Review: Keturah and Lord Death

Keturah and Lord Death, Martine LeavittWhile wandering the woods outside her small village, Keturah becomes lost. On the third day, Death comes for her.

Using her talents as a storyteller, Keturah convinces Death to let her live for one more day. But she must find her true love before the next sunset, or she will die.

I can’t even

This book is so dumb I couldn’t even finish summarizing it.

I’m tempted to list excuses. It’s a young adult novel targeted at girls, so of course it’s sappy and ridiculous. There are some potentially interesting themes. But in truth, it’s…it’s just not good.

The plot is uneven. Death wants to kill Keturah, but she tells a story that he somehow considers compelling enough to let her live. She spends the next several hundred pages setting her friends up with husbands, but then there’s also a plague and a witch?

It felt super generic and overly sappy. I kept imaging Death as a kid wearing all black, who does a lot of whining and constantly has his hair combed over one eye.

The author couldn’t make me care about any of the characters. I skimmed after page 50, mostly to see if it got any better. It didn’t. The ending is nearly nonsensical.

A totally unexpected bummer of a read.

(I read this book for the Monthly Motif Challenge. September’s challenge was to read a book that involves a game of some sort.)

Review: Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour

Amy & Roger's Epic Detour, Morgan MatsonIt’s been three months since Amy last got behind the wheel. Her father’s death in a car accident fractured their already-fragile family — her brother’s in rehab and her mother has decided to move across the country. And now, Amy has to somehow get the family’s remaining car from California to Connecticut.

Fortunately, Roger needs to get to the East Coast, too. And if they follow the route Amy’s mother planned, it should only take four days. But what is it they say about the best-laid plans…?

Just perfect

The only thing harder to portray accurately than teenagers is grief. Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour does both perfectly.

My heart aches for Amy. She blames herself for her father’s death, and has spent months pushing away the people who care about her most. Author Morgan Matson portrays Amy’s grief accurately and without histrionics — it’s brutal and beautiful.

I also really like Roger, mainly because he’s just a good guy. Plus I think most people can understand the idea of hanging onto a relationship you know is over because you’re scared.

Matson’s book also left me jonesing for a road trip, preferably one with my husband. I’d love to see some of the places she describes, and feel my troubles blow away on the wind. Who wouldn’t want to forget the rest of the world for awhile?

But Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour isn’t about forgetting. It’s about journeys, questions, and having the courage to face your fears.

(I read this book for the Monthly Motif Challenge. June’s challenge was to read a book in which the characters take a trip, travel somewhere, go on a quest, or find themselves on a journey toward something.)

Quickie Reviews: Time and Space

Yesterday on the way home from work, my car said it was 102 degrees. It’s officially too hot to do anything but sit on the couch and read. Here’s what’s been keeping me from melting for the last few weeks.

Cloud Atlas

Cloud, Atlas, David MitchellSome sadist recommended David Mitchell’s novel for our book club, and we’ve all spent the last month trying to wrap our heads around it. While I wouldn’t call it a “fun” read, I really enjoyed getting out of my comfort zone. Our club’s discussion on it was awesome! It was cool to talk about what we liked and what we didn’t, and to puzzle out the mysteries together. The stories are interesting — Sonmi for the win! — but you shouldn’t tackle it if the phrase, “I really love reading” has never passed your lips.

Minding the Manor

Minding the Manor, Mollie MoranMollie Moran’s memoir of her time as a scullery maid and cook in 1930s and 1940s England. Down-to-earth tone, excellent storytelling, and tantalizing glimpses into the lives of those working “below stairs” at the end of an era. Perfect for fans of Powell’s Below Stairs.

The Spirit War

The Spirit War, Rachel AaronThe continuation of the stories begun in The Legend of Eli Monpress, and one of my two current reads. It’s been a couple of years since I first picked up Rachel Aaron’s series, and I’m playing catch-up. So far this novel is just what the doctor ordered.

What are temps like in your neck of the woods?

Quickie Reviews: Cozy Winter Reads

If summer is the best time for light reads, winter is the best time for cozy ones. Here’s what’s keeping me curled up with endless cups of hot chocolate this month.

Meet the Austins

Meet the Austins, Madeleine L'EngleThe first in Madeleine L’Engle’s Austin Family series. 12 year-old Vicky Austin lives happily in a big farmhouse with her parents, three siblings, and two dogs. But the family’s life is turned upside down when they take in an orphan named Maggy. This book reminded me so much of The Boxcar Children, with its great characters and their adventures. A touch paternalistic, but otherwise a charming read.

Bonita Faye

Bonita Faye, Margaret MoseleyWhen her abusive husband is killed on a hunting trip, Bonita Faye seizes the opportunity (and Billy Roy’s insurance money) to leave rural Oklahoma for Paris, France. Can Bonita Faye outrun her past, or is she doomed to repeat it? Nothing like a good murder story to keep you warm on a chilly night. I’m not sure I like her as a character, but Bonita Faye definitely knows how to handle herself when the going gets tough.

Annual re-reading

I love the holidays, but they can be so crazy. I spend most of my brain power trying to finish up work projects, shop for presents, make travel plans, etc. that I just don’t have the ability to focus on new books. This is the time of year when I do a lot of re-reading.

Favorite yearly re-reads include Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series, as well as Pride and Prejudice and Orczy’s The Scarlet Pimpernel.

Which books are keeping you warm this winter?

Review: Croak

Croak, Gina DamicoLex Bartleby is 16 and a complete nightmare. Her grades are in the toilet, she’s constantly fighting with classmates and her family, and she’s this close to getting expelled. So she’s mad, but not surprised, when her parents drop her on a bus to the middle of nowhere to stay with her Uncle Mort for the summer. He’s got a farm in upstate New York, and supposedly shoveling cow crap will magically change Lex’s bad attitude.

But it turns out that Mort isn’t a farmer so much as…well, a Grim Reaper. And he’s going to spend the summer showing Lex the ropes.

Being a reaper is tough, but Lex is actually really good at it. Her only problem is a frequent desire to find and punish murderers — a definite no-no.

On top of that, Lex and her reaper partner keep coming across unexplainable deaths. The only thing the victims have in common are milk-white eyes. People whisper about a reaper gone rogue.

Can Lex and the other reapers uncover the truth before it’s too late?

So cool

It’s been a long time since I last read such an original YA novel. Not only is the main premise — teenage girl becomes a Grim Reaper — different, the world building blocks are unique as well (Jellyfish. That’s all I’m saying.).

Lex is a fun character. She’s prickly and not a fan of authority, but she’s also curious and has a strong ethical barometer. She’s a strong person, and by the end of Croak it’s clear she’s going to be powerful when she grows up.

Which is good, because this book got real, fast: it starts with a lot of eye rolling during a meeting in the principal’s office, and within just a few chapters shows Lex reaping souls from badly burned plane crash victims.

It’s been a long time since I last read such an original YA novel.

I love that author Gina Damico let the characters dwell on the ethical dilemma of a vengeful reaper. They show up at the exact moment of death, pausing time and occasionally stepping around the person who pulled the trigger or wielded the knife. The reapers’ responsibility is to take the victim’s soul, not kill the criminal. But that’s what Lex wants to do, and she has trouble hating the idea of a reaper who would do so.

While the “Whodunit” isn’t exactly a surprise, the why and the how are. Big Stuff goes down in the last few chapters, setting us up nicely for the next book in the series (seriously, are there no standalone YA novels anymore?).

Croak was so much fun, and so interesting to read. Plus, death puns!