Book Review: The Disenchantments

As usually happens when The Disenchantments start a show for strangers instead of just kids at our school, the crowd stares at them in a stunned silence.

One of my favorite things about The DisenchantmentsThe Disenchantments by Nina LaCour by Nina LaCour is that The Disenchantments are a terrible band. In that way, the story  reverses expectations, so that the reader knows this isn’t the typical rise and fall of a band narrative.

What it is instead is the story of a boy and his best friend (and two of their friends) and how that best friend also reverses expectations and does something unexpected and heartbreaking. See, Cody and Bev had always planned to travel after high school, but Bev changes her mind and doesn’t tell Cody until they’re on their last hurrah–taking their band on tour up the West Coast to drop their friend Meg off at college.

While I read The Disenchantments in one afternoon, the book ultimately fell flat for me. It has a lot of elements I like (friendship issues, road trip, seriously contemplating The Future), but Meg and Alexis (the other members of the band) never felt like fully realized characters. I mean, sure Meg gets a badass tattoo and Alexis keeps a book of jobs, but other than that, I could barely tell them apart. Also, Bev is a heartbreaker and beautiful and silent and moody and…that’s about it. Not to mention, Cody isn’t that interesting either. He draws! He loves Bev! That’s about all I got from him.

So, I didn’t fall in love with any of the characters nor did I particularly care about what happened to them. (Aside from Jasper. LOVE Jasper.) In fact, I just felt like a spectator during most of the story, so could never fully escape into the world.

Also, I am kind of annoyed that that the book cover isn’t Cody’s band poster art.

To end this on a more up note, I really appreciated LaCour’s treatment of Bev’s bisexuality. Bev kisses boys and she kisses girls. The end. No need to discuss that she’s bisexual and what it means and blah blah blah. It’s a matter-of-fact part of Bev’s character that doesn’t even need to be named. Very well-handled.

In conclusion: The book is well-written and has some interesting elements; I just couldn’t really connect with it.

Source: Library

Book Review: Book of a Thousand Days

Eventually I got myself up so I could write what Tegus said. To keep telling my story seems like the last bit of living I can still do.

I read the hardback, but I love the paperback cover so much I'm using it here.
I read the hardback, but I love the paperback cover so much I’m using it here.

Oh my gosh, I loved Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale. Loved. LOVED. I just…I loved everything about it.

1. I love Dashti THE MOST. She is smart and clever. She is honest, hopeful, and grateful. She wants to survive and fights to survive. She is just the best. In fact, she reminds me a lot of Ella from Ella Enchanted in that I love her and think she’s wonderful and amazing. And awesome. Ahhh, I just love her so much.

2. I love that this is a fairy tale retelling, but it’s based on a lesser known fairytale (“Maid Maleen“), so I had absolutely no preconceived notions of what the story should be. (I didn’t read “Maid Maleen” until after I had finished the novel.)

3. I love, love, love that Dashti and Lady Saren wind up saving themselves and each other. I mean, sure, it takes Saren a little while to get to that point but when she does, it totally works.

4. Okay, so a brief synopsis: Dashti is appointed to be Lady Saren’s maid; Lady Saren’s father locks the two in a tower for seven years to try to force Saren into marrying this dude she hates; Dashti journals the experience.

5.  I love the way Hale gives importance to the different strengths people have to show that none are necessarily better but that they’re all different and can be used in helpful ways–even if other people don’t always understand them.

6. The ending was MUCH BETTER than I had anticipated. I knew it could only end a certain way (or that I wanted it to end that way), and I love, love, love the way that Hale makes it happen. It’s believable, expected, AND unpredictable. Also, it rewards the readers by weaving in everything we learn about the characters throughout the story.

7. I love that the characters are Mongolian. Yes.

8. Oh, I love the illustrations throughout the story. I also love that Hale finds a smart and believable way to make this Dashti’s story and that she’s the one writing/telling it.

9. Did I mention I love Dashti? I love her SO MUCH.

10. Ultimately, I love what this story says about faith, about passion, about survival, about truth, and yes, about the importance of writing your own story and knowing your own truth.


Source: Library

Book Review: The Wicked and the Just

If I’m to be ruled, may it be by those who see.

The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats

The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats is different from most books I read. For one thing, it’s historical fiction–set in 13th century Wales. And, well, really that’s all that makes it different. I don’t think I’ve ever read historical fiction set in this era before and certainly not in that particular locale.

The basic premise is that Cecily’s dad moves them to Caernarvon from Edgeley Hall. She is none too pleased by this since she has to leave her best friends and potential suitors behind. You know who else isn’t pleased? Gwenhwyfar, the Welsh servant who has to wait on Cecily and her dad.

What I Liked

– The setting. Like I said, totally new to me. I was unfamiliar with the historical context/time period so it was fascinating to think about how the British went around imposing their imperial will on oh so many countries and not just the US and India and parts of Africa, etc.

– The language of oppression is the same all the time and everywhere.

– Something Coats really brought to life for me was just how unjust, humiliating, and unbearable the taxes imposed on the Welsh were. I teach Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” almost every semester and when he talks about how the English have taxed the Irish into starvation, I have a general understanding of what that means, but Coats makes me SEE and EXPERIENCE it. So for that alone the book was worth reading for me.

– I really like the way Cecily and Gwen’s relationship is handled and especially the way the narrative is shaped around the two girls. The book shifts between both of their points of view, and through that narrative structure, Coats shows how invisible servants and lower class people are to those they serve (unless they screw up, of course). Cecily rarely, if ever, mentions Gwen even when the reader knows Gwen is around. However, almost all of Gwen’s sections are explicitly reactions to or mentions of how she is treated by Cecily.

– There’s this sense of impending doom in the narrative. The reader knows it’s a pressure cooker situation, but Cecily is so blind to what’s going on around her. What I like about this approach is that (a) it shows Cecily’s privilege, but (b) it also shows how much she’s kept in the dark. She’s willfully ignorant in some ways, but in other ways, she is clueless and her father fails to inform her of all kinds of things about the way her new town works as opposed to her old.

– Cecily’s relationship with her father is handled brilliantly.

– If you wonder why women were called busybodies, etc., just take a look at the fact that Cecily has nothing to do during most of the narrative because she has no education so can’t read/write, and she has no trade/job. She spends most of her time bored and then starts stirring up trouble just because she can. The narrative never explicitly says anything about her lack of education, but if the reader starts wondering why Cecily doesn’t read a book or something, it’s like a little lightbulb moment. She has needlepoint. That’s it.

– I love the tension between the nouveau riche (Cecily) and her more established neighbors who find her unmannered–adds some levity and garners some sympathy for Cecily.

What I Didn’t Like

– Cecily is a hard character to like. The saving grace here is that I could tell she wasn’t privy to what was going around her, which doesn’t make her sympathetic but does add a layer of mystery to the text that kept me reading. I wanted to know when she would figure it out and how/if knowing would change her.

– I mentioned that the narrative switches points of view, which is fine. What isn’t fine is that the only marker of the change is that the font shifts. That’s it. No chapter headings, no label at the top of a new section with the girls’ names. Nothing. It didn’t take me long to figure out, but it was completely jarring.

One of the members of the book club I’m in read on her Kindle and the font change doesn’t even show up on there, so it was even more jarring for her.

– While I was fascinated by the look into all of the characters’ lives and relationships, I never really fell in love with any of the characters.

In conclusion: Well written historical fiction with excellent world building and characters, focusing on a time and place I rarely read about in fiction.

Source: Library