Christina’s Review: Silhouette of a Sparrow by Molly Beth Griffin


Christina’s Review: Silhouette of a Sparrow by Molly Beth GriffinSilhouette of a Sparrow by Molly Beth Griffin
Published by Milkweed Editions on 2012
Genres: 20th Century, Family, Girls & Women, Historical, Homosexuality, Parents, Social Issues, United States, Young Adult
Pages: 189
Format: Hardcover
Goodreads
two-stars
Silhouette of a Sparrow is an excellent example of an historical, coming-of-age lesbian young adult novel. Written with a deft hand, based in the true history of its setting, and with characterizations that will ring true to any teenager, it is a worthy and enjoyable read for anyone. --Lambda LiteraryWINNER OF THE MILKWEED PRIZE FOR CHILDREN'S LITERATUREWINNER OF THE 2013 PATERSON PRIZE FOR BOOKS FOR YOUNG READERSALA RAINBOW LIST RECOMMENDED BOOKAMELIA BLOOMER PROJECT LIST RECOMMENDED BOOKLAMBDA LITERARY AWARD FINALISTMINNESOTA BOOK AWARD FINALISTFOREWARD REVIEWS BOOK OF THE YEAR HONORABLE MENTIONIn the summer of 1926, sixteen-year-old Garnet Richardson is sent to a lake resort to escape the polio epidemic in the city. She dreams of indulging in ornithology and a visit to an amusement park-a summer of fun before she returns to a last year of high school, marriage, and middle-class homemaking. But in the country, Garnet finds herself under supervision of oppressive guardians, her father's wealthy cousin and the matron's stuck-up daughter. Only a job in a hat shop, an intense, secret relationship with a beautiful flapper, and a deep faith in her own heart can save her from the suffocation of traditional femininity in this coming-of-age story about a search for both wildness and security in an era full of unrest. It is the tale of a young woman's discovery of the science of risk and the art of rebellion, and, of course, the power of unexpected love.

Silhouette of a Sparrow was one of the earlier books selected for our book club to read by a group member. It was a fast-read and contained some mature content (even though it is noted for winning the “Milkweed Prize for Children’s Literature.”)

The book is about a girl, Garnet, who is away from home during the summer of 1926. While away, she picks up a job and meets a girl from a different side of the tracks than herself. Garnet has the opportunity to explore who she is and what other opportunities and adventures are out there for her during this coming-of-age period in her life.

This book allowed for a great group discussion with multiple opinions and directions for conversation to go between the mature subjects and metaphorical references carried on throughout. My main critique: It felt like the author was trying too hard at times to get her message across between the environmentalism and “coming-of-age” experiences. The book felt over-dramatized at times, with numerous “disasters” occurring back-to-back for a book that I thought was intended to be more relatable for younger generations.

However, after discussing this book with my book club, I saw more behind the story I did not appreciate before. For example, the significance behind the bird-cutting hobby of Garnet and how she spread her wings in the end…

It was not a favorite on my list, but others ranked in highly and felt that connection the author intended. It is a light, quick read… probably great for a summer-time pool-side book.

pj - christina

Michelle’s Review: For the Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund


Michelle’s Review: For the Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana PeterfreundFor Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund
Published by Harper Collins on 2012-06-12
Genres: Family, General, Love & Romance, Visionary & Metaphysical, Young Adult
Pages: 448
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Goodreads
four-half-stars
Fans of Divergent will love Diana Peterfreund’s take on Jane Austen’s Persuasion set in a post-apocalyptic world. In the dystopian future of For Darkness Shows the Stars, a genetic experiment has devastated humanity. In the aftermath, a new class system placed anti-technology Luddites in absolute power over vast estates—and any survivors living there. Elliot North is a dutiful Luddite and a dutiful daughter who runs her father’s estate. When the boy she loved, Kai, a servant, asked her to run away with him four years ago, she refused, although it broke her heart. Now Kai is back. And while Elliot longs for a second chance with her first love, she knows it could mean betraying everything she’s been raised to believe is right. For Darkness Shows the Stars is a breathtaking YA romance about opening your mind to the future and your heart to the one person you know can break it.

I have found my way back to reading by getting sucked into a series. But instead of just reading each book in the series back to back directly, I thought I would add a book or two in between, the lemon to refresh my palette so to speak. For the Darkness Shows the Stars was intended to be that fresh lemon and it ended up being more than that to me.

I understand now why everyone was loving this book and its companion. It’s a retelling that was very refreshing because while it kept a lot of the details that are important from the original (I presume, because I’ve never read Persuassion) it was enough removed to feel entirely original.

A disaster to human kind occurs after the majority of people began to recode their DNA and basically become bionic humans. It backfired, creating the Reduced, those humans who maintain a little of their humanity but are basically little evolved from livestock. The Luddites had resisted the appeal of science and were therefore spared from the Reduction. Now, in a post-apocalyptic world where the Luddites are the ruling class and the Reduced the serfs, there are a new group of people emerging from the Reduced, seemingly no different than the Luddites.

I could go on about this premise because it was so entirely fascinating to me. It was exciting to read and learn more about it. It wasn’t overly complicated and allowed the story to grow. The story itself is one of complicated love, but it is not too overwrought. The epistolary nature of the book really helped build the story and reveal enough to keep the suspension there. Without those parts, I doubt I would have enjoyed the book half as much.

I would definitely recommend this book to others. It was a nice escape and was the perfect refreshing sorbet.

pj - michelle

Michelle’s Review: Salt and Storm by Kendall Kulper


I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Michelle’s Review: Salt and Storm by Kendall KulperSalt & Storm by Kendall Kulper
Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers on 2014-09-23
Genres: 19th Century, Family, Fantasy & Magic, Girls & Women, Historical, Multigenerational, United States, Young Adult
Pages: 416
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
Goodreads
four-stars
A sweeping historical romance about a witch who foresees her own murder--and the one boy who can help change her future.Sixteen-year-old Avery Roe wants only to take her rightful place as the witch of Prince Island, making the charms that keep the island's whalers safe at sea, but her mother has forced her into a magic-free world of proper manners and respectability. When Avery dreams she's to be murdered, she knows time is running out to unlock her magic and save herself.Avery finds an unexpected ally in a tattooed harpoon boy named Tane--a sailor with magic of his own, who moves Avery in ways she never expected. Becoming a witch might stop her murder and save her island from ruin, but Avery discovers her magic requires a sacrifice she never prepared for.

Sea witches is not something that I have had much experience in reading about. But Salt & Storm presents a magic structure that was intriguing and had me interested through most of the book. Each of the Roe witches has their own specialty, something that makes me turn into a little kid, imagining what my own specialty would be. (Don’t ask, I haven’t decided yet.)

If I’m remembering correctly, this book to me had a lot of opportunities to become cliche but avoided most of them. The setting was unique, being both historical and paranormal, on an island somewhere in the northeastern U.S. In some regards, I almost wished for more setting of the world beyond, but it matched the type of isolation Avery was feeling on the island.

The author’s note was perhaps the most interesting to me, which sounds strange, but it really helped tie things together for me. The book had its flaws, and it wasn’t a perfect read for me, but it was definitely an enjoyable one.

pj - michelle

Michelle’s Review: The Walled City by Ryan Graudin


I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Michelle’s Review: The Walled City by Ryan GraudinThe Walled City by Ryan Graudin
Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers on 2014-11-04
Genres: Action & Adventure, Asia, Drugs, Alcohol, Substance Abuse, Family, General, Love & Romance, People & Places, Siblings, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 448
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
Goodreads
four-stars
730. That's how many days I've been trapped.18. That's how many days I have left to find a way out.DAI, trying to escape a haunting past, traffics drugs for the most ruthless kingpin in the Walled City. But in order to find the key to his freedom, he needs help from someone with the power to be invisible....JIN hides under the radar, afraid the wild street gangs will discover her biggest secret: Jin passes as a boy to stay safe. Still, every chance she gets, she searches for her lost sister....MEI YEE has been trapped in a brothel for the past two years, dreaming of getting out while watching the girls who try fail one by one. She's about to give up, when one day she sees an unexpected face at her window.....In this innovative and adrenaline-fueled novel, they all come together in a desperate attempt to escape a lawless labyrinth before the clock runs out.

Writing this review a couple of months after finishing it, I still remember my overarching feeling towards this book: Wow. That’s messed up.

I don’t mean the book itself, the writing or really my enjoyment of it. The world is describes is what is messed up. It is dark and dangerous with elements that shocked me considering that this was being marketed as a young adult book.

There are drugs and the use of drugs for coercion. There are sex slaves, kidnapping, and torture. There are broken families and broken individuals. The scenes that those things occur in were very shocking to me, and even given my poor memory of books after finishing them, I can still remember my reaction to the book.

The three different narrators were fun to me, and once I became immersed in the book I was able to more easily tell them apart (especially given that their situations and environments were completely different). I remember being most confused about the status of the Walled City in the first half. What was it? Why was it there? What time is this story taking place in? Obviously all of that becomes clearer by the end and particularly by the note that explains that this type of urban environment is based on reality. But I think I would have benefited from knowing that bit in the beginning or at least a little earlier.

I will agree with other reviewers about the note of the happily ever after not quite matching what the rest of the book was like. I wanted the characters to be happy and I was left in suspense over certain events in the plot, but to have everything tied up like that in the end was almost more jarring than the corruption and evils by that point.

I would definitely recommend this book for those looking for a darker read in a dystopian environment that could actually exist.

pj - michelle

Michelle’s Review: Wonder Show by Hannah Barnaby


Michelle’s Review: Wonder Show by Hannah BarnabyWonder Show by Hannah Rodgers Barnaby
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on 2012
Genres: 20th Century, Action & Adventure, Circus, Family, General, Girls & Women, Historical, JUVENILE FICTION, Love & Romance, Orphans & Foster Homes, Performing Arts, United States, Young Adult
Pages: 274
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Goodreads
five-stars
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, step inside Mosco’s Traveling Wonder Show, a menagerie of human curiosities and misfits guaranteed to astound and amaze! But perhaps the strangest act of Mosco’s display is Portia Remini, a normal among the freaks, on the run from McGreavy’s Home for Wayward Girls, where Mister watches and waits. He said he would always find Portia, that she could never leave. Free at last, Portia begins a new life on the bally, seeking answers about her father’s disappearance. Will she find him before Mister finds her? It’s a story for the ages, and like everyone who enters the Wonder Show, Portia will never be the same.

I was in the mood for a fantasical circus story when I picked up Wonder Show. I wasn’t disappointed.

Wonder Show has the kind of cover that definitely attracted me to it. Add to it the fun synopsis, and it is definitely a book that screams to be read when you’re looking for some quirky storytelling. I was feeling nostalgic over reading The Night Circus…it’s not terribly similar but I would recommend it for those looking for something at least a little related.

In short, it is a very artfully written story with the kind of aesthetic that would be matched well with some Edward Gorey drawings (my favorite!). It’s a story that you can easily read in one sitting. At the same time, I think it’s appropriate for all audiences, even perhaps some younger middle grade ones. It’s dark without being overwhelmingly dark. It’s a Tim Burton-esque story if that makes sense (and if I can be allowed to make yet another reference).

I’m not doing a very good job in writing this review (I haven’t been the best at putting my thoughts into written words lately, particularly in review-form). But I promise I loved it and this has earned its spot on my bookshelf.

pj - michelle

Michelle’s Review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart


Michelle’s Review: We Were Liars by E. LockhartWe Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Published by Random House Children's Books on 2014-05-13
Genres: Death & Dying, Emotions & Feelings, Family, General, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 240
Format: Audiobook
Goodreads
five-stars
A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.
Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

I spoiled this book for myself before I had ever decided to read it.

In June everyone was raving about this book. It seemed like everyone was reading it, book bloggers, vloggers, and critics alike! I had heard about it through some online article about books to read this summer and had nominated it for my book club to read. I hadn’t actually expected to ever get around to reading it. I’m not exactly the fastest or the trendiest reader. So when it was selected as our book club’s August book, I was both happy and a little disappointed.

Because I had watched all the spoiler sections of people’s vlogs about this book. I had spoiled that big twist that everyone alluded to.

But here’s the thing: it didn’t affect my enjoyment of the book at all. Perhaps I liked the book for different reasons than those who were in the dark; it was like rereading a thriller and being able to connect the dots that were previously invisible to you. But it was still so much fun. It was definitely one of my favorite reads so far this year.

  • Why was it so good?
  • It was artistic. There was poetry in its prose that was not overdone but instead helped to create a certain mood.
  • It was a thriller without being too heavy. It was the kind of book you would bring to the beach and end up forgetting to go into the water and still feel relaxed.
  • The setting was so real. It made me long to go to that island and have my own summer adventures (minus family drama, please!).
  • The narrator of the audiobook was absolutely amazing and a perfect fit for the book. I had listened to other books she has narrated before and liked her then too but she definitely did this book justice to the point where I feel like my experience of the book was greatened by listening to it instead of reading it.

This was the book that inspires so much discussion and analysis, with no one being truly right or wrong about it. And I think I’ll enjoy discussing it for some time to come.

pj - michelle

Christina’s Review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart


Christina’s Review: We Were Liars by E. LockhartWe Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Published by Random House Children's Books on 2014-05-13
Genres: Death & Dying, Emotions & Feelings, Family, General, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 240
Format: eBook
Goodreads
four-stars
A New York Times Bestseller.

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.


We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.

Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

I jumped ahead on August’s VA Wine and Book Club pick and read We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. I started it on a Thursday, and finished it the next day. It was a quick and easy read, and entertaining as well. Reading the book description, I was a little skeptical to begin, however, I found myself at the pool looking for a light read, and this book ended up being the perfect fit. (Actually, I may have spent a little too much time at the pool after getting drawn-in through the book)

We Were Liars followed the summers Cady Sinclair and her beautiful and wealthy family spent together on a private island. What family could be more perfect than the Sinclair’s? They emulated the pristine and got through things without showing the hardships or emotions. The “Liars” of the family included Cady, her two cousins, and friend Gat who spent the summers together each year. Their relationship with each other as family close in age was relatable for me with my cousins. They were friends whose story was conflicted by an accident that fogged Cady’s memory and was carried out in her story throughout the book. What happened during her fifteenth summer? What changed her beautiful, flawless life?

E. Lockhart did a seamless job with the story-line of her book. Her writing style was unique…wistful, metaphoric, and captivating. She covered so much detail and kept the book moving fast, however, she left so much to question and keep the reader thinking at the same time. The first few chapters took me some time to get into the story and adjust to her writing style, however, once I did I found the book irresistible and wanted to reach the end to learn who the liars were and what could have happened to Cady.

As other reviews have mentioned, it is difficult to go into details with this book without the risk of saying too much. Therefore, I will keep this review short and sweet. I recommend this book as a light read. It was the perfect pool-side escape, and should be an interesting book club discussion. When I reached the end, I felt my jaw hanging open with suspense, anticipation, confusion and excitement. This is definitely one of those books I will have to re-read again to further understand the significance of the events and details captured by the author.

Enjoy this read, and let yourself escape into the world of the Sinclair’s!

pj - christina