but it is nice to pick up and a get a little more insight into that character, although I just want more and more of them. Pretty much I want more Blood Magic, and a little short story and a sequel that's not a sequel aren't going to satisfy that craving. Perhaps only rereading Blood Magic will.

Release Date: August 12th 2012 Pages: 432  Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher  Publisher: Random House Buy It: Book Depository

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

What can I really say about Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn that hasn't been written a billion times already, given how insanely popular this book was? But after so many recommendations, I too had to pick it up. I actually read this about a year ago and it was definitely one of the books that rekindled my love of suspense thrillers, a genre I have continued to reach for about once a month in the time since.

In terms of the book itself, I thought the writing was flawless and it easily kept me turning pages. It was dark and creepy and exciting, and I loved reading it. It was frustrating but it made me care, and as much as I wanted to toss it across the room, I wouldn't have wanted to stop reading even for the moment it took me to retrieve it. So I consider that a definite success.

That said, as much as I loved reading Gone Girl I was disappointed by the ending. I'm not sure if there's another way things could have gone, or should have gone, but I also wasn't quite content, and even a year later I wish for something a bit more satisfying. In addition to Gone Girl, Flynn has written several other books, and I have heard good things about Dark Objects at least, so when I have that mystery craving in the future, it is definitely one I plan to reach for. In the meantime, if you were to ask me if this book was worth the hype, I would have to answer "almost"-- but I'm glad to have read it regardless.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

I read Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott last year when I was looking for some writing inspiration, and also because it had been recommended again and again as a must-read book for writers (which I like to dabble in sometimes, although not so much over the last year! Perhaps I should be rereading this...)

In terms of how I felt about this book... well I would have been better off telling you a year ago. However, I can say that although it was an interesting and good book to read, I wasn't the hugest fan of her voice in some instances and probably wouldn't pick up any of her other work. There was also something about this just didn't feel as exciting and innovative, but that may just be because it has been referred to and shared so much over the years. I guess I wanted to be really inspired by this book, but I have always been more inspired by reading other writer's stories than by reading about writing.

That said, Bird by Bird is full of advice that is good to remember and to know that you're not alone in those struggles. It's not a book I was blown away by like I expected to be, but it is definitely one I may pick up again in the future for a little motivation.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

I Am Pusheen the Cat by Claire Belton

I'm a big fan of the tumblr, so of course I had to pick up I Am Pusheen the Cat by Claire Belton, the book featuring the same adorable little cat and cartoons. In terms of how Pusheen translate into book-form, it succeeds but doesn't excel. Although I read an e-copy, this would make a great coffee table book or gift for a cat lover. The cartoons are cute and funny, just like they are online. But there's no animation to them the way that Pusheen moves in the online images, and those movements are just really adorable. There is a lot of repetitive in the book from online, but if you love the online stuff, that's not really issue, I just wanted a little more original content. It also sorta attempts a storyline to Pusheen, but doesn't quite make it there. That's okay. I'm fine with Pusheen just being adorable moments like these:

I Am Pusheen the Cat is a cute book, but it's still the sort of thing I prefer in online format. That's okay. The Pusheen website is still there. And for big fans or for helping having a little bit of the Pusheen happiness offline, this book works. It's impossible to pick up Belton's book and be sad. That's good enough for me.

Release Date: November 1st 2013 Pages: 176  Format: Egalley
Source: Edelweiss  Publisher: Touchstone Buy It: Book Depository

Sunday, March 09, 2014

How the Meteorite Got to the Museum by Jessie Hartland

How the Meteorite Got to the Museum is a picture book written and illustrated by Jessie Hartland, who previously published How the Dinosaur Got to the Museum (2011) and How the Spinx got to The Museum (2010).

Despite being a picture book, this is definitely targeted at a slightly older reader as there is quite a lot of text on some of the pages. It has a significant educational element to it which is really great, without it coming across as boring or just a list of facts. However, as much as I appreciated the art, the story itself is one I think best-appreciated by the intended audience. There are some picture books that are just so sweet and lovely that I would definitely reread them again by myself, but How the Meteorite Got to the Museum is one I'd save to read to an actual child.

One aspect of the book I really appreciated was the diversity of the characters, how they all looked different. There's also something just so charming and interesting about the artwork, it looks childlike, but intentional. There is a depth to Hartland's colours, and it's unsurprising given that the author both wrote and illustrated, but the drawing and the text blend together seamlessly. The use of different styles of writing (both fonts and hand-drawn) helps keep the pages interesting and makes the book more fun to read.

How the Meteorite Got to the Museum is an informative, fun, and beautiful book. I am passing this book onto a friend of mine who is also a scientist, and I know she will appreciate the educational aspect as well for her daughter. A definite success and I would certainly pick up more picture books by Hartland in the future.

Release Date: October 8th, 2013  Pages: 40  Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher  Publisher: Blue Apple Books
Buy It: Book Depository