Sunday, March 20, 2011

Post #311: In Which I Post Various Recent Reviews

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Sunshine; Robin McKinley
3 1/2 stars

Robin McKinley's Sunshine isn't quite like any vampire novel I've read. This is not a strained paranormal romance; no one wants to become a "creature of the night;" nothing about death (or the undead) is glorified. The story we get is a slice of alternate reality, a dystopic future that is over run by Others and part-bloods with speacial abilities and, sometimes, an affinity for killing off careless humans. McKinley spares no gritty details.

Rae Seddon, nicnamed Sunshine, is a baker best known for cinnamon rolls as big as your head. Her world is limited to her family's restaraunt and its inhabitants, and her landlady. Amid the Other-ridden shambles of America, she has managed to live a painfully normal life -- her experience of Others being limited to what she reads in vampire novels. However, Sunshine's life is turned upside down and given a thorough shaking when she is abducted by vampires during what was supposed to be a quiet retreat to a lakeside cabin. After less-than-friendly treatment, she finds herself shackled next to the last imaginable captive: another vampire who mysteriously refuses to kill her, and seems to need as much help to escape as she does. In the months that follow, every principle of Sunshine's life is challenged. Friends become suspicious, and the lines between enemies and allies are blurred. If she is to survive, Sunshine must reach deep within herself to unleash a hertiage she didn't know existed.

Sunshine is compelling, suspensful, and above all original. Robin McKinley breaks from her tradition of reviving timeless heroines' tales to offer up one of her own. While some of Rae's acquaintances are left half-sketched, and the launch into Other-world is somewhat unexplained, this novel remains gripping. Sunshine's voice becomes as unmistakable as an old friends's, and it's beyond easy to stay vested in her adventure.

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You Know When the Men Are Gone; Siobhan Fallon
5 stars

No one can really know what life is like for a military family unless they've been in one, but Siobhan Fallon's collection of stories can bring you to a level of understanding that runs a close second. The story of the women and children who struggle to survive without their husbands and fathers is one that desperately needed telling. Fallon did it justice. In her collection, she delivers glimpses of the lives of both soldiers and wives, of both the lucky and less fortunate, of men and women both in love and falling apart.

Behind the ominous fences of Fort Hood, Texas, lies a world unknown to most civilians -- a world where "home" changes location in as little as six months, where a vacation is unheard of, and where tomorrow is not always guaranteed. Here soldiers leave their families to try and maintain normalcy in generic apartment complexes while they go off to war. Here fast friendships form, rumors abound, and hundreds of women spend their days waiting for their phone to ring and bring them reassurance that, at least for today, their husband is safe and life can go on. It is not a life for the faint of heart.

Fallon's stories are memories netted like butterflies -- they are poignant, beautiful.  Yet as soon as you've grasped one, it flits away on the breeze, leaving as abruptly as it appeared. Each story is as unique as every military family, and all are steeped in emotion. Some leave us with hope, others with despair. Some are terrifying and strange, and others echo typical domestic life. However, they all inspire a well-deserved compassion for the unsung heroes of war: those who our troops leave behind.

You Know When the Men Are Gone is a profound and brilliant debut from an author who knows her characters quite a bit better than most. I hope it is only the beginning of a stunning literary career.

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Little Princes; Conor Grennan
6 stars
 
Conor Grennan had no idea what he was getting himself into when he agreed to volunteer three months at the Little Princes children's home in Nepal. Tackled by a mob of tiny orphans upon his arrival, he could think of nothing but how wonderful it was going to be to escape. But in the weeks ahead, the children of Nepal worked their way into Conor's heart, sparking within him a passion and determination to help them find their way in the world. When Conor discovered the children were vicitms of child trafficking, his mission solidified into a clear goal: to bring the lost children home.

Heart warming and bone chilling at once, this book is not one to be missed. Conor Grennan's story, the story of the lost children of Nepal, is a beautiful tribute to the power and neccessity of compassion. With every page the smiles and tears of the "Little Princes" are etched into our hearts, leaving us entirely changed at the close. Conor's book reads like a letter from an old friend -- honest, witty, and charismatic, with a breath of life in each word.

This is not just a book I'll pass along to my friends, this a book that leaves me itching to act. Conor's story awakes a need to stop observing the troubles of the world, and start taking steps to solve them. Here is living proof that even one man, with nothing more than a fierce will and kind heart, can make a profound difference in the unfurling future.

8 comments:

  1. Oh, I think I'll definitely have to read Grennan's book, it sounds brilliant. :)

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  2. Iida: It's spectacular. I haven't been able to start anything else because I can't get it out of my head.

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  3. You Know When the Men Are Gone, sounds like a good book!
    I've been trying to venture out from my norm, but I haven't really tried! This looks like it might be a start! (:

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  4. I thought your readers might be interested in hearing our interview of Siobahn. http://www.blogtalkradio.com/awtr/2011/03/08/awtr-show-305-you-know-when-the-men-are-gone.mp3.

    She was a lovely guest.

    Star, Armywifenetwork.com

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  5. Crystal Marie: I really enjoyed it. The complaint I've heard often though is that the endings are too abrupt. Just to make sure you're prepared. lol.

    Star: Thanks! I hadn't seen that yet. I'll check it out. :)

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  6. I haven't read these. My book club is tonight and we are discussing Inherit The Wind. Our next read is A Reliable Wife. Here's to the books! Sandra

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  7. Healthier And Wealthier: I haven't heard much about A Reliable Wife, but what I've heard has been good. Would like to hear your opinion when you've finished it!

    Read my books: It was pretty cool. Not top ten, but totally a worthwhile read.

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Thanks so much for letting me know what you think.