Sunday, October 2, 2016

A Monster Calls

by Patrick Ness
Sept 24-Oct 2, 2016

I began this book knowing very little. It was simply recommended to me by a friend and fellow book-lover. All he told me was that it was heart breaking; be prepared to sob at the end. So I steeled myself and read A Monster Calls in one week. I typically try to read only current releases because there's just not enough time and so many great new books that if it's over two years old, I tell myself I've missed the boat. But with strong influence from my trusted pal, I jumped.

This is heavy, heavy reading for young adults. Even for not-so-young adults. While it won about a jillion awards, I kept trying to decide if it would be a book I could recommend to my 11-year old niece (it's intended for ages 12-17, but of course my niece is brilliant and could easily comprehend this story). The final consensus though was that I cannot. It's just too sad. The best part about reading is escaping reality, and a book centered around a child whose mother is dying of cancer, is just too real. Not that the message wasn't wonderful – it was.

Ness masterfully wove a narrative about coping, strength and simply "letting go." The metaphor of the yew tree was perfect. I think because I was warned about the emotional ending, I was better prepared, so I didn't cry. I didn't let myself get overly invested. I'd say that anyone over 15 will connect with this book.

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Saturday, September 24, 2016

Two if by Sea

by Jacquelyn Mitchard
Aug 20-Sept 24, 2016

Five weeks. Struggling. That's a long time for a book by an author I adore. But what a disappointment. I was so excited to dive into Mitchard's latest because it had been about eight years since she'd released anything new. I have to admit that even the jacket copy wasn't as intriguing as I hoped. But from a well-loved storyteller, I had to give it a chance.

The first issue I had was with the far-reaching facts. Not that reality can't be suspended in a great novel, but it still has to be believable. Adopting a boy saved from a tsunami, when in fact, the boy was kidnapped, is not endearing. The second stumbling block was the heavy focus on horses. Horse training. Horse farms. Horse competitions. Horse, horse, horse. While it may have added interest to the plot, it could have been edited down significantly. From there, the story spiraled out of control. Too many facets, too many directions this book tried to cover. It was like the story was trying to be a romance, mystery, animal-lover, murder, intrigue and family epic all in one. Too much. The telepathy the children had could have been the main focus, but was instead eye-rolling because it was treated more of an afterthought. Bottom line is that Mitchard should never, ever write a mystery novel again.

The whole tale seemed rushed, frantic and completely jumbled. The characters were not very likable, not well explained, and certainly underdeveloped. Even the "bad guy" was a head-scratcher. In the last 20 pages of the book when he finally appears, I found myself thinking "who?" And then not caring much because he was written like a mustache-twirling buffoon. Throw in the killing of the family dog and a newborn foal – presumably just to add suspense – and I'm done.

This review is incredibly harsh, I know, but I expected so much more from one of my favorites.

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