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Book Review: The Secrets of a Fire King by Kim Edwards

fire king
With The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, Kim Edwards touched hearts across the nation. In this, her first collection of stories-now with three new stories added-she explores the lives of those who exist on the fringes of society: a fire-eater, an American and his Korean war bride, Madame Curie’s maid, and others. Though their tales vary dramatically, each comes up against the barriers of place and circumstance in the most universal of experiences: the quest to discover and understand the elusive mysteries of love. Transporting readers to exotic locations, this beautiful collection reinforces Edwards’s presence as an extraordinarily gifted writer.

I remember reading Kim Edwards’ The Memory Keeper’s Daughter years ago and absolutely loving it. The first short story, and really the rest of them, reminded me why. Everyone of her stories has breathtaking imagery and she has such a great way of transporting the reader into the story, even though each one is only about 20 pages long. Each story is so unique in the plot and the characters, but also has the common thread of human struggle and coming to terms with their life and their choices.

The first story, The Great Chain of Being, drew me in with a great story about a woman reclaiming her power after living under her father’s thumb for her entire life. Anything that has a strong feminist sense to it, automatically has my attention. As a young girl, Eshlaini’s father deemed her “too crazy” and would not allow her to marry. Instead she was to stay with her father and care for him throughout his life. She agreed to stay only on the condition that she would be left his house on his death. When he died, the house was worth more than anyone thought, and her brothers tried to convince her to give it to them. Her refusal and subsequent sale of the house for her own gain showed her power; power over herself and others. She may have felt powerless throughout her life, but she surprises herself and everyone else when she does not back down from giving up the house.

My second favorite story, Thirst, is, what I think, an interesting take on The Little Mermaid. What happens after the girl gets the prince she’d been dreaming of? Well, they get married have three kids, and she continues to long for the sea. It’s great story about trying to keep your past while living in your present, and really how impossible that is. You can’t have both. (Also, she turns her husbands mistresses into fish to keep in her aquarium, which I don’t recommend as a healthy coping mechanism, but I still thought it was cool.) It’s a great story of regret and longing and how what you want may not be what you need.

All in all, I would definitely recommend this collection, and give it 4.5 Bards.
four.fivebards

Summer of Sarah Dessen: Review of Saint Anything

saintanythingPeyton, Sydney’s charismatic older brother, has always been the star of the family, receiving the lion’s share of their parents’ attention and—lately—concern. When Peyton’s increasingly reckless behavior culminates in an accident, a drunk driving conviction, and a jail sentence, Sydney is cast adrift, searching for her place in the family and the world. When everyone else is so worried about Peyton, is she the only one concerned about the victim of the accident?

Enter the Chathams, a warm, chaotic family who run a pizza parlor, play bluegrass on weekends, and pitch in to care for their mother, who has multiple sclerosis. Here Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance. And here she meets Mac, gentle, watchful, and protective, who makes Sydney feel seen, really seen, for the first time.

Check out the book trailer!

There’s a certain amount of magic in every Sarah Dessen novel that is hard to quantify. They are not full of “actual” magic as her books are contemporary in nature, but her story telling abilities are almost ethereal.

Not unlike her previous novels, Dessen really explores the teenage female psyche with skill and still manages to create a character with a unique voice. Sydney’s outlook on life and her circumstances set her apart from Dessen’s other narrators, but still manages to place her firmly within the canon.

The narrative will draw you in from the first scene, which opens in the courthouse for Peyton’s sentencing, and immediately you feel Sydney’s longing for a place in her family that revolves around the oldest son with behavior problems.  I love how the tension began to escalate quickly after the introduction of a specific character, and Dessen does a great job of establishing the antagonistic relationship between the two subtly.

While Sydney is a bit of a pushover at the beginning of the story, it is important to note that she still has her agency when she decides that she wants to make a big change in her life and transfer out of the school she grew up in and away from her only friends to make a new start.  I do enjoy the “journey” trope in young adult literature and this was the beginning of Sydney’s journey to “being seen” by people who made her feel important and loved.

I think the overall arching theme in this novel is something that Dessen summed up to me in the interview I had with her prior to her book event in Chapel Hill with the song Brave by Sara Bareillies.  Sydney was brave enough to change her life in a big way and ultimately a better way.  She was brave enough to face the guilt that came along with Peyton’s actions.  She was brave enough to prove herself to her family.  And of course, she was brave enough to love.

As a fan of Dessen’s work I can tell you that this book will leave you wanting more.  Who else wants to live in Lakeview?

5 Bards to Sarah Dessen’s wonderful 12th novel, and here is to 12 more.

 

fivebards

Waiting on Wednesday

waiting on wednesday

Every week Breaking the Spine hosts the bookish meme for book bloggers to share what books they are waiting on to be released!  This week I’m waiting on:

Release Date: April 28, 2015

LAIA is a Scholar living under the iron-fisted rule of the Martial Empire. When her brother is arrested for treason, Laia goes undercover as a slave at the empire’s greatest military academy in exchange for assistance from rebel Scholars who claim that they will help to save her brother from execution.
 
ELIAS is the academy’s finest soldier— and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias is considering deserting the military, but before he can, he’s ordered to participate in a ruthless contest to choose the next Martial emperor.
 
When Laia and Elias’s paths cross at the academy, they find that their destinies are more intertwined than either could have imagined and that their choices will change the future of the empire itself.

Vow your blood and body to the empire.
Keep your heart for yourself.

Waiting on Wednesday

waiting on wednesday

Every week Breaking the Spine hosts the bookish meme for book bloggers to share what books they are waiting on to be released!  This week I’m waiting on:

Release Date: January 27, 2015

Cody and Meg were inseparable.
Two peas in a pod.
Until . . . they weren’t anymore.
 
When her best friend Meg drinks a bottle of industrial-strength cleaner alone in a motel room, Cody is understandably shocked and devastated. She and Meg shared everything—so how was there no warning? But when Cody travels to Meg’s college town to pack up the belongings left behind, she discovers that there’s a lot that Meg never told her. About her old roommates, the sort of people Cody never would have met in her dead-end small town in Washington. About Ben McAllister, the boy with a guitar and a sneer, who broke Meg’s heart. And about an encrypted computer file that Cody can’t open—until she does, and suddenly everything Cody thought she knew about her best friend’s death gets thrown into question.
 

Waiting on Wednesday

waiting on wednesday

Every week Breaking the Spine hosts the bookish meme for book bloggers to share what books they are waiting on to be released!  This week I’m waiting on:

Release Date: January 13, 2015

To fight her destiny as the missing heir to a powerful and dangerous secret society, sixteen-year-old Avery West must solve an ancient puzzle in a deadly race across Europe. Forbidden love and code-breaking, masked balls and explosions, destiny and dark secrets collide in this romantic thriller, in the vein of a YA DaVinci Code.

Avery West’s newfound family can shut down Prada at the Champs-Elysees when they want to shop in peace, and can just as easily order a bombing when they want to start a war.

They are part of a powerful and dangerous secret society called the Circle of Twelve, and Avery is their missing heir. If they discover who she is, some of them will want to use her as a pawn. Some will want her dead.

To thwart their plans, Avery must follow a trail of clues from the landmarks of Paris to the back alleys of Istanbul and through a web of ancient legends and lies. And unless she can stay one step ahead of beautiful, volatile Stellan, who knows she’s more than she seems, and can decide whether to trust mysterious, magnetic Jack, she may be doomed after all.

Re-Read Review: Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

“Dead girl walking”, the boys say in the halls.
“Tell us your secret”, the girls whisper, one toilet to another.
I am that girl.
I am the space between my thighs, daylight shining through.
I am the bones they want, wired on a porcelain frame.


Lia and Cassie are best friends, wintergirls frozen in matchstick bodies, competitors in a deadly contest to see who can be the skinniest. But what comes after size zero and size double-zero? When Cassie succumbs to the demons within, Lia feels she is being haunted by her friend’s restless spirit.

Continuing on my re-reading journey, I decided to take a step back from Sarah Dessen for a week and look toward one of the books I recommended our audience read for a little more insight into the world of eating disorders so we can continue to raise awareness for the silent killer.

While Anderson is widely known for her ground breaking novel, Speak, I want to argue that this novel is just as important. Not only are more than 30 million Americans suffering from diagnosed and undiagnosed eating disorders, but many suffer in silence, just like Lia and Cassie.

Wintergirls begins at the end of a character’s life, a life that ended under mysterious circumstances, and the former best friend of the narrator.  While the synopsis makes it sound like Lia is being haunted by a ghost, it is clear that the anorexia is what is haunting her.  Not only does the food and liquid restriction eventually cause hallucinations, but it also will cause an entire body shut down.

The writing is excellent, and I love Anderson’s use of strikeouts throughout the text to exemplify the struggle within the narrator.  I think that Anderson also did a great job of showing how the eating disorder can affect the family unit as well.

Either way, you need to read this novel if you haven’t.

If you know anyone who is suffering, please direct them to the National Eating Disorder Association.

5 Bards

fivebards

Re-Read Review: Lock & Key by Sarah Dessen

Ruby knows that the game is up. For the past few months, she’s been on her own in the yellow house, managing somehow, knowing that her mother will probably never return.

That’s how she comes to live with Cora, the sister she hasn’t seen in ten years, and Cora’s husband Jamie, whose down-to-earth demeanor makes it hard for Ruby to believe he founded the most popular networking Web site around. A luxurious house, fancy private school, a new wardrobe, the promise of college and a future; it’s a dream come true. So why is Ruby such a reluctant Cinderella, wary and defensive? And why is Nate, the genial boy next door with some secrets of his own, unable to accept the help that Ruby is just learning to give?

I am so glad I decided to do a re-read of Sarah Dessen’s books, because I remember the first time I read this, I just wasn’t as enthralled as I was with This Lullaby or any of her other novels.  But after reading it now, almost six years later, I have a whole new understanding and appreciation for Dessen’s story.

Upon deciding to re-read this novel, I drafted a fellow blogger to follow along with me in a read-a-long.  Well, evidently I’m not good at read-a-longs because I most definitely ended up finishing the novel in a period of two days, because I just couldn’t put it down this time.  In addition, I associate this book with the song by the Kaiser Chiefs, “Ruby,” which came out in 2008 as well.

It is a very catchy song, right?

Anyway, back to the review. I think the reason that I ended up not liking this much the first time around is because I just didn’t understand the concept of this character not being appreciative or absolutely loving her new life with her sister and brother-in-law.  Now when I re-read it, I appreciate Dessen’s complete understanding of the complexity that the abandonment and abuse issues would cause Ruby and how she would react to such a big change in her life and her circumstances.

I also really appreciated Dessen’s ability to show how far Ruby came as a character through her relationship with her next door neighbor, Nate.  Nate is equally screwed up with his own personal drama, but Ruby ends up being able to save him from those circumstances.

On my Goodreads, originally, I only gave this book 3 Stars.  But upon re-reading this, I’m happily giving Lock & Key 4.5 Bards.

(Why not 5 Bards? Well, I really would have liked to see more closure with the mother’s character)

4.5 Bards for Sarah Dessen. You go, Sarah Dessen.

four.fivebards

Book Review: The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen

Luke is the perfect boyfriend: handsome, kind, fun. He and Emaline have been together all through high school in Colby, the beach town where they both grew up. But now, in the summer before college, Emaline wonders if perfect is good enough.

Enter Theo, a super-ambitious outsider, a New Yorker assisting on a documentary film about a reclusive local artist. Theo’s sophisticated, exciting, and, best of all, he thinks Emaline is much too smart for Colby.

Emaline’s mostly-absentee father, too, thinks Emaline should have a bigger life, and he’s convinced that an Ivy League education is the only route to realizing her potential. Emaline is attracted to the bright future that Theo and her father promise. But she also clings to the deep roots of her loving mother, stepfather, and sisters. Can she ignore the pull of the happily familiar world of Colby?

Emaline wants the moon and more, but how can she balance where she comes from with where she’s going?

It is no secret that Sarah Dessen is an author who pretty much defined my high school years and her novel This Lullaby is still one of my favorite novels of all time. So when I got this book last summer I devoured it and then put it aside.  It is almost personal for me to write a review of a novel by her, since I adore her work so much.  Well, I decided to suck it up and re-read The Moon and More so I could finally start doing some reviews of Dessen’s work.  Oh yeah, have I mentioned that Dessen is a North Carolina based author, and a lot of her summer stories feature landscapes and beaches from the Outer Banks?  Yay North Carolina!  So I decided that I’m going to re-read all of my favorite books by her so I can do some reviews and support her and hopefully introduce her to a whole new generation of young readers.

sarahdessen signedAll of Dessen’s novels have endings that are perfectly fitting and satisfying.  Now, saying this, be aware that not all of the novels end with a happy romance or anything like that.  Some of the stories are more based on the individual destiny of the character and the outcome of familial issues.  The Moon and More is one that is more based in Emaline’s destiny than about romance, which means that the summary can be a little misleading.  Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of adorable romantic moments between Emaline and the two leading men, Theo and Luke, but the story is really about Emaline.

I love this about this novel because it really focuses on how Emaline has been disappointed by her family and the fact that she comes to realize that her dreams aren’t necessarily what she thought they were.  The novel basically outlines how Emaline comes to adore her half-brother, work hard the entire summer, and eventually she understands that the things that happen with her estranged Father are devastating, but that a relationship between them can still be salvaged.  Go and read this book now.  Be sure to watch out for more of my Sarah Dessen reviews coming up…as I will be rereading my favorites!

4.5 Bards

four.fivebards

Waiting on Wednesday

waiting on wednesday

Every week Breaking the Spine hosts the bookish meme for book bloggers to share what books they are waiting on to be released!  This week I’m waiting on:

Release Date: April 7, 2015

Life is almost back to normal for Harper Price. The Ephors have been silent after their deadly attack at Cotillion months ago, and best friend Bee has returned after a mysterious disappearance. Now Harper can return her focus to the important things in life: school, canoodling with David, her nemesis-turned-ward-slash-boyfie, and even competing in the Miss Pine Grove pageant.

Unfortunately, supernatural chores are never done. The Ephors have decided they’d rather train David than kill him. The catch: Harper has to come along for the ride, but she can’t stay David’s Paladin unless she undergoes an ancient trial that will either kill her . . . or connect her to David for life.

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