Archive for the ‘GUEST REVIEWERS – FICTION’ Category

THE GIVER QUARTET by Lois Lowry

Posted: September 6, 2014 by BA Dillon in GUEST REVIEWERS - FICTION

the giver quartet

Reviewed by B.A. Dillon

How does one even begin to write a review on this delicious quartet given to us by the wonderful Lois Lowry? What I do know, is that since I finished reading all four books nothing else can compare. Nothing. Lois Lowry writes for a much younger audience, but when I participated recently in a chat with Ms. Lowry on Goodreads, I took note that most of the participants were adults. Similarly, most of the reviews on Amazon are also written by adults. Why does this series expand so well out of its demographic and fuel interest that spans to all generations? Simply put – it is incredible writing. Lois Lowry put The Giver in the hands of teens well before The Hunger Games, The Divergent Series, and The Maze Runner, and it has weathered the test of time.

The plot is suspenseful and thought-provoking. The story is about a boy name Jonas who lives in the “ideal world.” There’s no pain, worries or history from the world before. With that said, they also experience no pleasure, excitement, or have the knowledge to reflect over mistakes – there simply are no lessons to learn outside of what is delivered inside their “perfect classrooms.” At the age of twelve, all are considered ready to prepare for adulthood, and Jonas is assigned the single position of “Receiver of Memory.” Jonas is unaware that “his gift” is unique and therefore separates him from the others in his age group. This assignment leaves Jonas with many questions, and he wonders if the way his family unit has lived is really only existing in a dull, grey world. No spoilers from this reviewer, but many who love this book have trouble with the way it ends. Ms. Lowry leaves the reader with questions, but interesting ones at that. It wasn’t until my own book club (made up entirely of teachers), read this book did I give the end of the story my attention.

Most of my book club members were unaware that the series does indeed continue. If it’s possible, I loved Gathering Blue more. Kira’s society is the antithesis of the land where Jonas was raised. Instead of a perfect, ordered society, Kira’s is barbaric and ruled by deceit. The lame, the blind, the deaf, the poor are considered weak and therefore shunned by society. Kira, like Jonas from The Giver, has a very special talent. When all her hope is lost, she is taken from the turmoil of her village and given the task of sewing historical pictures on the robe worn by the Singer at the annual Ruin Song Gathering. With the help of a poor and ornery boy, Matt, Kira finds the plant needed to create the color ‘blue’ which somehow delivers her the courage she will need to shape her future.

In Messenger, Matt or Matty’s story continues has be befriends a blind man – The Seer. Leaving the barbaric village of his birth, Matty helps the blind man return to his own village through the treacherous forest. Matty hopes someday he will be given the name Messenger since he literally has been delivering messages throughout this community since his arrival. At a very young age, he discovers his ability to heal others, and is under the watchful kind eye of The Leader. His gift will have a profound impact on his new family and village. Their village offers refuge to all newcomers, especially those who are disabled and unwelcomed in their own towns. But a sinister work from beyond is a force hoping to change the face of the village. Pure evil is at work. Villagers begin to “trade parts of themselves” with this dark force and the village begins to change as well. Messenger is book about Utopia gone wrong, but is full of many powerful messages. My book club made many connections to American History and even felt it connected to the New Testament and the story of Jesus. We had a TON of questions, and still cannot stop discussing this one. Can I say – I cried like a fool when this book came to an end.

Son is the final book in the series. This book had such a profound effect on me – I’m not even sure where to begin. Son is told in three parts. The beginning tells the story of Water Claire. She washed up on shore, and no one knew what society she came from. There’s a beautiful love story that’s told without any sexual innuendo, and another love story about what is means to be a mother. Her thoughts, her actions, her everything is SO powerful, this one has left me in a perpetual thought cycle. I refuse to write another detail about the final story from this beautiful quartet – readers must simply experience it, live it, devour it.

As a teacher by day, I understand why this book is required middle school reading. I know this is a young adult book, but it’s affected me like none other. I’ve been thinking about it for weeks now. Lois Lowry has a solution to most of the world’s problems. And the world is in the crapper these days. So, I’m assigning summer, fall, winter, and spring reading to the leaders of all nations, religions, businesses, organizations, and anyone claiming to be a human being. The message at the end of the series (SON) is so clear-cut and powerful, a TWELVE figured it all out on his own. Humanity is lost on the world now – maybe these words might bring it home. The movie released on August 15th, and I have to say I wasn’t disappointed. I usually am. The movie is NEVER as good as the book, but Lois Lowry had a hand in it, and I believe most will be satisfied that the overall theme of the book has not been tarnished. Jeff Bridges bought the rights to make this movie twenty years ago. That’s how much the story meant to him, and I understand why. The stories of Jonas, Kira, Matty, Water Claire, and Gabe touched my heart like none other.

Where’d You Go, BernadetteReviewed by Kathleen B.

As a private school teacher, this book hits home in a hilariously over the top way. The book follows the misadventures of Bernadette, a brilliant architect who has not designed anything in over a decade after an unsettling incident in California. She and her husband and daughter have since moved to Seattle, where her daughter is enrolled in a second tier private school that is desperately trying to improve its status. The entire book is written through a series of letters, emails, and legal documents, giving it a multiple voices from unique perspectives. Each voice brings a new level of absurdity that literally made me laugh out loud repeatedly.

At times Bernadette comes across as an eclectic anti-Seattleite; other times, she borders on severe mental illness and crippling anxiety. Her daughter, Bee, appreciates everything about her mother, and is unusual herself by being an incredibly well-adjusted and intelligent eighth grader. When Bernadette suddenly disappears, it is Bee who becomes determined to find her, and in the process finds out more than she ever knew about her anxiety-ridden mother. Semple captures the undercurrent of expectation present in so many elite social interactions with satirical humor. It is an enjoyable, brief read that will entertain anyone who either lives in Seattle, has experience with private schools, or can simply appreciate the humor in snobbery of all kinds.

Sounds like an interesting read…
Putting this one on our “to be read” list

THE FAULT IN OUR STARS by John Green

Posted: August 1, 2014 by BA Dillon in GUEST REVIEWERS - FICTION

Review by Lizzie McDee

#6 in the Amazon Kindle Storethe fault in our stars

John Green has captured something very unique. From the moment you first meet Hazel Lancaster, it’s hard not to feel what she is feeling. Great fiction should bring the reader to the scene, and make them part of the story. Green manages this phenomenon through raw emotion, relatable dialogue, and tragic twists.

This book is a definite tear jerker. I read many typical teen romance novels and was quite surprised at how different this one was. This is as emotionally deep as one can go in the young adult world. The thoughts, questions, and life choices are very deep and force the reader to contemplate what questions such as What is my life purpose? How do I find happiness? Is this true love? Admittedly, there are some segments that feel emotional for the sake of emotion. But, overall it is a great balance of raw, blunt honesty and warm, poignant story-telling.

This book is a definite must read, and all the hype around it is for good reason. The writing is incredible and the story itself is a lovely read. I am happy that picked up this book to see what all the fuss was about. Overall I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys deep themed literature and bittersweet stories.

 

the book of lifeReviewed by Lizzie McDee

Currently #4 in the Amazon Kindle Store

The trilogy finale has arrived, and it’s by far the best book of the series. The Book of Life picks right up where the last book ended. This story is all about Diana and her powers. It’s been quite long time since I read Shadow of Night so I thought I was going to have to reread it. Also, I didn’t re-read the prequels prior to reading this one. But Harkness does a great job uniting the story with the prequels and incorporating important storylines. This is definitely the third and final book so please read the others before diving in.

If you’ve been waiting like I have, then it was worth the wait. I loved this final act and it is my favorite of the series because now I want to read it again! Harkness is a talented writer, and created perfect pacing with the storyline. Some reviewers felt the others in the series were slow to start, but I was hanging onto every word of this one. The suspense created enough tension, that it was difficult to put the book down. About halfway through, I was completely invested in the outcome for Diana and Matthew. Diana’s growing powers, Matthew’s secrets, the plot twists, and the villains. They were all very entertaining. Additionally, this story struck an emotional chord with me much to my surprise.
The only thing I didn’t like about this tale (which may be attributed to personal taste) was how many characters flooded the scene. I thought it was a little crowded. I had a difficult time keeping up with core supporting characters, and found myself mixing up the remaining cast. Overall, this was a great story, and a fabulous end to the trilogy. Of course, now I want more, and don’t want this to be the end of Diana and Matthew’s family adventures. These books offer a mix of everything which is makes them so much fun to read!

GETTING OVER MR. RIGHT by Chrissie ManbyReviewed by Emmie

We’ve all been there, in that relationship what we are sure is going to last and then out of nowhere it has ended and it feels as though the earth is crumbling beneath you. Getting Over Mr. Right written by Chrissie Manby is a relatable, funny, and well-written novel that truly hits home for anyone that’s been through that tough breakup.

Breakups suck and getting over the one that you thought was “the one” can be heart wrenching. Ashleigh Prince thinks Michael is her Mr. Right until an unexpected breakup turns her whole world upside down and she’s left picking up the pieces.The breakup ignites a downward spiral that leads Ashleigh to lose her job and her home and, of course, her mind.  At the beginning of the story, Ashleigh is in denial as she learns of her breakup through Facebook. Once she realizes the breakup is for real, Ashleigh tries to win Michael back in a variety of ways from witchcraft to tracking down his new girlfriend. After getting caught, she moves to the anger stage.Then, through the magic of time’s healing power, she moves into acceptance with a few twists along the way. This novel will lead you through Ashleigh’s journey through the stages of heartbreak with sprinkles of comedy along the way.

THE RAVEN BOYS by Maggie Stiefvater

Posted: April 20, 2014 by BA Dillon in GUEST REVIEWERS - FICTION

THE RAVEN BOYS by Maggie Stiefvater.

THE RAVEN BOYS by Maggie Stiefvater

Posted: April 19, 2014 by BA Dillon in GUEST REVIEWERS - FICTION

THE RAVEN BOYS by Maggie StiefvaterReview by Kathleen B.

Sometimes, a book comes out of nowhere and wraps its surprised reader deep in its folds, like a conversation that suddenly becomes more intimate than expected. The Raven Boys is this kind of book. I cannot remember why I picked it up or where I heard about it. When I saw in my local library an audiobook version of it, I had no idea that I would soon be driving the “long” way home so that I could listen to just a little more of the next chapter.

The Raven Boys follows Blue, a 16-year-old psychic’s daughter who has no clairvoyant abilities of her own, and four boys who attend the local (very elite) private school. Gansey, the leader of the boys, is searching for a lost king, and Adam, Ronan, and Noah each have their own motivation for helping Gansey in his search. When the boys and Blue find each other, an unexpected camaraderie is built through a series of complicated adventures (this feels like a wild understatement even as I write it). Add in a house full of psychics, a magical forest, and a bitter latin teacher, and there is no turning back.

While the story itself is full of delicate intricacies that make it both believable and magical, it is Stiefvater’s imagery that drew me in so deeply. The development of her characters is intense. Each possesses a flawed relatability, yet also striking uniqueness of personal qualities and situations. Unlike many young adult novels in so many ways, The Raven Boys creates a beautiful interdependence between the characters that relies not on superficial teen romance, but on soul searching and introspection. I highly recommend this book, and even more so, the audio version of it. Will Patton reads this book in a way that captures Stiefvater’s nuances and imagery perfectly. Seriously, listen to it. It will surprise you how much you love it.

Sycamore Row

Posted: April 8, 2014 by BA Dillon in GUEST REVIEWERS - FICTION, Uncategorized

Gut Reaction Reviews

sycamore The Cure For Too Many Lawyers   *

A good novel will keep the reader interested and hopefully guessing about the outcome until near the end. This book does neither.
I found myself skimming to get to what I already knew. Anyone thinking about becoming a lawyer should read this and after realizing how boring and tedious that profession is in reality, like the book, will opt out.

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THE NIGHT CIRCUS  by Erin MorgensternReviewed by Kathleen B.

Beautiful and magical, Morgenstern weaves the tale of a mysterious circus and the players involved in creating it. With a host of unique characters, the circus arises as a playing field where two illusionists must compete with life or death stakes while making real magic appear to be deception.  Morgenstern invites the reader to intimate dinners, behind the scenes of a fantastical and immortal show.  I never would have guessed that this was a debut novel, given the incredible use of stunning language that gives the reader a deep sense of connection with the circus itself.

 

The Night Circus is another of the books that make my favorites list.  It is not quite fantasy, and yet entirely magical. While the dialogue may not be Morgenstern’s strongest piece, the sheer imagery paints a most vivid and alluring picture. This book may not be for those who want overt action in their fiction. Rather, it provides a reading experience that builds subtly through multiple plots and understated characters. Reading this book feels like being invited to a secluded and intimate secret society, where membership is both a blessing and a curse. If you are the kind of reader who loves getting lost in the pages of a magical and dangerous story, this book earns my highest recommendation.  As a side note, if you love this book, you should definitely check out the artwork of Benjamin Frey (http://www.benjaminfrey.com/). His work is exquisite, and for me perfectly illustrates The Night Circus.