Today's Grateful List/31 December 2015

  • Going to get answers no matter what

Sunday, September 29, 2013

And...I'm BACK! With a REVIEW! Of a terrific book, no less! And another really good one!


Actually, I haven't really been anywhere...other than reading some books for review for the Historical Novel Society and trying to keep my head above water at school and with a bunch of volunteering for the high school band. I know, I know, everyone tells me I will miss volunteering for band once K graduates this spring, but somehow I doubt it. It's so time-consuming and I just don't have it in me to want to continue. Plus, my reading mojo has been lacking; I've allowed other things to keep me from finishing books, so this looks to be one of my worst reading years EVER. That sucks.  Big Time.

But anyway, I have finished a few books, and one that I can share here is Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis. If anyone is looking for a GREAT dystopian YA, look no further. This is a good one that doesn't focus on romance or saving a nation. It's about...well, here's my review:

The only life Lynn has ever known is one of desperation and defense; in a world where water is at a premium, she and her mother must protect their pond from anyone and everyone. That means Lynn has learned to shoot a rifle at a very young age, and at sixteen, spends much of her time either purifying the water or sitting on her rooftop, waiting to pick off anyone who comes near. Off in the distance lives a neighbor man, Stebbs, but Lynn has been taught that everything is about survival, and that means trusting no one. Until her mother is killed and Lynn finds that there's more to life than protecting the water; what good is it when there is no one else around?

So much emotion in a dystopian book that brings us heartbreak and hope in equal measures. The loss of Lynn's mother is both tragic and yet freeing; Lynn has to rely on Stebbs, which opens her closed world to the possibility of friendship and even love. The rescue of young Lucy further stretches Lynn's world view, and the introduction of Lucy's young uncle, Eli, brings the possibility of closeness cautiously, perilously close. As the story progresses, I can feel the edges being pulled back, though there's still danger as a band of evil thieves survive the harsh winter and pose a threat to both the water and the small group of friends. Though I could feel where this story was headed, it still had me turning the pages rapidly, hoping against hope that Lynn would be able to protect what was hers.

I absolutely loved how the layers to Lynn's heart were revealed slowly and subtly, and the characterizations of the people involved in her small world were vivid and believable. This story is as much about survival of spirit as it is about a dystopian world where water is everything. McGinnis has written a story of change that makes this a much different take on the dystopian novels which are so popular; it focuses not on a love story, or trying to right a wrong in an entire world, but instead is about real people who have much to learn and much to give. Excellent and highly recommended.

And also, I read another fun one by J. Maarten Troost:  Headhunters On My Doorstep. Seriously, this guy is the bomb when it comes to travelogues. Here's my review:

I love J. Maarten Troost. Seriously, he seems to be someone I'd really love to hang out with: smart alecky, observant, witty, and skeptical. Plus he seems to know where all the coolest spots are in the South Pacific, and he always seems to have some sort of adventure that defies believability. And nowhere is this more apparent than in Headhunters On My Doorstep, his newest travelogue entry wherein he retraces the journeys of Robert Louis Stevenson in the late 1800s.

Troost begins his latest book by sharing his own personal journey through alcoholism; recently sprung from the land of rehab, he realizes it's time to get back on track in lots of ways. This time he uses maps and other sources to follow RLS's life-changing trek through the South Pacific (a story I knew nothing about). Going off the beaten track, Troost, in his trademark style, swims with sharks (and also avoids them when necessary), runs across islands, and basically explores anything and everything that will take him closer to Stevenson's journey. I'm ever amazed at the places he stays and the people he encounters, all while describing worlds that I'm sure can only be truly experienced first-hand. A bonus for this reader was Troost's return to Kirabati, the island where his first book, The Sex Lives of Cannibals, took place. Like all things, time has moved the island forward and yet some of it is still the same. I would have liked him to spend more time there, revisiting with sites and people, but his time on Kirabati is only a short stop along the way.

Though this is a short read, I did labor over it as I pictured the places being visited and tried to absorb the mini-history lessons and the cultures. Troost does spend quite a good bit of time sharing his feelings about addiction and his need to not relapse; while I understand how much this impacts his daily life, I did wish there was less time spent recounting that portion of Troost's life (to the detriment of more details of the islands). But overall this book shows Troost's deep, abiding respect for the islands he called home for a time, and it only reinforces my own wish to visit them myself some day. Until I can, I'll continue to enjoy Troost's trademark humor and attention to detail as he gives me a glimpse of lives I can only imagine.


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