June 25, 2018

Monday Review: NEVERWORLD WAKE by Marisha Pessl

Synopsis: It's Groundhog Day. Well, sort of. It's a lot less funny and a lot more scary, even when your four ex-best-friends are in it with you.

It's been a year since graduation; a year since Beatrice's boyfriend Jim died under mysterious circumstances deemed a suicide, with his body found in a quarry near their exclusive Darrow-Harker School. It's been almost that long since Beatrice has seen the rest of the members of their group, but out of the blue she accepts an invitation from her former best friend Whitley to join them at her family's estate up the coast, Wincroft. Beatrice is sure they'll know something more about Jim's death, and she's ready to find out.

Problem is, while they're all there, the five of them end up stuck in a time loop—a splinter, according to the mysterious Keeper who shows up at the door of the estate. Each time the time loop ends, they have to vote—and AGREE—on who gets to survive and live on, because only one of them can get out of the time splinter alive.

Observations: There are multiple sources of suspense in this one: Beatrice's quest to find out what happened to her boyfriend Jim, and also the group's repeated attempts to foil, fake out, or otherwise exit the time loop. Each day, something different happens, except when it doesn't. And each character copes differently: Kipling (the one character I was a little less sold on, because I couldn't buy his character quirks) and his drinking and attempts at suicide; Cannon the computer genius, who disappears for days at a time; Martha, the odd one, who brings her considerable intellectual faculties to bear; and Whitley, who seems determined to party and commit mischief until the end of time.

I'd only read Marisha Pessl's book for adult audiences, Night Film, which was both strange and suspenseful as well. This one combines elements of the supernatural and time theory with the classic page-turning greed of a thriller. Despite a few lingering questions about the how and why of it all, I ended up enjoying this one quite a bit.

Conclusion: If you're looking for a fast-paced, exciting, dark thriller, and aren't put off by hints of the supernatural, then you might enjoy this one. Also, fans of timeslip, time travel, and alternate universe fiction should give it a try.

I received my copy of this book courtesy of my library's ebook collection. You can find NEVERWORLD WAKE by Marisha Pessl at an online e-tailer, or at a real life, independent bookstore near you!

June 21, 2018

No Kids in Cages

We don't usually get overtly political over here, but there are times when it's unavoidable. Times when something is so unconscionably, unimaginably WRONG that speaking out is not an option. Over the past few days we've seen the rights and well-being of migrant children, of "their" children, clearly articulated as less important than the rights and well-being of "our" children, doing irreparable damage to thousands as a result. Even with the promised incremental change to policy, kids have already been harmed, and it's inexcusable.

A vast swath of the kidlit community has come together in protest of this policy, publicly signing an open letter in opposition to the conditions under which these immigrant children are being held, and raising an incredible $173,533 so far for donation to Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) and a handful of other organizations providing services to immigrants and refugees at the border. You can read more and donate here.

The final thought I'd like to leave you with is this tweet from fellow author Carrie Jones:

June 11, 2018

Monday Review: THE STONE GIRL'S STORY by Sarah Beth Durst

Synopsis: It's hard to resist a story about stories. We are the stories we tell about ourselves—that's the theme that shines through in Sarah Beth Durst's newest middle grade fantasy, The Stone Girl's Story. The stone girl is Mayka, just like a twelve-year-old girl in most respects except that she was carved out of stone by her father, a Master Carver. He gave her life, as he did with so many other stone creatures with whom she shares her cottage, and he carved her story onto her stone skin.

The story has a rather sad, poignant beginning, though. It's been a long time that Mayka has been caring for the cottage and its inhabitants on her own—stone lives longer than flesh, after all. We join the story long after Father has gone, but Mayka is saying goodbye to another longtime companion, Turtle. His marks have faded, and he has slowed to a stop. Mayka, determined to find another Master Carver who can recarve the marks and save her friend, leaves her remote mountain for the first time and ventures in the direction of the city of Skye, where she's sure to find someone skilled enough. She also, of course, finds adventure.

Observations: There's a classic quality to Mayka's journey—a quest that brings danger, new friends, and surprises, and ultimately ends in Mayka realizing (minor spoilers – highlight to read) that what she seeks lay within her all along. At the same time, she'd never have experienced that empowerment without going on her journey. The friends she meets along the way, and the wondrousness of the setting and its magical stone creatures, provide a nice counterpoint to the notes of sadness and urgency that are inherent to Mayka's situation.

The story itself, as I mentioned earlier, is really ABOUT stories, and the idea that our experiences carve themselves upon us and make us who we are. It's a gorgeous idea, and one that is echoed in the idea of tattooing, which for many people does tell a story of who they are, and who they might be. But don't be deceived into looking only at the surface--this book is also about power, who wields it, and who has the right to tell someone else's story. As in all of Durst's books written for younger readers, the simplicity is deceptive, and along with the whimsy are complex ideas shining through.

Conclusion: I feel like this is one of Durst's strongest middle grade books yet. Its starred reviews are well deserved, and I wouldn't be surprised if it's an award contender—but whether it is or not, I highly recommend it for fantasy fans and fairy tale enthusiasts of all ages.

I received my copy of this book courtesy of the author and publisher (thank you!!). You can find THE STONE GIRL'S STORY by Sarah Beth Durst at an online e-tailer, or at a real life, independent bookstore near you!

June 07, 2018

Happy Summer!

Between early-summer travel, summer school class prep, copious novel rewriting, and some much-needed down time, it's been quiet here on the blog, but here's me and Tanita just cruising in to say HAPPY SUMMER and we'll be back with some more book reviews and other fun stuff soon! In the meantime, enjoy this happily reading hippo I found.