Saturday, July 20, 2019

Review: Sea Prayer

Sea Prayer Sea Prayer by Khaled Hosseini
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It's a little unfair, possibly, for me to include a picture book as part of my reading challenge this year. But let me explain. It was because of the dog.

I had the dog with me in the car. We were leaving her vet appointment. To be time-efficient, I was also going to return books to our local library, which in passing memory, boasted a drop-in slot for a drive-thru book return. Awesome. It's super hot, I don't want to get the dog nor I out of the air-conditioned car for a second.

I drove through. What? The slot is locked? I pressed a useless buzzer to no avail. Forced to park and exit the car, I then began to worry that some SPCA spy would see me leave the dog in the car. I carefully made a big deal about opening the windows (which I would do, regardless of SPCA fears), and hurried into the library. The return book spot is almost half-way in at the library. At that point, I am now near the 'current books we recommend' shelf. DANG IT. I start to grab books, where I usually browse and take my time, but the dog is in the car, and I don't want her to swelter any longer than necessary. I snatched a variety of books, and this one was included. I had no time to complain about the forbidden dropbox but simply slid my books through the automatic check out table, and left.

That being said, this is a beautiful book, and it is more of a protest poem than a picture book. The drawings are haunting and the real story that it is based upon, the death of a three-year-old Syrian boy who died with his father, who was trying to escape a war-torn country by boat, is moving and thought-provoking.

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Friday, July 19, 2019

Review: This World We Live In

This World We Live In This World We Live In by Susan Beth Pfeffer
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I was very intrigued by the premise and the hints of the past scientific anomalies which created this past-future disaster. The writing was very good at the beginning. I sometimes like dystopian stories and this held good promise.

But it started to feel rushed and oddly slapped together at the middle-end, starting with our heroine Miranda's falling in love with Alex. It was too quick and convenient. Miranda's character was charmingly realistic, and I had the impression she was a middle schooler with her inward groans and outward arguments with her mother and brothers. Yet, her gruff charm turning into ferocious love-starved teen was a leap beyond my expectations. There was no slow growth and development. It was weird that young men and women of nearly the same age all met at the same time to fall in love with each other - Miranda, Alex; Julie and Jon; and Matt and Syl. Three love stories in one book? I supposed it's possible but it felt too clunky. The religious moments felt contrived, and a lost opportunity to become full-fledged foil within the storyline. The character I most liked was the mother because she felt the most realistic. She was self-sacrificing, sexist, tired, and focused on keeping her family together. The scene where she is dazed among the ruins of her house after a tornado was a little tiresome, "we keep the family together", etc. Her ex-husband's (Miranda's dad) cheerful near-giddy arrival and his wife with her bemoaning the potential loss of her friend Julie to a convent (yes, it's a part of the story) were weird. Syl, Matt's insta-wife, was the most unexplored character who went from mystery girl survivalist to strong, gritty realist in a blink of an eye.

I DO like the dramatic and unexpected ending. Spoiler alert: Miranda ends up murdering the sister of Alex, since Julie, the sister, had a terrible spine injury, and faced the rest of life being carried around everywhere. Miranda didn't quite explain her motivation, but it felt like a mercy killing. She hides this information and everyone assumes (for now) that Julie had died in her sleep, likely due to internal injuries. Miranda realistically closes with she may have to tell Alex one day. I liked that chilling little end. The beginning and end are the best parts of the book.

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Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Review: The Line Tender

The Line Tender The Line Tender by Kate Allen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a well-thought-out book, written with near-poetic grace and sensitivity. This novel is centered on the life of a young girl who is coping with the death of her mother, a woman whose scientific work studying sharks creates the unifying motifs of the sea, sharks and water throughout the story. Lucy, on the cusp of discovering first love, experiences another tragic loss. The characters of her father, their widowed neighbor and her father's friend Sookie are tightly written, and while not as dynamic as Lucy's development throughout the story, these three men create their intriguing storylines.

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Sunday, June 30, 2019

Review: A Lady's Guide to Etiquette and Murder

A Lady's Guide to Etiquette and Murder A Lady's Guide to Etiquette and Murder by Dianne Freeman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is quite the charmer. It was like what if Downtown Abbey's Lady Mary Crawley had become a detective? I loved that twist of the usual mystery book.

The female empowerment theme was satisfying as were the details of the glorious intricacies of high society in Victorian England, and how it would be more likely to murder a sister-in-law than ruin her reputation because a ruined reputation would affect the whole family.

The twist at the end was a bright spot, as I actually didn't see it coming. It was overall a very satisfying read.

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