Sunday, April 28, 2013

Sunday Sunshine: Two Weeks In One Edition!

So...missed last week.  Missed it entirely.  Oops.

Part of that was due to blog fatigue--only two more letters to go, you guys!--and part was because I was mid-book on Sunday and didn't get round to finishing it in time for a review.  So here's what I've read in the last two weeks--including a book that I feel like I've been wanting to read since about the DAY I started blogging.  Jellicoe Road definitely topped the list of "books people have told me I MUST read"--and I'm SO excited and happy that I finally got to it.  I also completely fell in love with Meg Rosoff's books, which wasn't that surprising after hearing her speak and be awesome at SCBWI in February!

Here's what I read in the last two weeks!

 A Brief History of Montmaray (The Montmaray Journals, #1)A Brief History of Montmaray by Michelle Cooper
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A teeny-tiny fictional country, on an island populated by four villagers, a mad king, a grumbling housekeeper, and three royal girls? At the beginning of WWII? HELLO. Yes please.

As excited as I was to read this, it started off slow for me. I think the diary format, while endearing (holy moly, do I love Sophia), can be tricky in terms of conveying action and dialogue dramatically and authentically. Once I got used to the style, though, I found myself attached to all the FitzOsbornes (oh, including Prince Carlos, who I neglected to mention above because he is a Portugese Water Dog.)

The whole thing has more the feel of Downton Abbey than Code Name Verity, despite being set during World War II. Since Montmaray is so isolated, it's hard to get a sense of culture, and what little there is definitely feels pretty traditional (concerns for propriety, hemlines, etc.) But then the last third or so heats up into quite an exciting, suspenseful adventure, and I raced through it. I'm really looking forward to tracking down the sequels.

There is No DogThere is No Dog by Meg RosoffMy rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a strange book. I mean, really, what a truly bewildering, unusual book. And a funny one. And anxiety-provoking. And lovable. (Reviews excerpted on the cover of my edition with which I fully agree: "wildly inventive", "startlingly original", "thoughtful, hilarious.")

When a book makes me laugh out loud, that's a good sign it will be one of my favorites. When I have been reading a book for ten minutes and already laughed out loud twice, then gone back to re-read one of those lines and laughed out loud a third time...then it's this book. That has never happened before. Not that it's all a laugh riot, mind you. This book deals with literal forces of nature, life and death, love and sex, the weather. (Lots of weather. This is the most interesting book about weather you will ever read.)

And the clincher, the moment my brain actually articulated the words "Uh-oh, this book just stole my heart" is a little creature somewhere between a penguin and an anteater. He's an Eck. He's called Eck. He says "eck" a lot. He's the last of his kind, he's God's own pet, and he's a dear. I noted him as my favorite-ever minor character and about 20 pages later, he was vaulted into the plot in a way that meant I could not stop reading and/or thinking about this book.

But there are other characters, I suppose. Like God--properly called Bob--who is a teenage boy. Whatever comes to your mind when you hear the phrase "teenage boy" probably applies in this case: Bob is a sex-addled, self-centered slob. He's also creative, bold, and exciting (in short bursts.) (And he's nowhere near as nice as he should be to Eck.) Bob is in love with Lucy--who, unfortunately, is mortal. This is his story as much as it is his. It's also the story of Mr. B (imagine Rupert Giles, but if he really couldn't stand Buffy, if Buffy was God, and if Buffy had actually beaten him out for the job he wanted in the beginning.) Bob's mother Mona, Mona's poker nemesis and intergalactic tough guy Emoto Hed, and Emoto Hed's unflappable daughter Estelle also figure into the godly side of things, while Lucy's clergyman godfather Bernard, her be-cardiganed mother Laura, her prickly boss Luke, and Luke's daffy neighbor Skype(!!) round out the human cast. I've come to love them all, I suppose, although Mr. B is the clear winner after Eck, and Estelle next, and then everybody else forming the pack a ways back from third place (just because I love those three so much.) You may have different favorites; they're all favorite-able.

This is a book about people (to use the term loosely) in bizarre circumstances looking for equilibrium. Only one character has what it takes to actually bring that about. (Hint: it's not Bob!) Read this and see for yourself why I loved it. I'll leave you with one of my favorite bits:

"Eck tilts his head and gently licks Bob's ear with his long, sticky tongue. It is his special way of expressing sympathy and it is not effective."
--p. 18

I received a copy of this book through Goodreads First Read program in exchange for an honest review.
How I Live NowHow I Live Now by Meg RosoffMy rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've heard this book called dystopian or post-apocalyptic; those phrases both conjure the picture of something that feels far-off and strange. This book feels terrifyingly immediate and plausible. Shortly after Daisy travels from New York to the British countryside to live with her aunt and cousins, war breaks out. It's not trenches and nukes, as people have feared in the past, but shortages, new rules, and sporadic outbreaks of violence. It feels like I imagine war might really feel. And yes, there is survival involved, and horrible things happen (spoiler/warning: horrible things happen to both people and animals, just as a heads up, although it's nothing too prolonged.)

Daisy's voice cuts through all she has to go through and forces you to care about her and her cousins. Even as she grows closer to one cousin than is usually permissible in works more recent than Austen, it's impossible not to sympathize with her. I love her blunt observations and the gradual unfolding of her own problems and perspectives. And I love how quietly and simply this book breaks your heart.

 The Selection (The Selection, #1)The Selection by Kiera Cass
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Re-read in order to prepare for the sequel.

Original review here.

 Jellicoe RoadJellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Warning: this review may be spoiler-ier than usual, largely because I feel like I am the LAST person on the entire internet to read this book. And because I loved it and want to talk about why. I will NOT spoil any of the major plot reveals, though.

I think I was warned too many times against the opening of this book--I was pretty much relieved to find that it was in English! But the opening, and the book in general, does something I love: it drops you in without much context at all, and asks you to work it out. All the pieces are there, but not all at once. This makes the unfolding story immensely satisfying, as you start to see things shift into focus.

And, ok. This may be a controversial opinion. So let me be really clear: I like Jonah Griggs a lot. I think he's great. I love the bits other people love: pulling over abruptly, his rubbish ideas about what's romantic, all. the. kissing.


Whatever I feel about Jonah Griggs is blown so far out of the water by what I feel about Taylor Markham. And particularly the evolution of the relationship between Taylor Markham and Jessa McKenzie. Jessa--and watching Taylor learn to love her--is my favorite thing about this book, hands down. (Um, so as you might imagine, I spent a fair amount of the last fifty pages or so sobbing. Like, I started as soon as I realized Jessa might be in danger, and then didn't really stop till the end because I was so overwhelmed.)

Anyway, thank you to everyone who's ever raved about this book. I'm one of you now. I love it SO much. (UGH, and I haven't even touched on Raffy or Santangelo. So good. SO good. Just read it. Or re-read it, I guess, because I'm the last one to this party.)

 The Elite (The Selection, #2)The Elite by Kiera Cass
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the second book in this compulsively readable series. Kiera Cass writes the kinds of books that makes me curse book blogging, because I wish I hadn't heard of this series yet--it begs to be read all at once, and the third book doesn't even have a release date. But since I can't change the past or speed up the release of book three, I'll focus on book two.

Here's the thing about both The Selection and The Elite. The writing is actually not my favorite. And yes: the love triangle. Oh lord, the love triangle. It gets drawn out for. ev. er. So, I definitely have a few complaints--not major ones, not dealbreakers, but they're there.

...And then I get sucked into the plot and I kind of don't care. I get totally carried away by the caste system, the palace, the politics, the friendships, and the romance. And I want more. This series would make great spring break or beach reading: the books are both quick reads and I think they're a lot of fun. The Elite is a little darker than The Selection, as the political situations heat up both domestically and abroad, but at its heart it's still about a guy and a girl trying to decide if they're right for each other. I found myself thinking about The Selection way more than I expected over the year or so between when I read that and now. I have a hunch I will be experiencing similar pangs of "It comes out when???" between now and the release of the final book.

View all my reviews


  1. So much to comment on. Where to start... I have a copy of A BRIEF HISTORY OF MONTMARAY and it sounds really interesting to me. I like WWII-era stuff, too. As you know, I recently finished JELLICOE ROAD for the first time as well, and I really enjoyed it. I guessed what was going on very early, so the beginning didn't feel confusing to me. Maybe it's because I was warned so many times that it was confusing and to hang in there until page 100. I think maybe I was more watchful or something.

    I have THE ELITE downstairs waiting to be read. Like you, I wasn't a huge fan of the writing or the love triangle in THE SELECTION, but I got totally sucked into the story. Can't wait to read Book 2. :) Hope your weekend is going well.

    1. Yeah--I'm still holding out hope that THE SELECTION will become a TV series, although the pilot is now several years old so it seems unlikely. But I think I'd like it a lot more on the screen, since the story is so interesting and I wouldn't have to worry about the way it's written!

  2. Oh, JELLICOE ROAD. I love that books so much. The way those two plots come together... I'm seriously awed my Melina Marchetta's talent every time I think about that story. And yeah... I'm totally a Jonah Griggs fangirl, but I agree with your comments about Taylor and Jessa. In fact, every single character in that book is so incredibly well-drawn. Now I kind of want to reread it!

    1. You're definitely one of the people who made me want to read it! Thanks for the recommendation!

  3. Yes on Montmaray and YES on Jellicoe, which I love so much for all the reasons you mentioned. Does anyone write kisses better than Marchetta? I'm not convinced it's possible. And do they make me swoon? Yes. But Taylor and Raffy and Jessa are the heart of the book, and I love that the female friendships are just as complex and strong as the romantic ones. <3

    1. Yeah--Narnie and Tate included! I love books like that (Montmaray fits that mold as well, I guess!)


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