It's true! There's totally a tree in here, y'all! It's a sweet, lumpy-enough-to-be-cute Fraser fir. The cat is still deciding whether to acknowledge it, although she did enjoy the tree skirt before the tree was here:
Anyway, this wound up being a pretty productive week. I added another 6,000 words to the WiP and finished three books toward Ghenet's 12/12/12 challenge! They were...very, very different from each other.
What I Read This Week:
Devilish by Maureen Johnson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This was a totally weird, fun read. Knowing Maureen Johnson's work (and totally loving her sense of humor) meant that there was no way I could resist her book about what happens when Satan (or rather, a mid-level employee of the corporation that makes up Hell) comes to an all-girls Catholic school. I passed it over a few times in favor of shinier, newer books, but every time I went to the bookstore, it was in the back of my mind until I was driving myself crazy wanting to read it. And, to be fair to my brain, it totally lived up to the little voice in my head that kept telling me, "Read this one! It's gonna be awesome!"
I think I've said before that Maureen Johnson vies with Libba Bray for "author who makes me laugh the most". This book has a weird, dark, goofy sense of humor (I mean, obviously) that I completely loved. I wasn't always super-invested in all the characters, but when they were sketchy, they were at least good sketches. (I particularly liked Jane's super-smart academic dad and her "lovely and happy" sister Joan who may be the sweetest, most likable complete moron in the history of literature.) Overall, though, the humor was wacky enough and the plot intriguing enough that I kept turning pages. This is definitely a book I will look back at when I'm doing revisions--Maureen Johnson is a master at embedding humor in a simple turn of phrase, a three-word description, or a horrible situation. For that alone, I'd recommend it to anyone who likes funny. (But, around Halloween? I'd recommend this to pretty much anybody.)
Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I don't know how much I can say about this book that hasn't already been said. Yes, it is the story of a teenage girl and her family trying to survive their brutal deportation from their home in Lithuania under Soviet rule. It is horrifying with small, infrequent moments of grace and happiness. You have read the stories of survivors before. But you have not read this story.
What shocked me was how readable this story was. I read this book in one sitting of about three hours. The story is simply told, and many characters are given descriptors instead of names--the man who winds his watch. The grumpy woman. It feels like a story. Until it doesn't, because in stories, really bad things eventually stop happening to the good people that we care about. But I think the simplicity and readability just make the reactions against what is happening stronger.
This isn't a normal book so this isn't a normal review. This is the kind of book that needs to be read by as many people as possible. This is a book with a mission, but at the same time it's a beautifully told story. If you haven't picked it up yet, please just make an evening in your life where you can read it without distraction. It's definitely worth the time.
Adaptation by Malinda Lo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book...I don't totally know how to describe it. It's in strong contention for weirdest book I've read this year, in a good way. When Reese and David find themselves stranded hours from home on a day when the birds of North America have freaked out and caused huge numbers of plane crashes, they try to make their way home through the Nevada desert by car. But a bird causes them to crash, too, and they wake up nearly a month later in a strange, mysterious hospital. Once they get home, they start to realize that things have changed forever.
There are parts of this book--Reese's worries about messing up at Debate Nationals, her romantic woes, her relationships with her parents and family friends--that feel like scenes from a pretty likable contemporary story. Like, I would read a book about Reese and David, flirty stranger Amber and best friend Julian just...having a summer vacation? Negotiating a love triangle? But of course, they have bigger fish to fry. Like maybe the U.S. Government.
One of the big challenges when writing a book with sci-fi/fantasy/paranormal elements is creating a believable, grounded world. This is especially true if we're meant to believe that these elements are a part of the world we actually, currently live in. Malinda Lo definitely succeeds with this. I did occasionally find myself thinking, really? Reese is still worrying about the fact that she screwed up that debate competition when these huge, life-changing, earth-shattering things are going on? But...yeah, she is. I totally would have been, when I was a teenager. So I'll give her that.
I will say this...don't be put off by the science-fiction element. It is a weird, creepy story, but it feels new and fresh. I read a lot of science-fiction as a teenager, since there wasn't enough actual YA around to fill the YA stacks at our library, so random genre fiction would get dubbed YA and stuffed in there. This is something wholly different. In what I've read about it online, a lot has been said about this being like The X-Files and I think it would definitely appeal to fans of that show. But it also does something all its own. I think the closest I've come to feeling like this about a book is The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer just in terms of sheer "what just happened?" I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next in this story.
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