Saturday, September 27, 2008

Sovay by Celia Rees Book Review

Sovay by Celia Rees
(Bloomsbury, Hardcover)


Sovay is a well-to-do British girl living in the country. Her father is a simple man but he has some radical political beliefs. With her father gone on business and her older brother at school, Sovay is left alone to prove that her fiance is a scoundrel. She dons a cape and robs his carriage. After one exciting attempt, Sovay decides that being a highway robber has it's benefits and when her home and family are threatened, she takes to the road again.

I really enjoyed Pirates! by Celia Rees and this novel has it's good points (political intrigue, interesting characters), but there were a few things that really bothered me. The first has to do with plot. Sovay always has a man looking out for her--her brother, the overseer's son, an actual highway robber, a politician from America, and a French soldier. I understand that given the time period, it's very unlikely that a girl would be on her own, but I like my heroines to be real heroines, brave and independent. Another plot element that bothered me was Sovay's love life. Sovay is intelligent and beautiful and basically everyone that isn't related to her falls hopelessly in love with her. This is a big spoiler, but it isn't until towards the end of the novel that Sovay falls in love. It felt rushed and unexplained and I wasn't very convinced. By no means do I need my novels to have a romantic element, but if there is one, I need it to be believable.

The second thing that bothered me was how the novel was presented or marketed. The description on the back starts off: "When the rich and beautiful Sovay isn’t sitting for portraits, she’s donning a man’s cloak and robbing travelers—in broad daylight." I read this and thought that Sovay would be an experienced highway robber and that the book would center around her robberies. Sovay does rob a few trains, though not very many and they are all early on in the novel. The cover claims that she "robbed for love." Actually, she first robs for revenge. Her following robberies happen out of necessity. You could stretch it a bit and say that she robbed for familial love, but even that doesn't quite work.

So I'm not sure if this book was disappointing because I expected something different based on the cover description or if the character of Sovay just didn't click for me. As I mentioned, I really loved Pirates! and so I'll definitely be trying other books by Celia Rees. I would recommend Sovay if you enjoy historical novels, especially ones about the French Revolution.

Friday, September 26, 2008

She Will Be Loved: A Poetry Friday Post

She Will Be Loved
by Adam Levine, James Valentine, Jesse Carmichael, Mickey Madden, Ryan Dusick

Beauty queen of only eighteen
She had some trouble with herself
He was always there to help her
She always belonged to someone else

I drove for miles and miles
And wound up at your door
I've had you so many times but somehow
I want more

I don't mind spending everyday
Out on your corner in the pouring rain
Look for the girl with the broken smile
Ask her if she wants to stay awhile
And she will be loved
And she will be loved

Tap on my window knock on my door
I want to make you feel beautiful
I know I tend to get so insecure
It doesn't matter anymore

It's not always rainbows and butterflies
It's compromise that moves us along
My heart is full and my door's always open
You can come anytime you want

I don't mind spending everyday
Out on your corner in the pouring rain
Look for the girl with the broken smile
Ask her if she wants to stay awhile
And she will be loved
And she will be loved
And she will be loved
And she will be loved

I know where you hide
Alone in your car
Know all of the things that make you who you are
I know that goodbye means nothing at all
Comes back and begs me to catch her every time she falls

Tap on my window knock on my door
I want to make you feel beautiful

I don't mind spending everyday
Out on your corner in the pouring rain
Look for the girl with the broken smile
Ask her if she wants to stay awhile
And she will be loved
And she will be loved
And she will be loved
And she will be loved

I don't mind spending everyday
Out on your corner in the pouring rain...

I decided to post song lyrics as my poem this week for a couple of reasons. First, I went to a concert this week and now I just can't get this song out of my head. Second, when I hear this song, I see it as a book. I can imagine the back story of the girl and the guy and their friendship. And third, what are songs, after all, if not poems put to music?

To learn more about Poetry Friday, visit Big A little a. This week's Poetry Friday round-up is at The Miss Rumphius Effect.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen Book Review

Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen
(Viking, Hardcover)


Ruby's mom ran off a couple of months ago but Ruby has managed to hide that from her friends and is still living in her little yellow house. When social services finds out that Ruby is living alone, they contact her older sister, Cora. Cora left home about 10 years ago and Ruby hasn't heard from her since. Cora and her husband live in a big house in a beautiful neighborhood. Ruby has her own bedroom, new designer clothes, and admission into a posh private school. But how will Ruby connect with a sister who abandoned her when Ruby needed her the most?

Sarah Dessen is one of my favorite authors. She always manages to write about serious topics with style and humor. Lock and Key is no exception. Ruby is immediately likable because she is so vulnerable. She carries her key to the little yellow house on a chain around her neck, afraid that she'll have to move back in and away from Cora. Cora has her own issues with the past and it's her laid-back, friendly husband who helps reforge the bond between the sisters. I've never been a latchkey kid and don't know what it's like to come home to an empty house but Dessen made it easy for me to understand Ruby's loneliness. This book is, at times, heartbreaking, but what makes it wonderful is watching Ruby as she learns what it's like to live with a loving family.

If you like Sarah Dessen's writing, you might also like Sweethearts by Sara Zarr.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Looking for Alaska by John Green Book Review

Looking for Alaska by John Green
(Speak, Paperback)


Miles has always led a fairly boring life. Then he decides to seek out The Great Perhaps by attending an elite private school. There skinny Miles gets the nickname "Pudge", befriends the Colonel, impresses everyone with his knowledge of famous last words, and falls for the clever, elusive prankster, Alaska Young. Alaska, with all her mysteriousness and unpredictability, offers her friendship to Miles and spices up his otherwise drab existence.

Alaska is the type of person that you want to befriend even though you know she's dangerous. Miles is desperately in love with Alaska almost from their first interaction and his obsession sets the tone for the novel. Maybe obsession is a harsh word, but really I mean to say that Miles is so completely focused on Alaska that he doesn’t quite see that she is suffering. Alaska is an elusive creature and Miles only sees her beauty. One of my favorite lines from the book is a scene where Alaska has fallen asleep on Miles’ lap and he wants to lay down beside her.
“But I lacked the courage and she had a boyfriend and I was gawky and she was gorgeous and I was hopelessly boring and she was endlessly fascinating. So I walked back to my room and collapsed on the bottom bunk, thinking that if people were rain, I was drizzle and she was a hurricane.” (page88)
Alaska completely changes the way Miles sees the world, she challenges him to be different and to stretch his limits. When tragedy strikes, Miles is no longer sure he wants to be different. The first half of the novel is innocence and looking-before-leaping. The second half is growing up and making sense of a seemingly senseless world.

Looking for Alaska is why I like teen novels. Miles’ voice is real and he has a way of thinking about the world that is accessible. John Green doesn’t dumb down this novel and I enjoyed that it can be read on several different levels. When reading it, I folded over no less than 10 pages and marked up countless passages because I loved the words so much. In trying to write this review, I could only come up with superlatives. This book has it all: drama, humor, and great discussion topics.

Fans of Looking for Alaska may also like Gossip of the Starlings by Nina de Gramont and Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Mom, he's reading my books again!: The role that siblings and books play in our lives

My little brother is visiting me so I've been thinking lately about nature versus nurture. My brother and I are complete opposites, yet in some ways we are so similar that it's scary. I know, this is a big topic for a blog that does mostly book reviews. But never fear, it all comes back to books.

My brother and I are opposites in a lot of ways. He's tall, I'm short. He's footloose, I'm rooted. He's outgoing, I'm shy. Despite all that, we're very similar. We both have blue eyes, we have the same political views, we even have some of the same annoying habits, and we love books. We have inside jokes, we finish each other's sentences, we accept each other because of our differences. Nothing emphasizes this more than our book interests.

A few years ago, around the same time and unknown to each other, we read Into Thin Air and Into the Wild, two books by Jon Krakauer. I loved Into Thin Air because it's about people pushing their limits. When it comes to Mount Everest, I'm happy to be an armchair traveler. I enjoyed Into the Wild but I couldn't identify with the main character. I was constantly tripping over the bad decisions that he made. When I discovered that my brother had read the same books, the conversation went a little like this.
Me: Wasn't Into Thin Air exciting and gripping?
Brother: Not really. It's about a bunch of people polluting Everest.
Me: Hmm, I guess so. Well, what about Into the Wild? Wasn't that guy silly for heading into the forest all by himself?
Brother: No! That's one of my favorite books ever! It was so cool how he just went off into the Alaskan wilderness by himself! I'd love to do that!
Me, thinking: oh, no, how can I discourage my brother from disappearing into no man's land and slowly starving himself?
The nurture part of this is that my brother and I stumbled across the same books at almost exactly the same time and enjoyed the author's writing style. Why? Who knows, maybe it's because we'd each read A Walk Across America by Peter Jenkins shortly before that and were on a travel writing kick. Growing up, we read a lot of the same books and so that probably influenced our book preference. The nature part of this is how differently we interpreted the same books. I'm happy to live near, work with, and work around other people. For me, Into Thin Air was a book about the disasters that happen when the rules of a society break down. My brother is self-sufficient, intent on the next adventure. He neither needs nor desires society to entertain him. For him, Into the Wild was a book about escaping civilization, about independence and making it on your own.

I keep those two books on my bookshelf, not side by side but rather separated by a few shelves. It's a reminder of who I am and who my brother is. Best friends with a shared history, separated by time, space, and personalities, but always within reach.

When I Heard the Learned Astronomer: A Poetry Friday Post

When I Heard the Learned Astronomer
by Walt Whitman

When I heard the learn'd astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide,
and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with
much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander'd off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look'd up in perfect silence at the stars.

This is one of my all-time favorite poems and I thought it was appropriate to post it now as most everyone has started back to school. In high school some of my friends who went to another school had to do a biology lab in which they learned about what makes fireflies glow. I remember thinking, How awful, then you'd never again be able to look at a firefly with the same childish delight and fascination. It's the one time in my life that I was glad I didn't learn something.

To learn more about Poetry Friday, visit Big A little a. This week's Poetry Friday round-up is at Wild Rose Reader.