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17 September 2017

Book Review: The Rest of Us Just Live Here

The Rest of Us Just Live HereThe Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What was everyone else doing while Harry Potter saved the world? While Katniss was kicking ass and taking names?

So much YA fiction now is about an alternate universe; a dystopian world; a magical realm. As if the trials and tribulations of teens aren't enough to fill a book, we have to add saving the world and aliens and magic and evil and superpowers to make it interesting and readable and best-seller-y.

This book takes place in a dystopian world. One that has been wracked by zombies and soul-eating ghosts and vampires. And now a new threat; the Immortals. But the book doesn't talk about the kids who are fighting the Immortals. It imagines what life is like for the bystanders.

Each chapter opens with a short synopsis on what the "indie kids," the chosen ones, are doing. Chapter by chapter, we follow the magical story but only in summary. Only in parody.

"Chapter the tenth, in which indie kids Joffrey and Earth disappear from their homes, their bodies found miles away; Satchel goes into hiding at an abandoned drive-in with fellow indie kids Finn, Dylan, Finn, Finn, Lincoln, Archie, Wisconsin, Finn, Aquamarine, and Finn; seeing a blue light in the night, Satchel meets the boy from the amulet, the handsomest one she's ever seen; he tells her this isn't a safe place for her or the others and that they should run; then he tells her she's beautiful in her own special way and that's when she knows she can trust him; the indie kids go back to their homes."

Then the chapter continues on with the everyday lives, worries, and loves of the not chosen.

I have never read Patrick Ness before, so I had no preconceived expectations in diving into this book (which my kid read in a record 2 hours)

And I liked it. A heck of a lot. Maybe because I'm so tired of wading through all the YA fiction that buys into the idea that you aren't special unless you are tragic. Or magic. Or tragic and magic.

**Warning: A "Back in MY Day...!" old-person rant to follow**

When I was a kid I read Narnia and Tolkien. But I also read Blume and Hinton. And, usually, I liked Blume and Hinton better. One of my most favorite books as a pre-teen was some book about a girl who got a part-time job in a bakery. I don't even remember what it was called. Or who wrote it. But I read and re-read and re-read. Because that girl, that character, gave me a template for what I wanted to try to turn my teenage life into. I'd never go save the world. But maybe I could find a cool part-time job, two supportive adults-who-are-not-my-parents who believe in me and, bonus!, a cute, shy, brilliant boyfriend with great hair.

I don't think enough of those types of books exist today. And reading the reviews of THIS book, I understand why; so many people thought this book was sooooo boring. "Who wants to read about normal people?" the reviews say.

We've trained ourselves not to be interested in ourselves. We are not special unless we pretend to be more than we are on social media. Unless we're keeping some deep, dark, traumatic secret. Unless we are secretly a god or a superhero or a spy. The criteria for what makes someone special has increased; the bar is set too high.

Ness lowers the bar a bit (though he cannot take it all the way back down; his cast of characters includes a recovering anorexic, a kid with OCD, and the god of cats, though, to be fair, the god of cats is only a quarter god and he wants nothing more than to be normal, going as far as to using his boring, milquetoast middle name instead of his unique and powerful first name) and gives us a book about people. "Normal" people. Bystanders in the midst of typical YA-fare strife and adventure, but carrying on with their trivial lives, trying their best not to be touched by the burden of saving the world.

And I thought the concept was brilliant. I enjoyed the characters. I enjoyed the writing, too. Things like, "It's not the answer to everything but it's the one thing that's going to make the questions bearable." Or a girl who has that "combination of total self-belief and utter self-doubt that is more common than people think." Or "I wonder if realizing you're not sure about stuff is what makes you a grown-up?"

Or this; "Pity is an insult. Kindness is a miracle."

"Most people just have to live their lives the best they can, doing the things that are great for them, having great friends, trying to make their lives better, loving people properly. All the while knowing that the world makes no sense but trying to find a way to be happy anyway."


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14 September 2017

Book Review: Nemesis

NemesisNemesis by Agatha Christie
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

For me, 1970s Agatha Christie is just not as good as 1930s-50s Agatha Christie. Since I was alive in the 70s, the romance of the era is gone. Christie's books are much more fun when they are also describing a world that no longer exists.

This one is kind of a shattered cozy; limited set of characters but not limited enough. Limited locations but not limited enough. Miss Marple is front-and-center finally, but I found myself actually wishing she was back in St. Mary Mead being visited by flummoxed investigators and dispensing seemingly non-sequitur wisdom.

But I do admire her pluck. When I am old, I shall wear a pink shawl and call myself "Nemesis."


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11 September 2017

Book Review: At Bertram's Hotel

At Bertram's HotelAt Bertram's Hotel by Agatha Christie
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

*** Spoiler Alert ***






It broke my heart that Bertram's Hotel was just a front for a crime syndicate because I really wanted to go stay there. And eat "well-buttered muffins," whatever those are since what I know as muffins are derided as a "kind of tea-cake with raisins in them. Why call them muffins?"



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10 September 2017

Book Review; Library of Souls

Library of Souls (Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children, #3)Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Though it had about four different denouments at the end, I'm glad the real ending is the one that sticks. We have time

And though I was, at best, a lukewarm fan of the series, the whole thing was made worth my while with this beautiful little snippet of writing;

"She had a heart the size of France, and the lucky few whom she loved with it were loved with every square inch--but its size made it dangerous, too. If she let it feel everything, she'd be wrecked. So she had to tame it, shush it, shut it up. Float the worst pains off to an island that was quickly filling with them, where she would go and live one day."


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Book Review: A Caribbean Mystery

A Caribbean Mystery (Miss Marple, #10)A Caribbean Mystery by Agatha Christie
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Miss Marple is IN this one! Like an actual character! Not an afterthought!

AND she is confused! Not sure of herself! Not the magical all-seeing crone she usually is!

AND I figured it out! I feel smart!


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Book Review; Hollow City

Hollow City (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children, #2)Hollow City by Ransom Riggs
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I really don't like creepy vintage photos. They give me an unexplainable whiff of anxiety and disquiet.

So I shouldn't like these books.

But I do. Kind of.

The first one I read without knowing that it was partly inspired by the photos contained therein. Though Riggs has said that, this time, he wrote the plot and then chose the photos, the book still felt mechanized, as if forced to rally around the collection of pictorial oddities.

Or maybe it was that it was just a publisher-forced sequel (why do publishers make everything trilogies now?) that made it feel a little forced and mechanical.

Regardless, I enjoyed it enough to want to read the third one. So off I go.



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30 August 2017

Book Review: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children, #1)Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As I was reading, I thought to myself, "If these creepy pictures weren't in here, I would be enjoying this book so much more!"

Then I read the interview with the author that is in the back of the edition I read and discovered that the creepy pictures were actually the inspiration for the whole story. So I guess I'm ok with the creepy pictures, since it inspired a story I enjoyed reading (but, really, I'm not ok with them). But, also, the story isn't nearly as creepy as the pictures make you think it's going to be which, for me, was a good thing.

What I enjoyed most about this book was the whole-book nod to legacy and how tragedy can indeed taint, or inspire, the generations that come after you.

"I thought about how my great-grandparents had starved to death. I thought about their wasted bodies being fed to incinerators because people they didn't know hated them. I thought about how the children who lived in this house had been burned up and blown apart because a pilot who didn't care pushed a button. I thought about how my grandfather's family had been taken from him, and how because of that my dad grew up feeling like he didn't have a dad, and now I had acute stress nightmares and was sitting alone in a falling-down house and crying hot, stupid tears all over my shirt. All because of a seventy-year-old hurt that had somehow been passed down to me like a poisonous heirloom, and monsters I couldn't fight because they were all dead, beyond punishing or any kind of reckoning."


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