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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Golden Day

By: Ursula Dubosarsky

I have to start by saying that this cover is beautiful.  The golden, orange, and brown tones of the cover melt together and form a watercolor that fits the book perfectly.  While the cover is a rather simple scene -- a path leading to two people off in the distance, the overall picture is beautiful.  The way the leaves border the top make it seem as if we are peering into one single moment shared by the two people off in the distance.  This is exactly what the book is like.  It is a short book with about 150 pages.  It is a glimpse into the life of eleven school girls in Australia during the Vietnam War.  The writing style matches the beauty of the cover.  Ursula Dubosarsky writes from the eyes of the school girls, Cubby in particular.  Cubby seems to be a little scared and confused.  Although it never states her confusion or her fear clearly the writing brought it out so that I felt it rather than saw it in Cubby.  The book starts with a teacher, Miss Renshaw, saying that they are going to a nearby garden to think about death because of a man that was hanged.  In the garden they meet up with someone the often see there, Morgan.  Although, on this particular day, they go further than the garden.  They go to a cave near the beach.  A lot of the girls are scared when they go in the cave and after a few minutes they run out.  They leave Miss Renshaw and Morgan in the cave.  After some time they return to the school without Miss Renshaw.  For most of the book after this the school children have to decide whether or not to tell people where they went because Miss Renshaw had told them to never tell anyone about Morgan.  The entire book takes place in just over a week until the last few pages which is at the end of the girls education.  Four of the original eleven finish their last exam but are still confused about what happened to Miss Renshaw.  One thought of Cubby's shows what the book is about and how it is written.

"That afternoon, they felt no astonishment at any of it.  Perhaps a butterfly, too, is unimpressed by its transformation from those wormlike beginnings.  Why shouldn't it crawl out from the darkness, spread its tiny wings, and fly off into the windy mystery of the trees? The grub lies quietly in its soft cocoon, silent, thinking.  It knows everything."

I would give this book a 3.  It is a beautifully written and interesting because of the writing.  Although I did find it interesting, I had no problem putting it down and walking away.  It held my attention but did not grab at it.  I think that not grabbing at my attention worked well with the writing style and was neither a good thing nor a bad thing.  It was good but not amazing.  It was like a bite of an apple.  The apple is juicy and full of flavor which tastes really sweet.  Once the bite is over there is no pull to take another but that is only because the first was sastisfying.  Like the cover the bite was a simple glimpse of a larger whole.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Where the Stars Still Shine

by Trish Doller. Available September 2013

       I picked up this book feeling wary, because I previously read Room by Emma Donoghue. I found Room to be a masterful, realistic, and respectful way of portraying a kidnapping from the victim's perspective. After reading that book, I didn't know if Where the Stars Still Shine would rise to the challenge and give a unique look at a kidnapping case or if it would disappoint me. More on this later.
       When Callie was just in kindergarten, she was kidnapped by her loving yet domineering and slightly off-kilter mother. She's now 17, reunited with the father who she barely remembers, and must transition to her new family and life. She learns independence, new responsibilities, learns to make decisions for herself, and faces the issues from her past. She especially learns what a respectful, loving relationship is all about... By getting hooked up with a boyfriend and having lots and lots of sex.

       That's right, this galley focused a lot more on romance than psychological trauma from kidnapping. I'd have to say that I'm disappointed overall. I was ready to read a book about a slow transformation into modern life, but really I read about a girl who gets nervous around her mom and gets hot and steamy with a hot greek guy rumored to be a bad boy. (I guess I should have picked up on that foot-flipping-I'm-kissing-someone-right-now-action on the front cover).
       Much of the story is about meandering dates. It's not wrong to have a couple chic-lit books out there with the focus on kissing and sex (oh, lots and lots of sex), but I think here the romance overrides the kidnapping part of the story. To prove my point, Callie didn't have any issues transitioning into the life of a regular teenager. The story glazes over how she studies for her GED and didn't even tell me if she passes. She recognizes an astounding amount of pop culture from movies to music, and she has no problems making friends (or boyfriends for that matter), getting a job, or meeting family. Generally, all the fitting in she has to do (which isn't much) is solved pretty quickly.

       To be honest, I am totally sick of any romance whatsoever. Unless it's great and necessary, I don't want to read it. Scoring a boyfriend or girlfriend by the end of a novel doesn't always enrich it. It's now, in my eyes, a cliche.
       If you like chic lit, romance, or summer escapades, you'll like this book. For you people, this book is a solid 3. However, my patience for romance had been reduced. It was merely okay; closer to a 2. It was like eating a store-made cake. Is the frosting made with real buttercream frosting, or is it the stuff from a can? It turned out to canned, but at least the cake wasn't stale.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Black Helicopters

By Blythe Woolston

Black Helicopters is narrated by a girl named Valkyrie.  Her father raised her and her brother, Bo, away from civilization, and they fear other people.  They believe that everyone is out to get them, and, during the "present" chapters of the books - intermingled with flashbacks - Valkyrie goes out with a bomb strapped to her chest to blow something up.  That's pretty much the whole story.
This book was one of the most unfulfilling stories I have ever read.  At the end, I knew about as much as I did at the beginning; there was no discovery.  Valkyrie was barely a character.  I could not relate to her in any way.  Her motivations were completely lost on me.  I never really understood what she was trying to do, and even after I finished the book, I still couldn't figure out where it had been trying to go.  Valkyrie was ageless in that anywhere-between-eight-and-eighteen way; it states that she's fifteen, but her character is so malleable and mushy that if it hadn't been explicitly stated, I would never have known.  She was altogether a not very believable character.  The black helicopters are an almost forced element of the book at times, and I found it to be an inappropriate title.  The title should have hinted at some sort of theme in the book instead of simply pointing to one of the plot elements.  I could have used the hint.
I give this book a 1.  It is gruel.  Tasteless, not particularly filling, and eaten only when there is nothing else to eat.  If you think this book sounds interesting, read the back cover.  That's a better story than what's between the covers, and you get the same amount out of it as you would if you read the whole thing.

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