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My Progress:

11 / 30 books. 37% done!

2024 Literary Escapes Challenge

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23 / 51 states. 45% done!

2024 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

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Booklist Queen's 2024 Reading Challenge

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22 / 100 books. 22% done!

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58 / 104 books. 56% done!

Around the Year in 52 Books Reading Challenge

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42 / 52 books. 81% done!

Disney Animated Movies Reading Challenge

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60 / 165 books. 36% done!
Friday, October 16, 2015

If It Weren't For the Cop-Out of An Ending ...

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Although she's eighteen, Madeline Whittier knows little of life beyond the walls of her home.  Born with "baby in the bubble" disease (aka Severe Combined Immunodeficiency or SCID), she's allergic to nearly everything.  Going outside could mean death.  So, she doesn't.  Madeline stays inside, studying with online tutors, socializing only with her nurse and her physician mother, and posting spoiler book reviews on her blog.  It's a lonely existence, but one Madeline bears with reluctant acceptance.

That changes when a new family moves in next door to the Whittiers.  Watching their movements from her window, Madeline becomes fascinated with Olly Bright, the family's teenage son.  Always clad in black, he does Spiderman-like parkour moves, launching himself into secret places to get away from his father's alcohol-fueled rages.  When Madeline and Olly start instant messaging each other, she discovers that her neighbor is not just physically skilled, but he's also funny, smart, and thoughtful.  As much as Madeline looks forward to their chats, she longs to talk to Olly face-to-face.  To feel his hand in hers, his lips on her skin.  Of course, her mother would never allow such a thing.  She'd have a coronary if she knew about the instant messaging.  Madeline has never considered defying her mother-doctor, risking illness or worse to escape her confinement, but now?  Now, it's all she wants.  
Will Madeline break free, throwing caution to the wind in order to be with the boy she's coming to love?  Or will she do the sensible thing and forget Olly ever existed?  With her heart—not to mention her life—at stake, what will Madeline decide?

There's plenty to love about Everything, Everything, a debut novel by Nicola Yoon.  To begin with, there's the kind of diversity that is often lacking in YA novels.  Yoon, a Jamaican-American married to a Japanese-American, gives Madeline a mixed ethnicity (Japanese/African-American), which helps her stand out.  I thought the token gay character who drops in at the end was a little much (Why was he even in the story?), but I like that our heroine is bi-racial and it's just a fact of life for her, no big deal.  I also enjoyed the peeks we get into her bright, engaging personality via lists, book reviews, lists, drawings (by David Yoon, the author's husband), and diary entries.  These snippets perk up the narration, moving the plot along in a fast, fresh manner.  The growing relationship between Madeline and Olly is also sweet and fun.  I found all of these elements appealing.  My only real complaint with the novel is with the ending.  With little foreshadowing, the conflict's resolution comes out of nowhere.  And yet, the big twist didn't surprise me at all, as I've seen it done before.  Yoon's wrap-up, thus, felt like a rushed cop-out.  In fact, it kind of soured the whole book for me.  Despite that, Everything, Everything really is pretty enjoyable.  It's the sweet, swoony kind of read teens will definitely get into (my 13-year-old daughter adored it).  Judging by the rave reviews the novel is getting all over the book blogosphere, I'm the only one who felt a little gipped by this one.  Ah, well.  I can deal.

(Readalikes:  Broken by C.J. Lyons)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (no F-bombs), violence, and mild sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of Everything, Everything from the generous folks at Random House via those at NetGalley.  Thank you!

Appalachian Murder Mystery Series Goes Deeper, Gets Better As It Goes

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

(Note:  While this review will not contain spoilers for Summer of the Dead, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from previous Bell Elkins mysteries.  As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.)

High summer in Acker's Gap, West Virginia, means more time for its mountain residents to enjoy the rugged beauty around them.  And yet, few seem to be outside, taking advantage of the long, arid days.  With a killer on the loose, the hill people are scared.  Too frightened to linger, too scared to stray far from their homes.  It's up to Belfa "Bell" Elkins, Raythune County's prosecutor, and her old friend, Sheriff Nick Fogelsong, to stop the killing.  If only they had a clue where to look.  For all its breathtaking natural wonders, Acker's Gap is a hard, dead end kind of town, one where desperation leads to violence of every kind.  Who could be harboring homicidal tendencies?  Just about everyone.
Bell's got enough problems to deal with, never mind the recent murders.  Her 45-year-old sister, Shirley, has moved in with her after serving 30 years in prison for killing their abusive father.  Trying to re-form the close relationship they shared as girls isn't easy now that they're independent, headstrong adults.  Especially since Shirley refuses to listen to reason.  Bell's also missing her 17-year-old daughter, who lives with her flashy father in D.C.  The last thing she needs is more problems to solve.  Or, maybe it's the best thing to get her mind off her domestic troubles?

When Bell's investigation leads her to 19-year-old Lindy Crabtree, the prosecutor believes she's finally getting somewhere.  The jumpy teenager is hiding her sad, angry father in the locked basement.  The ex-miner, whose failing mind prefers the lonely darkness, could be the exact person for whom Bell and the sheriff have been searching.  If only the case were that simple ...

Julia Keller's exploration of Odell Crabtree's issues gives Summer of the Dead, the third installment in her Appalachian mystery series, a greater depth than what is found in the two previous books.  Keller always excels at bringing to life the struggles and stresses of her beloved hill people, but Odell's plight feels especially poignant.  As does Bell's constant worry over her older sister.  It's always been the characters and setting more than the plot that draws me to this series—still, there's plenty of action to be had in a Keller novel, no worries about that!  Although I pieced together some of the answers to the mysteries in Summer of the Dead, I didn't see all of them coming.  That suspense, as well as my interest in the daily dramas of Acker's Gap's salt-of-the-Earth residents, kept me turning pages.  Not to mention hankering for more from the indomitable Bell Elkins.

(Readalikes:  Other books in the Bell Elkins series [A Killing in the Hills; Bitter River; and Last Ragged Breath])


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for strong language, violence, sexual innuendo, and adult subject matter (child abuse, drug abuse, etc.)

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find
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