Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Book Review: Where She Went

Where She Went is the sequel to Gayle Forman's hauntingly beautiful If I Stay.  In If I Stay, readers follow Mia Hall as she experiences a horrific car crash that kills her parents and younger brother and then hovers between life and death herself.  Ultimately, an impassioned plea from her boyfriend Adam convinces her to "stay," and the novel ends with her first flicker of consciousness.

Where She Went picks up three years later and is told from Adam's point of view.  From an outsider's point of view, Adam's dreams have come true.  His band, Shooting Star, has become wildly successful.  They've just released their second album and are about to depart on a European tour to promote it.  He can't show his face in public without being mobbed.  He's half of a celebrity couple, dating well-known movie star Bryn Shraeder.  He seems to have achieved the life he's always dreamed of.

But the story is told from Adam's point of view, so all the reader can see is his misery.  His relationships with his bandmates have deteriorated so far that he can barely stand to be in the same room as them anymore.  He takes anxiety pills like candy and smokes heavily, but neither does much to calm him.  Reporters are constantly on "bump watch," asking him when he and Bryn will have a baby.

And maybe some of that would be palatable, if it weren't for the deep, raw hurt that has never healed, the one that inspired the angry, pained songs of the album "Collateral Damage" in the first place.  It all comes back to Mia.  Yes, she lived.  Against all odds, she recovered from the accident that killed her family.  And then she left for Julliard in the fall.  And she never came back.  She cut Adam loose and never contacted him again.  And he can't forget it, can't forgive her, can't heal from it, can't get past it, no matter what he does.

And then, just when everything seems at its bleakest, Adam looks up from a New York City street and sees Mia's eyes staring down at him from a billboard.  She's playing in Carnegie Hall.  Feeling that it's fate, he buys a ticket.  This begins their one night of reconnection, a chance for him to discover "where she went" before the future closes in..... because the very next day, he's slated to fly to London to start his tour, and she's scheduled to fly to Japan for a tour of her own.  One night to catch up, to discover what went wrong, to learn if maybe they can forgive each other....

Even though it's written in the hard voice of a rocker, Where She Went is every bit as beautiful as If I Stay.  Unlike Mia's story, this book is not guaranteed to be sadness from beginning to end.  Although If I Stay was the one to originally make it onto the New York Times bestseller list, I would actually argue that Where She Went is the better book--though it does need the first one to set the stage.  Don't miss this two-book combo--Adam and Mia's stories wind together beautifully, and their distinct voices add a wonderful layer of richness to Forman's narration.  Not to be missed!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Book Review: Everneath

If I was simply a "judge a book by its cover" kind of girl, I would not have picked up Everneath by Brodi Ashton.  I mean, don't get me wrong--it's an attractive cover.  But lately there just seem to be so many "semi-faceless girl in a long flowing dress" books that they all blend together.  Likewise, some parts of the book's premise seem dully similar to so very many of today's YA books.... Nikki is being forced to choose between Cole (the bad boy with a strangely magnetic hold over her) and Jack (her first love, who she fears she has lost forever).

There were actually two factors that caused me to put this book on my TBR list.  For starters, it's featured as Utah's book in Epicread's "United States of YA," which I've already announced my intentions of conquering.  Second was the blurb from Ally Condie (who I love) on the front cover, which reads, "I was pulled under by this bittersweet, beautiful retelling of the Persephone myth.  Wonderful!"  I am definitely a sucker for modern retellings of ancient myths.  And in spite of my initial hesitation, Everneath did not disappoint.

Either six months or 100 years ago, depending on how you figure, Nikki Beckett made a decision that changed her life.  Devastated by pain and betrayal on all sides, she begs mysterious musician Cole to make all the hurt go away.  And he does--by wrapping her in his embrace and transporting her to the Everneath, where he Feeds off of her emotions to sustain his own eternal life.  Slowly, all of Nikki's memories of life on the surface are stripped away, until the only thing she has left to cling to is an image of a face.  She can't even remember the name of this boy with floppy brown hair and big brown eyes, but somehow, his mere image keeps her clinging to life.

At the end of the Feed, Cole is stunned to find Nikki still young and vital, not an elderly skeleton like the hundreds of other mortals he has Fed on over the years.  Moreover, he is shocked that she chooses to Return to her life on the surface rather than succumb to death in the Tunnels.  She is granted a reprieve of six months on the surface before the Tunnels come for her, but the Nikki that returns is an emaciated, hollowed-out version of the one who disappeared without a trace six months before.  Cole pursues her to the surface, convinced that she holds the key to his ascension to the throne of the Everneath.  Against all of this obstacles, Nikki tries to reclaim some shard of her old life, rehabilitate her relationship with her family, and smooth some of the pain that her disappearance caused.  And then there's Jack--she is as drawn to him as she has always been, but she doesn't want to cause him any more pain....

Conveniently, Nikki's English class spends the year studying mythology, and her story is sprinkled with references to the study of Osiris and Isis, Hades and Persephone, and Orpheus and Eurydice.  She struggles to make sense of how she can use the knowledge from these myths to find a way to escape both the Tunnels and Cole and remain on the surface for good.

I do think that the book overall could have been improved (at least in my opinion) by a heavier dose of mythology--more explanation of the original myths and how they related to Nikki's story.  I had to call heavily on my own background knowledge of mythology to understand how they tied in, and in some cases, I felt like I was stretching the connections--was I reaching the conclusions that Ashton intended, or was I just making stuff up?  I'm guessing that most YA readers don't have the same level of background knowledge of mythology as this high-school-English-teacher-turned-librarian, so I felt that including more detail (particularly since the novel is billed as being "a modern retelling of the Persephone myth") on the mythology was almost vital to the storyline.

Without the mythology, the storyline has some serious holes in it.  There's this great action sequence toward the end where Nikki and Jack are researching ancient Egyptian symbols in an attempt to foil both Cole and the Tunnels, and I really thought things were getting fascinating.... and then things abruptly shifted directions (and it was still action-packed and interesting, but in a very different way).  And yet, in spite of my complaints about lack of consistency, I must admit that I tore through this entire book in less than a day--which is a very, very rare event in my overscheduled life.  And upon finishing the book, I immediately rushed to Goodreads to find out what the other books in the series are (novella called Neverfall, then Everbound, then Evertrue) and if they have all been published or if I'd be stuck waiting (Evertrue came out TODAY--yes!!!!!).  So in spite of complaints, I did love the book and am anxious to read the rest of the series.  Anybody else read it?  What did you think??

Friday, January 3, 2014

Bryn's Book Review: Belle the Birthday Fairy

This post is the first in what I hope will be a series of guest posts by my 8-year-old daughter, Bryn. Much like her mommy, Bryn is an avid reader and writer. Bryn is in second grade and will be joining the blog with some guest posts on the books she's reading these days.

In Belle the Birthday Fairy, mean Jack Frost stole the three, magic ,birthday items! The three, magic, birthday items are a Magic Birthday Book, a Magic Birthday Cake Candle, and a Magic Birthday Present.

There are two Main Characters named Kirsty Tate and Rachel Walker. These two young ladies help the fairies whenever the fairies need help! They defeat the evil Jack Frost with the power of imagination!

Mrs.Walker's (Rachel's mom) birthday is the same day as Jack Frost's birthday, Saturday! That's TWO DAYS AWAY!

There are three different parts to this book. Each part has 5 chapters. Do the math! The math problem is 3x5. Did you guess 15 chapters? If you did, you're right! Don't worry. Each chapter is short!

Belle the Birthday Fairy wears these things:
* purple flower in hair
* purple dress(no sleeves)
* gold purse in hand
* gold slippers on feet
* gold necklace
* gold bracelet

Chapters(in order):
(5 chapters in part 1)
1. Parties in peril!
2. A new fairy friend
3. Goblin intruders
4. Birthday book hunt
5. Discoveries!
(5 chapters in part 2)
6. Cake catastrophe
7. Goblins in Tippington!
8. Kitchen chaos
9. Trapped
10. A deal is made
(5 chapters in part 3)
11. Party pooper
12. Party planners
13. Inside the ice castle
14. A brave act
15. Parties galore!

Can Kirsty Tate and Rachel Walker get all the magic birthday items to the fairies in time for Mrs. Walker's birthday party on Saturday?

My opinion about this book is that you should sit back and relax while reading this wonderful book made by Daisy Meadows.                   :)