Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Book Review: Creeps

Author: Darren Hynes
Published: 30 July 2013


Fifteen-year-old Wayne Pumphrey wishes he were courageous enough to actually send the heartfelt letters he writes to friends and family. He also wishes his father would drive on the right side of the street, his mother would stop packing her suitcase to leave, and his sister would stop listening to Nickelback. But most of all, he wishes that Pete “The Meat” would let him walk to school in peace. After all, how many times can one person eat yellow snow?
Then one morning, while facing Pete and his posse, Wayne is rescued by Marjorie, the girl with a dead father and a mother who might as well be. Together, the two of them escape Pete’s relentless bullying by rehearsing for the school play, and an unlikely friendship is formed. As they grow ever closer to one another, they begin to dream of escape from their small town and restricted lives. But Pete now has plans for both of them—and after a moment of sudden violence, nothing will ever be the same again for Wayne, Marjorie, or Pete himself.


Note: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

This book was just "okay" for me. Actually, if it weren't for those chapters written as Wayne's actual letters, it would have been pretty terrible. 

The subject and the characters really had potential, but the book just never reached "adolescence", if you will. I don't think Hynes gives his YA audience enough credit (emotionally or intellectually). The characters felt like a bunch of token stereotypes. Wayne spoke and acted like he was 10, maybe 12 years old, and not like a 15-16 year old. The Wayne we encounter in the narrated chapters feels like a completely different kid than the insightful Wayne of the letters. The whole thing felt much more reminiscent of Napoleon Dynamite trying to be serious than I'm sure the author ever intended.

There is nothing really new about this book or its handling of the subject matter. However, there were small glimpses of insight and unique voice that saved it from a two-star rating.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Book Review: The Book of Secrets

The Book of Secrets
Author: Elizabeth Joy Arnold
Published: 2 July 2013 by Bantam 


After more than twenty years of marriage, Chloe Sinclair comes home one night to find that her husband, Nate, is gone. All he has left behind is a cryptic note explaining that he's returned to their childhood town, a place Chloe never wants to see again. 

While trying to reach Nate, Chloe stumbles upon a notebook tucked inside his antique copy of "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe." Written in code, the pages contain long-buried secrets from their past, and clues to why he went home after all these years. As Chloe struggles to decipher the notebook's hidden messages, she revisits the seminal moments of their youth: the day she met the enigmatic Sinclair children and the increasingly dangerous games they played to escape their troubled childhoods; the first time Nate kissed her, camped out on the beach like Robinson Crusoe; and the elaborate plan she and Nate devised, inspired by "Romeo and Juliet, " to break away from his oppressive father. As the reason for Nate's absence comes to light, the truth will forever shatter everything Chloe knows--about her husband, his family, and herself. 


Note: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Everything about this book was unexpected. It caught me by surprise. Honestly, I read the synopsis- the marriage falling apart and buried secrets thing- and I jumped in to reading skeptical about the subject matter. That and - confession- I judged the book by its cover. (Collective gasp.) Cardinal sin, I know. But, truthfully, the cover art just DOES NOT fit the content and the story. I really don't get it.

On to the review...

This book is about the secrets we keep, the faith we cling to, the bonds of family and loyalty, and the dark strings that tie them all together. It's also a story for book-lovers.

How well do we really know the ones we love? How true are the stories we have written and called our memories? How much of what we know and believe to be true about who we are and where we have been is really a product of our own editing, guided by love and faith and need?

"We think we know our friends, our lovers, but really all we know is pieces of them. Fragments we learn by watching, sharing time and place, listening to their stories; over the years there are more and more of these fragments and we can draw lines between them, fill them with what we imagine is the truth. But of course we only know what they show us; lines we think jig here may actually curl somewhere else altogether. The lines we draw aren't always real, and often have more to do with our own selves."
"Maybe from a distance most lives seem more love story than tragedy and the key is finding enough perspective to see that, to be able to manipulate emphasis and rearrange. Because all memories are a form of storytelling, rewritten with that distance because of new wisdom, or maybe based on what we wish had been. We're all authors continually editing in an attempt to make sense out of our lives." 

This is a story of two star-crossed lovers and childhood sweethearts, told from the perspective of the wife, now middle-aged, forced to reflect on the story of their life together. With Nate's coded journal, Chloe begins to find the missing pieces from their story- pieces she previously filled in with her own presumptions, suppositions, beliefs or hopes. 

I will say that at times the religious commentary and story lines felt out of place or forced. I understand what Allen was trying to do with the motif- the blind faith, the passionate need for answers, and building suspense. However, it raised too many questions that didn't need to be asked, added an element of (for lack of a better word) preachiness, and sometimes- as I said- forced.

That said... Beautifully written. Rich characters. Honesty and truth about life and relationships.

Without giving too much away, I have to say that as a mother, I was DREADING the unfolding of the story and the secrets. I was not sure that I could read the entirety of the book with what I was expecting to be revealed. Allen's writing tugged at that deepest place in my heart and in my gut and just kept on pulling. And pulling. I wanted to keep reading. I needed to keep reading, and yet I wasn't sure that I physically could. I am so glad I did. 

I couldn't get enough of this book. I ate it up.