Today's Grateful List/31 December 2015

  • Going to get answers no matter what

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Eleanor and Park. READ THIS BOOK. NOW.

I don't usually write reviews right upon finishing a book, but Eleanor and Park is different. It's been a few hours since I closed it and my heart is still overwhelmed. I want to crawl inside this book; I wish I'd written it. Truly magnificent. There are lots of reasons why.

1) Eleanor and Park are both REAL. They fall into this relationship in the most bizarre of ways (she's forced to sit with him on the bus) and yet, it all makes perfect sense. A relationship that develops slowly and as friends has a true base, and you can feel it in every word.
2) The home lives of each one are entirely believable. I know people who have as messed up home lives as Eleanor, and they struggle to overcome every day. I also know people who have relatively normal, sane parents who strive to make a good home for their kids, even if they sometimes mess up along the way. Eleanor's world and Park's world are in perfect contrast to one another and they work.
3) Eleanor works hard to rise above the horrible way she is treated at home and in school, but she also has a pretty impenetrable wall that only Park can get around. And yet, he still messes up. It's all a journey and both Eleanor and Park make major strides in becoming the person they want to be.
4) It has a killer soundtrack. I grew up in the 80s and I loved the references to music I knew and loved, and I love how it tied Eleanor and Park together and to the storyline. Music speaks when we can't.
5) The emotions are raw. There are so many and I experienced them all through the beauty of Rowell's writing: pain, anger, resignation, desperation, passion, happiness, embarrassment. You name it, it's there, and each emotion leaps off the page and wraps itself around you.
6) That ENDING. Wow. Just wow. Please don't write a sequel; it's perfect as it is.
7) Rowell's writing. I know I've already mentioned this but it is just exquisite. When Eleanor talks about Park's arms being a tourniquet around beautiful. And it's all like this.

There's a lot of adult language and I did get upset that Eleanor was so hesitant about Park but it's all a part of the story and every single bit makes sense. My heart hurt, my heart sang, my heart got dragged through it all. Now I just want to sit here and hold the book and experience it all again. Yes, it's that gush-worthy. Yes, it's that moving. Yes, you need to read it. Right now. Highly, highly recommended.


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Loving Me Some Mercy

I'll start by saying I adore Mercy Thompson Hauptmann! She's a true heroine, real with faults but loyal and confident. Her relationship with her husband Adam is more than romantic: it's a partnership with bonds so deep you can feel them. So, yeah, I pretty much love all the Mercy Thompson books, and this is another outstanding addition.

This time around, Mercy faces what may be her strongest foe yet: Adam's ex-wife, Christy, who has slept with a man who is now stalking her big time. Christy is the antithesis of Mercy and it took maybe 1.5 seconds for me to dislike her completely. Mercy does better with the ex than I would have; she reminds herself that this is for Jesse, her stepdaughter, and Adam's need to make Christy safe. That said, it's more than a little hard for Mercy when it becomes obvious that the majority of the pack still loves Christy and Christy's out to use every bit of manipulation available to make herself look like a victim. Trouble is, she IS a victim to some extent because the man she slept with turns out to be a volcano god and he is beyond crazy, killing his way to get to Christy.

Possible spoilers've been warned.

The scenes where Mercy engages the volcano god are action filled and top-notch story telling. Briggs writes so that you can feel every blow Mercy gives and receives, and her cunning is sharp and mostly self-reliant. I find myself holding my breath whenever Mercy fights because I know she's going to get hurt but the fact is, she is so determined that I feel as though I am there. The way she faces her demons, both literally and figuratively, is thoroughly believable and entertaining.

The other facet to this story is Mercy being asked by one of the Grey Lords to return the infamous walking stick which she had previously given to Coyote. This side story brings a whole new character into the sphere: Mercy's half-brother, Gary Laughingdog. Their exchanges are typical of siblings in a lot of ways, and their reactions to dealing with their shared father Coyote are often humorous. Definitely going to love seeing where this goes in future books.

This novel takes the pack and Mercy to new levels of understanding and brings some big issues to light. Is everything resolved neatly? Of course not, and that's the beauty of this series. I'm drawn in by Mercy's assertiveness, her relationship with Adam, and her never say die attitude. Highly recommended!


Monday, June 23, 2014

A Triple Knot

A Triple Knot is the fictionalized story of Joan of Kent, royal daughter descended from Edward I of England who ultimately became Queen Regent for her son, Richard II. The novel, however, does not get to this point of Joan's rather engaging life; we follow her from the time she's a child who is basically raised with the king's children until she finally marries the man known as the Black Prince, some twenty years later. What happens in between really could be the invention of a novelist, with Joan marrying Thomas Holland, a lowly knight, in secret, and then going into another marriage with the son of the Earl of Salisbury at her family's direction. Her feelings for Thomas and her resistance to her second marriage ultimately becomes a decision for the Pope and the proceedings are dragged out over time. It's really amazing that this renowned beauty somehow managed to be united with the man she loved and overcome her family's insistence of the validity of her second marriage; beyond that, she eventually captured the heart of the Black Prince and came to power in her own right. Truly an amazing account that should be excellent fodder for an historical novel.

Unfortunately, A Triple Knot does quite a bit of "telling" rather than showing; there's a dearth of dialogue that would have illuminated the characters involved and involved the reader more fully with events that are at times pretty confusing. Even when there is dialogue, it's often either stilted and formal, or very flowery; I just could not get a connection to any of the characters because I just couldn't relate to them. There's a lot of intrigue going on (as I'm sure there was at the time) but Joan is cast firstly as a victim of a sexual predator, then as a mature lover (at age twelve!), then as a brave woman defending herself and others on shipboard, then as a sullen, depressed young woman; after that we find Joan as victim again, lover again, repeat cycle. With all that actually happened in this remarkable young lady's life, it seemed a bit overdone to have her fight off an attacker physically on a ship but then be held captive by her erstwhile husband a bit later. I know the gaps needed filling, and it's the author's prerogative to do so, but I just couldn't buy into it.

Not that there's nothing redeeming in this novel; I did enjoy parts of it and found that the author remained as true as I could recall to the known facts. It's just the characterizations the author chose in using those facts left me feeling cold. With a wealth of fascinating personages and events that changed the course of history, I just wanted at least one person to whom I felt a connection. I stuck with the novel through the end and never truly enjoyed the journey as much as I wanted to.


Sunday, June 22, 2014

Now For Something Different...A Graphic Novel

The Fifth Beatle is a graphic novel of the life of Beatles' manager Brian Epstein from roughly the time he meets the boys until his tragic death just a few short years later. At just over a hundred pages, it is lushly illustrated in a style that evokes the time period with its colors and likenesses, and yet it is more than that. It's both a celebration and a unencumbered documentary on the life of a troubled genius.

The novel takes us down the path of Brian's obsession with the boys, his driving ambition to see them become successful, and his tirelessness in bringing them to the world at a time when the world most needed them. It doesn't, however, shy away from the darker stuff, all of which contributed to Brian's demise: His necessarily closeted homosexuality, his addiction to drugs, and his not always sharp business acumen. More than that, the book is colored with Brian's insecurities and his overwhelming need for love in whatever form it was available. With sequences that chronicle actual events (this Beatles' fan recognized actual well-known conversations) interspersed with whimsical episodes, the story moves through the successes and disappointments, staying true to the facts and the people of the time.

The actual artwork is breathtaking and vivid, with characters' countenances reminiscent of their real life counterparts. It took me a bit to get the idea of Moxie, the girl who seems to be Brian's assistant; I didn't recall anyone so named in his real life, but after I *got* it, I have to admit, she's a good addition that helps us see another side to Brian's personality. When I finished the story, I was left with a sense of waste and disappointment for Brian Epstein, and yet the story is told so well in both pictures and text, it's a must for any Beatles' fan. Well worth the price for daring to examine and illuminate this tortured genius.


Monday, June 02, 2014

Graduation Day

Graduation Day is the final book in The Testing series, and it wraps everything up rather nicely. While I never felt on the edge of my seat while reading it, I certainly can say I enjoyed the action (even if some of it was hard to swallow).

Basics: Cia is at the University, but she knows The Testing must stop so future generations will not have to undergo the rigorous, brutal conditions she and her fellow students did. Unfortunately, it seems that everyone is watching her, and she's unsure who she can trust, outside of boyfriend Tomas. When she expresses her concerns to the President, she finds herself at the heart of a plan to eliminate several officials. But she knows she can't do it alone.

There is a lot of action in Graduation Day, but also a lot of dithering, and "testing" of others' resolve. Cia always wants to do the right thing, but she takes a long time figuring out what to do, a fact that makes the novel drag at some points. In fact, though overall I liked the novel, there were several times I felt events were way too coincidental; without giving away spoilers, I will say that I doubt young people could move about so freely as Cia does in the beginning, especially when she's being watched for suspicious activity. I also wondered about the confidence the President placed in her, which seemed a little far-fetched, even for a post-apocalyptic novel. And I'm still not sure I'm buying that explanation at the ending, but it was action-filled and interesting. Overall, this is a good ending to the series and actually rates a strong 3.5 stars, so I'm rounding up for general enjoyment.