Book reviews: One ridiculously good story in a week of predictable books.

First, I have to send out a GOOD LUCK, BEE!!!! into the universe because today is the actual StuCo vote. I thought it was yesterday, but yesterday was “just” speeches. Today is the vote, and it’s possible I’ll have to wait until tomorrow to hear who won. The suspense is killing me! But I know my girl will do well.

Now – on to books! It wasn’t the best week in reading…

book192To the Bright Edge of the World, by Eowyn Ivey (2016, Little, Brown & Co., 432 pages, library hardcover). I was so looking forward to Ivey’s new release. Her first book, The Snow Child, was one of my Top 10 read the year it was published. Bright Edge had some of the same magical realism to it, but it didn’t feel the same. The journal entries made the characters harder to empathize with. It was much easier to get into the head of Sophie, Colonel Forrester’s bride, but try as I might to read just for her voice, the story was overwhelmingly dark and weighty. It was like reading Gulliver’s Travels mixed with a history textbook. I was hoping for something more like Oregon Trail or Island of the Blue Dolphins mixed with Snow Child. I’m sure others will rave about Bright Edge and I won’t be surprised when it ends up on the Tournament of Books long list (if not the short list), but it just wasn’t for me. 2 of 5 stars.

book193White Nights in Split Town City, by Annie DeWitt (2016, Tyrant books, 300 pages, library ebook). Maybe I was just in a crummy mood, but I hadn’t figured it out yet. White Nights was another book I just couldn’t get into. Jean’s mom splits (bet you didn’t guess that) and so Jean is left behind is a dusty, beat up town, trying to figure out how to grow up – when all she really wants to do is hide from the world in the fort she built with her best friend Fender. Meh. I feel like I’ve read this story a hundred times by pens more descriptive and catchy than DeWitt’s. 1 of 5 stars.

book194World of Ink and Shadows, by Lena Coakley (2016, Harry N. Abrams Books, 352 pages, hardcover). Gracie-girl got this in one of her OwlCrate boxes. I was looking forward to finally diving in – the story is about the four Bronte siblings and how they got their story ideas for their early (unpublished) childhood works by actually traveling into the books with the characters. It sounded so Thursday Next!! Alas. The magic just didn’t feel the same to me. Perhaps if I was more of a Bronte fan? But that can’t the case – I adore the Thursday Next series and her first book is about Jane Eyre. So that’s not it. Something else was off for me, though not for everyone else – the book is rated pretty high. Just not for me. 2 of 5 stars.

book195Exit, Pursued by a Bear, by E.K. Johnston (2016, Dutton Books, 248 pages, library hardcover). I couldn’t put this book down. It was what made me realize that no matter how big the slump, no matter how grouchy my mood, if a book is that good, I’m going to know. I won’t throw it aside because I’m not in the right mood. Exit made me ignore my children, it was that good. In fact, I ordered the hardcover, it was that good. I’m going to read it aloud, even though there are some fairly heavy topics: sex, rape, consent, gossip, social media, abortion, high school bullying, PTSD. But I think my kiddos can handle it, with the proper talks from mama as we go along. And the topics are something important for my girls to know. Gracie’s in junior high – she needs to know the dangers of accepting an open drink from someone who isn’t in her absolute inner circle. (How sad is that?) She needs to hear for the millionth time that I’m here for her, no matter the circumstances. I also want all of you to know that in all of my reading – and I average 200 books a year, mind you – I have never read a book that handled the topic of PTSD (and fear and coping) in teenagers so gracefully. It’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay if you can’t cope, or if coping means taking a “time out” from what you think you “should” be doing. Seriously, you guys – all of you – read this book. Even though there are cheerleaders. Heh. 5 of 5 stars.

book196The Things We Wish Were True, by Marybeth Whalen (2016, Lake Union Publishing 276 pages, library ebook). Annnnd we’re back to books I feel like I’ve read a hundred times. This was a story about a small, idyllic town with a bunch of secrets, and a bunch of cheating grown-ups. That pretty much sums it up. Sigh. 1 of 5 stars.

 

book197A World Without You, by Beth Revis (2016, Razorbill Books, 284 pages, library ebook). Yes, I know this is going to sound incredibly stupid, but I really thought this book would be a winner because there are multi-colored strings across the front, just like the Jandy Nelson books, and yes, I know that’s a ploy and it worked, but I couldn’t help it. The story wasn’t very Jandy-ish – it was about a boy with delusions he could travel in time, which is what he wanted to do to escape his boarding school and go back to when his best friend was still alive. I love that there are more books and stories available with characters dealing with mental health issues… I just wasn’t that into this one. It didn’t feel different to me. Nothing grabbed me or held me captive until I finished. I didn’t care about Bo (though I did feel bad about his crushing loneliness). Maybe it’s because I have access to so many other similar stories and am incredibly picky. Who knows. But this just wasn’t the book for me. 2 of 5 stars.

Here’s hoping the reading week ahead holds something catchier. I know I have two winners – Ann Patchett’s Commonwealth and David Arnold’s Kids of Appetite, but I’m saving those for my plane reads that I’ll need in two weeks! Such a temptation though!

 

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