Monday, September 1, 2014

Things I've Read Recently (12)

So if you're new around here, Things I've Read Recently is a series of blog posts I do that are basically mini-reviews for whatever reason. Right now you should be getting one on the first Monday of the month for at least three months. We'll see how I keep that up!

Heartbreak River by Tricia Mills

Published: April 16th, 2009 by Razorbill
Genre: Contemporary YA
Binding: ARC
Page Count: 248 in mine, 256 in the finished copy according to goodreads
Part of a series? Nope
Got via: I won it in a contest. I'm not that late with my reviews
Amazon / Book Depository / IndieBound

Summary (from goodreads): Alex thought she'd be spending the summer focused on her family's rafting business, burying the memories of her father's death last year, and leaving behind all the messes she made in its wake.

But when Sean returns to town, she is forced to reckon with her mixed-up crushy feelings for him - more powerful than ever before. It takes another tragedy to make Alex realize Sean has loved her, and forgiven her, all along.

Review: I hate to say it, but I wasn't wowed by this one. It was fine, but it just didn't do it for me. It was... fine. Just fine. It had some cute moments and it'd probably be a good beach read. But we just never seemed to click. I kept wanting more and it never really got there for me.

And then there were a few things that bothered me. There were a handful of cultural references that quite dated the book. It's only five years old. It shouldn't have felt as old as it did. There was some slutshaming and a couple of really gross moments of body shaming. One, calling a girl Sean might be dating a "fat ho". The girl, later in the book, is thin. So they're using that as an insult. "Fat" isn't an insult.

And then there was this lovely exchange:
I lifted my snacks. "I tend to eat when I'm upset. It's a wonder I'm not the size of Denmark by now."
"You're a long way from that."
"That's sweet of you to say, but you might want to reserve judgement until after I've scarfed all this."  
- pg. 68 of my ARC. I don't own a finished copy.
And apparently there is not one in EVERY SINGLE LIBRARY IN SASKATCHEWAN.
Anyone have one and could check that for me?

Why is it sweet for him to say she's not fat? What if he agreed, "Yeah, you're looking a little chubby lately"? Would that be an insult? In this book, apparently it is.

I know these aren't huge things to some people, but I find them thoughtless and flat-out rude. You will have fat readers. (Hi.) And now you've told them that looking like them is something insulting. It's probably not on purpose, but it is careless.

Besides really disliking that, I just didn't connect. So if you really wanna read it, go for it (although I just tried to find it on my library's website, thinking I could check an ebook version, maybe, and apparently it just doesn't exist. Not a single copy in all of Saskatchewan. What's up with that???), but honestly, I wouldn't reread it, and I might end up weeding it for the shelf space, honestly.

Oh, and trigger warning for suicide.

Scat by Carl Hiaasen

Published: 2009 by Random House
Genre: MG Contemporary, maybe a bit mystery
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 371 pages
Part of a series? No, but the four kid books he's written would make a great boxed set or combination present if you wanted to give someone a gift
Got via: I bought it locally, actually

Summary (from goodreads): Bunny Starch, the most feared biology teacher ever, is missing. She disappeared after a school field trip to Black Vine Swamp. And, to be honest, the kids in her class are relieved.

But when the principal tries to tell the students that Mrs. Starch has been called away on a "family emergency," Nick and Marta just don't buy it. No, they figure the class delinquent, Smoke, has something to do with her disappearance.

And he does! But not in the way they think. There's a lot more going on in Black Vine Swamp than any one player in this twisted tale can see. And Nick and Marta will have to reckon with an eccentric eco-avenger, a stuffed rat named Chelsea, a wannabe Texas oilman, a singing substitute teacher, and a ticked-off Florida panther before they really begin to see the big picture.

That's life in the swamp, kids.

Review: Let's get this out of the way - I've read Hoot, Flush, and now Scat (there's a sentence) and they all sort of follow the same basic formula. Big business does something for money, threatens animals, kids save the day. But it works, you know? It's funny, it tackles some big issues, they have weird, wonderful characters in a way that works amazingly well in MG and it's just good.

Scat even does something I don't usually like - it uses multiple adult POVs along with Nick's, who is the only kid POV. And it does it really well. I also loved the focus on Nick's dad being a recent amputee due to serving in Iraq. Lots of kids with military parents could probably use this.

I also really like the cover. It's bright and colourful, but simple. I think kids would love it.

Random notes I couldn't fit in:

- Mild ableism
- Do people know how hard rigging is? Like it's really dangerous. That's why you make 25 dollars an hour to do it. It always seems a little weird to me when people use oil drilling as a "get rich quick" scheme
- Also crude oil stinks so it's not the easiest thing to sneak!

True Confessions of a Heartless Girl by Martha Brooks

Published: 2002 by Groundwood Books
Genre: Contemporary YA
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 210 pages
Part of a series? Nope
Got via: It has a library stamp and the copyright date highlighted which means it had been more than 5 years since it was published when it was donated to the library. It was basically new though. But my library won't usually put in books that are over 5 years old, even if they are new

Summary (from goodreads): In the midst of a heaven-rattling summer storm a young stranger blows into a small prairie town. On the run after taking her latest boyfriend’s truck, with a pocketful of stolen money and a heart full of pain, seventeen-year-old Noreen Stall seems to invite trouble. And trouble comes soon enough as Noreen’s new mistakes trigger calamities that shake the lives of the residents of Pembina Lake: Lynda Bradley, a divorced mother and owner of a failing cafĂ© who’s given up on life and love; Dolores Harper, the village elder who, in spite of her signature sweatshirt that says MEDDLING FOR JESUS, has lost her enthusiasm for helping others; and Del Armstrong, a middle-aged bachelor farmer who is still paying for the tragic events of his own seventeenth summer.

Set against the vast skies of a prairie landscape, with a rich cast of unforgettable characters and an unlikely heroine as endearing as she is tough, this affecting novel reminds readers that it’s never too late for forgiveness – and that sometimes the most unlikely messenger can deliver a small miracle.

Review: I'm kind of meh on this one. I mean, it was fine. But the problem was... it was just fine. I remember reading other books by Martha Brooks that I liked. But I just wasn't wowed. I liked how Canadian it was. There was a Co-op gas station in the town Noreen landed in! And there were a ton of POC which was awesome. Noreen's backstory was told in an interesting way.

But I think there was a little too much focus on adult POVs. I don't mind when they're well-done - and these were fine - but I think there could have been more Noreen POV, frankly. Oh, and warnings for child abuse, implied sexual assault, I guess is how I'll say it, and miscarriage.

All in all, fine book. Not one I'd reread, I think, and considering I only paid a quarter for it, I might just end up weeding this from my collection for the shelf space.

OH and this isn't the cover I have, but I couldn't find a picture online so we'll go with this one. It's close enough.

My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult

Published: 2004 by Washington Square Press
Genre: Adult Contemporary
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 423
Part of a series? Standalone
Got via: Either a library sale or a yard sale, I can't remember which. I think I got it fairly recently, though.

Summary (from goodreads): Anna is not sick, but she might as well be. By age thirteen, she has undergone countless surgeries, transfusions, and shots so that her older sister, Kate, can somehow fight the leukemia that has plagued her since childhood. The product of preimplantation genetic diagnosis, Anna was conceived as a bone marrow match for Kate -- a life and a role that she has never challenged...until now.

Like most teenagers, Anna is beginning to question who she truly is. But unlike most teenagers, she has always been defined in terms of her sister -- and so Anna makes a decision that for most would be unthinkable, a decision that will tear her family apart and have perhaps fatal consequences for the sister she loves.

Review: I knew going into this I was going to cry. And hooboy did I cry. Buckets. Very damp buckets. What I didn't expect was how much I'd like it. I knew it was going to be good, probably. I knew it had sold like six bajillion copies and the movie looked really good and friends had told me they loved Jodi Picoult, that she was one of their favourite authors. But I thought it would be, honestly, dry and kind of boring. *hides* *cough* Stephen King *cough*

Well, I was wrong. It's told in 1st person, which helps for me a lot. A lot of 3rd person novels feel a little removed to me, frankly, especially in adult books. And I can totally understand now why so many younger readers love this book. It almost reads a lot like a YA, doesn't it? Most especially Anna's chapters. The others don't, always, and it kind of illustrates how different Anna's motivations were from everyone else's and also how very young she is.

Anna is such a good thirteen year old, she really is, and I so loved her voice. I just... I wanted to wrap her in blankets and feed her soup.

I won't go into too much of Spoiler Land, but I will talk about the ending a bit. My initial thought was that I hated the ending. That it wasn't fair and it made me cry and it hurt and I didn't like it at all. Having had a little space, I still think it was fair. But there's a QandA with Jodi at the end of the book and she states that this isn't an easy book and there are no easier answers. And I think... I think that's right and I think I'm okay with that.

I'm definitely keeping this one. I'm also excited to read the other Jodi Picoult books I've bought. Love this one, seriously.

Peace and cookies,
Laina

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