Welcome to my blog. I write about fitting in, sticking out, and missing the motherland as a serial foreigner.

February 2014 books

The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking, #1)The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book gave me Feelings. Some are good. Some are not. By the way, there are minor SPOILERS below. I can't write a thing about this book without spoiling a few things past the third chapter.

The Good:
Relationships. This book does them right. Todd and Ben. Todd and Cillian. Todd and Manchee. Todd and Viola. I was invested in each and every one of these relationships.

Originality. This is a very weird concept (you can hear everyone's thoughts and dreams out loud) that, for the most part, is executed well. I like the spookiness of the Spackle, too.

Manchee. Love that dog. And the other animals, too.

The kindness of strangers. I enjoyed reading about human beings unselfishly caring for other human beings.

Creepy/spooky/suspenseful. This book is all of the above and there will be times that you feel like you must read ALL THE THINGS.

However, The Bad:
Violence against women. I understand why the author did what he did with the women in this book, but it was just too much, in my opinion.

Unnecessarily mysterious. Oh, there was this horrible thing that happened in the past, knowledge of which will help you navigate your future and possibly lead you to make informed decisions that will increase your chances of survival? Nope, sorry, can't tell you just now. But I'll look real conflicted about it for a while and then spill the beans when the bad guys are approaching and standing around to talk will result in my untimely death.

Death death death death. Too much death.

Bad dream. You know how in bad dreams, you keep escaping from some horror and think you're safe, only to figure out that you're STILL in danger and must keep running? This book has that going on, in a big way. If a character in this book ever said anything like, "we made it! We're safe!" I immediately knew they were in imminent danger.

So...three stars? I'm starting the next book in the series but I'm not committed to finishing it. [Note: didn't finish it.]

Siege and Storm (The Grisha, #2)Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Better than book #1 (which was pretty dang good)??? YES! Some books I love against my better judgement - you know, there's that one part that's dumb, or that one character I could have done without, or that one story element that doesn't work. This book I just plain LOVE. No qualms or qualifications whatsoever.

I thought it would take a while to love a YA book as much as I did These Broken Stars, but here I am, gushing about Siege and Storm. Now I'm left with a horrible case of TEABS. Sigh.

A House in the SkyA House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I feel like fancy book reviews and book descriptions are always wanting to call memoirs "searing." Maybe this book's reviews and descriptions do that, too; I haven't checked.

But if ever a memoir could be called "searing," this is it. I was not expecting this to be such a difficult read. I at once could not bear to read on, and could not bear to put it down.

I have a thing for narratives of captivity, stretching back to childhood when my favorite book was Calico Captive (which is based on a true story, by the way). More recently, I've been interested in them because they tend to take place in the region in which I live (the Middle East). I've read enough of them by now to recognize the survival tactics the hostages have in common. Lindhout's version is unique in that she is a woman. Also - much as I felt when I began Between a Rock and a Hard Place - I assumed this would be a one-off book by a person who was interesting only because of the horror she experienced. However, just like Between a Rock and a Hard Place, I found that this is a very interesting person with interesting things to say who also experienced something horrible.

So yeah, great book, intense, hard to put down, life-affirming, thought-provoking...and searing.

Skellig (Skellig, #1)Skellig by David Almond

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read this because my daughter's Year 3 class is about to start reading it. It was good, but not drop-dead, Printz Award amazing, in my opinion. I think the kids will like it, though, because it's kinda non-threateningly spooky. And Miriam will relate because the main character's mom just had a baby.

Across a Star-Swept Sea (For Darkness Shows the Stars, #2)Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I love the book this could have been. As I began reading and realized it was a re-imagining of The Scarlet Pimpernel, I had to suppress a squeal of glee. I happen to love The Scarlet Pimpernel, but I have always thought that it wasn't quite good enough for the ideas it had. So I was hoping that Peterfreund would take it up a notch.

And the elements are all there. Peterfreund has indeed improved upon the original material, but the execution is off. I felt like I was reading a second or third draft. A very good second or third draft, but one that could have used some polishing and tightening before being released to the reading public. There were way too many awkward detours into the inner thoughts of the main characters. And wow, there are a LOT of main characters. There are a lot of shifting loyalties to keep track of, and some fairly intricate issues of gene science stuff. Again, if this book had gone through one or two more edits, I think I would have called this book complicated but brilliant. Instead, it's mostly just complicated.

In any case, it's still enjoyable and worth reading. For Darkness Shows the Stars was more my cup of tea, though.

Having a child now is different from five years ago (emotional edition)

Downton Abbey Season 4 Finale (SPOILERS)