Monday, January 9, 2017

Book Review: A Corner of White

A Corner of White (The Colors of Madeleine, #1)

I picked up A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty because it was one of the contenders in the 2015 Battle of the Children's Books.  From the premise, I was prepared to love it.  Madeleine and her mother have run away to Cambridge.  Madeleine is doing home school with two other kids and missing her thrilling old life.  And then there's Elliott, who lives in the town of Bonfire in the Kingdom of Cello.  He also lives alone with his mother.  His father disappeared years ago, on the night his father was found dead.  Madeleine and Elliott begin writing letters back and forth to each other, through an accidental gap between the worlds that they believe hasn't been open for centuries.  There's all kinds of other crazy stuff in Elliott's world: a "Butterfly Child" that Elliott hopes to catch to change his family's luck, "color storms" that are both weather and can effect people's emotions, and a royal family that seems hopelessly out of touch with the people.  And on Madeleine's side, she and her peers seem to have an odd obsession with learning about Isaac Newton.

There was a LOT packed into this book.  And yet... it felt like not much happened.  Why?  Because basically the entire book was setup for the rest of the series.  I read a review that said that of the 375 pages of this book, about 370 of them were prologue.  That may be a slight exaggeration, but it pretty much captures my feelings.  When I look back on the book, I think, "Huh, yeah, there was some really good material in there."  But while actually reading it, I was just frustrated.  Madeleine and Elliott wrote to each other, but they repeatedly stated that they didn't believe in each other's existence, and their storylines didn't really intersect until the very end.

Really, that statement holds true for the entire book--it felt like a lot of disparate threads that didn't come together until the very end.  So if I were to read the sequel, I assume that would be better.  But reading this book was pretty frustrating.  Don't get me wrong; I enjoy guesswork and trying to stay one step ahead of the characters.  But this book just felt like so many separate threads to tie together, plus ineffective world building, plus so little action, that I couldn't wait to be done.  I have read several reviews from people who loved this book, so to each their own--but it wasn't my cup of tea, and I don't think I'll be picking up the sequel.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Book Review: What I Thought Was True

What I Thought Was True 
I was absolutely, completely, head-over-heels in love with Huntley Fitzpatrick's debut novel, My Life Next Door.  So I was extremely excited to get my hands on her second book, What I Thought Was True, which is set in the same idyllic small town of Stony Bay, but focuses on different characters.

Fitzpatrick's sophomore novel tells the story of Gwen Castle.  Her divorced parents both work hard for what they have, her dad managing a restaurant and her mom working as a maid.  Both have jobs that cater to the island's wealthy upper class and summer crowd.  Gwen's family has also raised her cousin Nick, who is the same age as Gwen, and a younger brother who has special needs.  Nick has big dreams and a serious work ethic, which will someday take him off-island.... but these seem to be in direct conflict with his longtime and committed relationship with his girlfriend Viv, who he hopes to marry, who plans to stay on the island and take over her family's business.

Gwen, meanwhile, has somewhat of a checkered past.  The guys in the book seem to view her as somewhat of a "bad girl" because she has been with three different guys.  But through hearing her story unfold, the reader feels sympathy for her, for how she felt made mistakes in past relationships and aches for the right relationship to develop.

And then there's Cass.  He's the handsome golden boy, son of a rich summer family, and part of Gwen's past.  But as their story unfolds, we learn that what's between them is far more than just a mistake, but has many layers of emotional depth.

The premise of this story could have felt cliché, but in Fitzpatrick's hands, was lovely.  Girls like Gwen are far too often judged and cast aside, but here she felt vulnerable and sweet, and I wholeheartedly rooted for her.  In that respect, the book was definitely a success.  Had I read this book as a standalone, I would have completely endorsed it.  However, comparing it to My Life Next Door, it felt like a letdown.  It just didn't have the same magic.  A good read, one I will even recommend, but not one I will rave about.