"Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read." Groucho Marx

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

I've read a number of young adult novels of late and was hungering for something a little more challenging. When kept idle too long my brain craves something to work at so I made Hannah Kent's latest my next selection. Burial Rites was worked up as a top book club choice in a recent Book Pages publication and I've had it on deck for a couple of months. It seemed like the right time to add some edge back into my reading list...

This is an intriguing and horrifying account, made more so by the advance knowledge of its basis on a true story. I couldn't help but admire the strength of Agnes as time crawls toward her execution date and she continues to work hard, treat the people around her with patience, and even reach out in kindness when such an advance is allowed. Agnes' story hints at political maneuvering that leads her to be treated as an example rather than an Icelandic citizen honestly heard and found guilty of the heinous crimes inscribed. Agnes teaches me, yet again, that all is not as it initially appears and it is possible to live gracefully when anything but seems infinitely more fitting.

Though masterfully told and clearly well researched, Burial Rites left me with more questions than answers. I wish I knew more about all the characters in the novel, particularly what happened after the final page was turned. I can speculate on how Agnes' life was changed by the people surrounding her during the months of her exile but I'm curious to know how the lives of others were changed by Agnes. Hannah Kent has sparked my interest with her tale and I look forward to doing some additional reading on the events covered in Burial Rites. Well-written and engaging to the end, this book continues to resonate in the back of my mind hours after I've finished it.

You will find an official plot line description at: https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1393224135l/18295842.jpg.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Brave by Nicholas Evans

This one is a 2.5 for me. I would have given it a 2 but I did really like some of the characters. 

I'm a fan of other novels Nicholas Evans has written so this one surprised me in its lack of momentum and its inability to fully engage me. I easily figured out where the story was headed early on so there wasn't any mystery or surprise to keep me wondering. The early discovery made the rest of the novel seem lengthy and slow-moving.

Despite that, Evans character development was spot-on, as usual.  I was fully involved in the part of the story that focused on Tommy during his time at boarding school. The other boys at the school and the teachers were so well done I thought I might recognize them if I were to bump into them on the street. So, while this wasn't my favorite novel from Nicholas Evans, I admire his tremendous talent and continue to count myself among his fans.

You will find an official plot line description at: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7947096-the-brave.

The Giver Quartet by Lois Lowry

Typically I make a point to review each individual book in a series because, as we've all experienced, not all installments are created equally. This time separating the individual books in the quartet seemed to give the wrong idea about the group as a whole. As a quartet, I rated it a 3 but given the chance I would have given it a 3.5. 

I really enjoyed the first one, The Giver. On its own I rated it a 4. These are written for middle-school and junior high-aged kids but reading them as an adult gave me a different perspective than I had as a kid. I was fascinated by the world Lois Lowry created and even more intrigued when I read the note to readers in the back of the book. The ending provides readers the opportunity to speculate on where Jonas ends up and I was delighted by the varying ideas fellow readers had about how it ended. I was so intrigued by this first book, I immediately started the second one. 

Gathering Blue was my least favorite book in the group. On its own I gave it a 2.5. It seemed so completely unrelated to The Giver I couldn't see how it tied in at all. There were so few story elements to celebrate in Gathering Blue it was difficult not to find the whole thing too depressing to continue with. It takes place in a dismal place of hardship and disappointment and I felt sorry for the characters stuck there. It was my curiosity about how these stories could possibly be related that kept me reading into the next one. 

I'm glad I continued with Messenger because it was then that a few things began to come together and I was able to start making connections between the first two installments and this third one. On its own I rated it a 3.5. Even though I enjoyed the tying in of the first two novels, the momentum of The Giver is still not recovered in Messenger. The quartet officially becomes what a reviewer I admire calls an "eat-your-vegetables-book". It's good for you to read but not always necessarily pleasant during consumption. Still, I had to know how the four books would come together full circle... 

This brought me to the final installment, Son, which I rated a 3. I was completely engrossed in the first 25% of Son. At last, all things were coming together and I could finally begin to speculate on where everyone ended up! Through the middle Lowry loses the momentum again and I had to wait until the final 25% to get it back. That's not to say that I wasn't still interested because I certainly was but the story moves at a slower pace and I couldn't help but wonder if I was ever going to find out how it all coincided. The quartet ends well with most of my questions answered and I was glad to have experienced all of the novels one right after the next. If I hadn't been able to continue through all four of them without waiting for the next to be published, I'm not sure I would have read them all. I think reading all four of them and discussing them all at once would make for a fabulous book club discussion because it's difficult to completely value one without the support of the others. I'm looking forward to catching up with my friends who decided to read them all with me. 

You will find an official plot line description at: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17234575-the-giver-quartet?from_search=true.

Never Fade by Alexandra Bracken

I was putting off reading this one until it was a little closer to the publication date of the third one but my master plan was foiled when the release date of the last one, In the Afterlight, was moved from September 16 to October 27. Bummer! 

I was so glad to catch up with the characters I fell in love in The Darkest Minds and the following novella, In Time. Happily, there were a few new characters for me to adore in Never Fade. The action continues in this installment of the trilogy but it's not without substance. I've thoroughly enjoyed "watching" the characters in this trilogy grow and develop as they continue to find ways to survive the tragedy that has befallen them. The premise of the plot line is not lost in the excitement. Bracken masterfully continues to bring readers back to the heart of the story without losing the momentum she created in The Darkest Minds. I continue to anxiously await the release of In the Afterlight! 

You will find an official plot line description at: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16150830-never-fade?from_search=true.