Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Nantucket Red (A Book You Own But Have Never Read)

Pro: Fun being in Nantucket again...
Con: Semi-weak love conflict

The Bottom Line: A good read, but in the end I'll always love Nantucket Blue best...

Yes. I've owned this book since it came out in 2014. But I bought it late in the year and wanted to read it during summer, as I had Nantucket Blue. So I waited. Then 2015 never afforded me a good beach-side, pool-side, chill vacation-sort-of-time the way I'd had when I soaked in Leila Howland's first book. So I never got to read it then, either. But now it's 2016 and the time has finally come for me to read the rest of Cricket Thompson's story.

Cricket's life is changing. Back in the real world, away from the seemingly endless summer world that is Nantucket, she is faced with getting into college, being apart from Zack, and still trying to repair her damaged friendship with Jules. But things seem to finally start falling into place - and then almost as suddenly they start to fall spectacularly apart. Zack is gone. Her Ivy League future may never happen. The only hope she has left is the world of Nantucket, the help of her friends, and a list left behind by Jules's mother, Nina...

I love the premise of this book. And I love that Leila Howland figured out another way to get Cricket back to Nantucket (which, because of her, I now really want to visit...I daresay it's kind of on my bucket list now...). It works out rather nicely. And of course, Nantucket is just as magical as it is the first time - when Cricket isn't stuck waitressing, anyway. She encounters new people and old friends, finds herself in new situations that she handles with aplomb, and I like that this time around, when stuff gets real, the connection happens with Cricket's dad rather than her mom. The only real, serious bump in the road is her relationship with Zack.

That was the one thing I wasn't sure if it would work itself out or not. Everything else you pretty much already know will be okay. How it becomes okay is a different matter, but you know it's going to happen. I think really, my biggest issue was how well Cricket took Zack's abandonment. I wanted her to be angrier at him. Especially when he finally, finally provides his reasons. They weren't that great, and even the biggest stopper he was stuck with should have been challenged by Cricket. If their love is so strong, then he fails at it. Rather, he's still a teenager and does what a teen does so in some ways I can understand. Still, Cricket's love felt far more powerful than anything he had to offer. Their relationship issues were solved at the very end in three pages - almost two, really. I wanted far more conflict. I wanted Cricket to tell him how much she loved him and how much hurt he put on her. I just wanted more. The fix came too fast, too easily, and I wasn't satisfied.

Other than that, it's a great book. Nantucket Blue will forever be my favorite, though. It's Cricket's first foray out into the wild, and I love her for everything she does. In this book, too. She's a great character that I think a lot of girls could admire. But I liked the little threads that Howland weaves throughout this story, the way she puts Nina in it and makes a cheeky mystery, gives things for Cricket to think about, and I liked the final ending bit as well with Cricket's ultimate decision.

Sadly, I think Cricket's story is over and there won't be another Nantucket book, but that's okay. Sometimes you just know when a character's tale is finished. Unless Leila Howland crafts an adult book with Cricket as the central character once she's out of college. Or Cricket's daughter. I could see that.

I'd read it, too.


Saturday, June 11, 2016

Gods & Monsters: Unclean Spirits (A Book with Magic)

Pro: Everything
Con: I mean, if you don't like violence know. Maybe go read Little Women?

The Bottom Line: This is the American Gods no one needed, but it's the American Gods I wanted.

I have a long history with this book. Sort of. I'd seen it, quite literally, years ago on the shelf – probably when it first came out in 2013. By the time I thought to buy it, it was gone. So I thought to get it from the library. In a nutshell, that turned into such a long, absurd battle that it became a weird sort of I-have-to-get-it-from-the-library-now-simply-based-on-principle thing.

Until about two weeks ago when I realized how dumb the whole thing was and just bought the damn book.

For the record, I am a massive schmuck for waiting this long.

Cason Cole has just recently been freed. Freed from what, he's not entirely sure, because what he thought was a man may not actually be a man, and the thing that freed him was most definitely a bomb. But he's alive, and that's what counts. Now he can finally see his wife and son again.

Except he can't. Because something seriously wrong is going on. Nothing is what it seems and there are some truly messed up people in his way. Even worse? They're not exactly people. They're gods. Goddesses. All of them. And if he ever wants his family back, he's going to have to go through them and it is not going to be easy.

Some writers, when you read it's like swimming in a pool of crystal clear water. It's sleek and bright and magical. With Chuck Wendig? It's like going down to the pond and digging up a handful of silt and mud. It's heavy and thick and it feels great when you squish it between your fingers. I loved it. Every minute of it. Every word of it. I read for hours outside until the sun made me groggy and I was halfway through the book. I read the rest the next day—today, finished a few minutes ago, in fact—until my eyes were dry and yelling at me OH MY GOD, PLEASE STOP. (They still are, by the way, now that I'm writing this).

But really, to go back to my Bottom Line up there, this was the American Gods I wanted. No disrespect to those that love that book, nor any to Neil Gaiman, but that one was not for me. I had to sludge my way through that book hoping something would happen and the exposition would calm down a little. But this? Oh my. This the action didn't stop happening and the dialogue was always on point – especially the character of Frank. That guy had me laughing out loud a few times.

I also love how Wendig drops you right in the middle of something at the beginning and you're just as baffled as Cason. The great part is that it isn't disorienting. Not in an annoying fashion the way some books can be. Everything that's happening is too weird, too interesting to get mad about not knowing things. And you don't really know for quite some time. Why the gods and goddesses are here. Who's doing the killing. Why. And what makes Cason so special. His bit is actually the easiest to guess. I was right (sort of-ish – it's hard to explain). But it's a good time either way.

My biggest thing is that I really want to know what happens to all the divinity after Cason does his final act. I suppose the last option, given that final flutter of wings. Still, I wonder if they'll all be mad at him. Or care. Though I am still curious what happened to some of the elder gods – where the hell did those guys go? Maybe they all went to that final party in American Gods.

I'm all over recommending this. If you need something exciting, visceral, and satisfying, I say go for it. These aren't your typical gods/goddesses – or the occasional typical creature either. It's clear Wendig did a bit of digging about for rogue gods/goddesses that most of us have never heard of, and probably never would have, for that matter. It's a refreshing dip into a world of the wild, weird, and wholly unexpected.


P.S. I 100% had a moment of, "OH MY GOD, PLEASE BE THE SON OF CTHULHU."

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Whoops! I completely forgot to mention this. Last month I reviewed Stephanie Garber's amazing book Caraval for the web blog I curre...