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Forge (Seeds of America, #2)Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson

Although I found Chains underwhelming, perhaps due to all the hype, I found myself much more engrossed with Forge, the companion/sequel. The point of view shifts from Isabel to Curzon and follows, naturally, his time spent with the Continental Army at Valley Forge. The story manages to give a sense of the bigger picture of what’s happening to the army – Curzon is recaptured by his master for a time, serving officers of the army and allowing both he and the reader to glean information. But Anderson also keeps the story personal in its details, with Curzon’s interactions with other soldiers, his sense of conscience at shooting and killing, the struggle to find and keep shoes during the winter, the pitiful meals, and so on. We also get another perspective on Isabel, and of course things are set up for a third book. Recommended to fans of grittier historical fiction (it might be a nice companion to Woods Runner, although the character development is stronger in Forge) or readers interested in the Revolutionary War.

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Ramona asked if I had ever finished Wintergirls, and what I thought of it, which reminded me that I never posted my review – mostly because I like to post reviews of things that I can imagine myself recommending, and I can’t imagine recommending this one unless someone asked specifically for books about anorexia.

Wintergirls Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
While I admired Anderson’s writing, and the characters were strangely compelling, and it was a mesmerizing insight into the world of anorexia, it was a difficult book to read. Reading it was a tense experience, wanting to know how it would resolve but not really wanting to go along for the ride. It’s a topic that’s necessarily painful, and I was happy to close the book and move on to something with more of a balance between light and dark.

At times the imagery seemed almost over the top – Lia regularly references fairy tale imagery – but it felt both appropriate to the subject matter, which is horrifying enough to seem like something from an old, un-whitewashed fairy tale, and appropriate to the character, a girl who devours and frequently mentions her favorite fantasy books. I certainly wouldn’t recommend it to just anyone, but more to readers (of any age) who want or need to know more about anorexia from the inside, told in a distinct and moving voice.

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Last night I started reading Laurie Halse Anderson’s Wintergirls.  It came in on hold, for the second time, and I thought I’d better start it right away.  Sometimes it’s hard to get books back off the shelf once I bring them home – it can turn into a black hole of Things I Want to Read.  At any rate, I’m a little ways in and simultaneously interested and repulsed.  Repulsed isn’t quite the right word – I’m not irritated by Anderson’s style (the use of strikethroughs and various text sizes mostly works for me) and I’m finding the characters intriguing.  I think it’s mostly that I just don’t get anorexia.  I can’t even imagine having that kind of relationship with food.  That, in turn, makes it hard to empathize with Lia.  At the same time, it’s like a car accident – it’s hard to look away.  I’m curious to see how I feel as I get further into the story.

Speaking of things I’m reading, I need to work fast and clear some space on my To-Read shelf, because there are a lot of books coming out soon that I want to read.

  • Top of the list is the sequel to Patrick Ness’ The Knife of Never Letting Go, which is coming out in September.  I might go so far as to purchase this one for myself – The Ask and the Answer – just so I don’t have to wait for the YA librarian to order it , which of course means I need a matched set.  Which means I need to reread the first book.  Talk about cliff-hangers!  I’d better prepare myself for what I’m sure will be another.  Also, why isn’t there an audio version of The Knife yet?  Seriously.  September 8.
  • Everyone’s all buzz buzz buzz about Catching Fire, the sequel to The Hunger Games.  And I’m definitely looking forward to this, but not with the same intensity or cliff-hanger-resolving anxiety.  I’ve got it on hold, and I’m willing to wait a bit before devouring it.  September 1.
  • Same thing goes for the Graceling prequel, Fire – I want to read it, but I’m not biting my nails.  October 5.
  • Katherine Sturtevant, author of the wonderful At the Sign of the Star and it’s companion, A True and Faithful Narrative (both excellent historical fiction) has a new one coming out, which isn’t another book about Meg, but I trust Sturtevant’s style enough to be looking forward to it.  It’s called The Brothers Story, and don’t you wish it had a better title AND a better cover?  Sheesh, don’t the publishers want people to read it?  Also, shouldn’t there be an apostrophe in the title somewhere?  November 10.
  • Speaking of bad title decisions, the third installment in Linda Buckley-Archer’s Gideon trilogy is due out – Time Quake.  The first book was originally called Gideon the Cutpurse – doesn’t that just scream fabulous historical fiction?  Then, when the second book came out, the title was switched to The Time Travelers.  Yawn!  Book two is The Time Thief and the new one is Time Quake.  Sure, sure, this is a nice sort of branding and the whole series is unified, blah blah blah.  But I had to look them up to make sure I had the right name for each book – the titles aren’t distinct or memorable.  True, the books focus less on Gideon himself than on the children, but the switch did the whole series a disfavor.  Nice covers, though.  October 6.
  • Speaking of new covers, I’m not too much in love with the cover for Shannon Hale’s new one, Forest Born.  I liked the style of the original covers of The Goose Girl, etc., much better.  This one looks less old-fashioned and distinct and more like it could belong on any girly fantasy story.  Which isn’t to say that I won’t read the book.  But this series is more companion-y and less of a build-up from one book to the next, which means it probably won’t be at the top of my pile – I ordered it, and I’ll let the kids have at it first.  September 15.
  • Al Capone Shines My Shoes.  I feel like I need an exclamation point at the end of the title.  I can’t wait to see what Gennifer Choldenko does with this sequel to Al Capone Does My Shirts. It’s been a while since I read the first one, but I have fond memories – and it’s historical fiction that won’t scare off boys.  Can’t wait to unpack it when it arrives.  September 8.
  • I already mentioned Richard Peck’s new one a while ago, A Season of Gifts.  I highly recommend both A Long Way From Chicago and A Year Down Yonder on audio – so hilarious and still sweet at the same time.  So of course I ordered the new one.  And speaking of covers, I have no doubt who’s driving that car.  September 17.

What am I missing?  I know there’s a new Kate DiCamillo, and a Neil Gaiman novella, and Jasper Dash and the Flame Pits of Delaware – what else?

Edited to add:  Duh.  Sacred Scars, the sequel to Skin Hunger by Kathleen Duey.  My hold just came in and reminded me.

Second duh: Front and Center, the sequel to Dairy Queen and The Off Season.

So I’ve been hearing good things about Laurie Halse Anderson’s Chains for a while now (and man does it have a fab cover!) but I’ve got this problem – every time I see the book or think about it, I get that song stuck in my head  – “Chains, my baby’s got me locked up in chains…”  Except that’s the only line I can remember.  And it is SO inappropriate for the book.  Anyway, after finishing up The Knife of Never Letting Go last night, it’s next on my list, and I’m resigned to never getting the song out of my head.

I’ve also been getting it stuck in my head whenever I think about chains on my car – which seems like a problem that will not go away since it started snowing again today.  Snow is so much nicer when you don’t have to go to work.  But ice is never nice.  Oh, I crack myself up.  This is weather that demands you curl up with your book and your cup of coffee and only leave the house to frolic in the snow, before coming back in for more book and more coffee.

I kinda went all gushy over The Knife of Never Letting Go, but I think it deserves it.  Here’s what I wrote on Goodreads:

Book One (Chaos Walking) The Knife of Never Letting Go: Chaos Walking: Book One by Patrick Ness

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
Teensy-tiny mild spoiler at the end – nothing specific.

Here’s a book where form and content are wonderfully matched. Todd’s first person narrative is gripping and suspenseful, and the use of an imagined dialect is perfect for the world he’s coming from. Noise is visually depicted on the page with changes in font and size that never feel gimmicky – the effect of turning the page and seeing the Noise Todd hears as he walks through Prentisstown is much like the shock of turning the page and seeing Octavian Nothing’s scratched out words. Plus, the sometimes choppy sentences give a real sense of immediacy, and this gets turned up a notch for the more tense scenes – and there are plenty of them!

The characters are fantastic and vivid, including all the people Todd and Viola meet along the way, and as someone who’s not an animal person, I have to give special mention to Todd’s dog, Manchee. He was probably my favorite character, and despite his limited abilities with language, he had an incredibly strong “voice.” As Todd tells us in the opening sentence, “The first thing you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don’t got nothing much to say.” But oh boy does he come alive on the page.

This is a huge page-turner, and despite its length moved along at a nice brisk pace, with plenty of action. There is a fair amount of violence, but it’s a source of anguish for the characters, rather than feeling gratuitous. There’s plenty of moral complexity in the story, and it’s incredibly thoughtful for how action-packed it is. For me, it’s that combo of emotional complexity and fast pace that really make it stand out. Plus, the dystopian elements aren’t too heavy handed, and the dash of sci-fi adds interest without detracting from the story.

Oh, did I mention it’s a cliff-hanger? Plenty is left for the next volume, in terms of Plot, but there are smaller loose ends – like knowing more about the Spackle – that seem just as compelling. But really, by the last few pages, I was so invested in characters surviving that I didn’t care about anything else.

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December 2022

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