Review: Bold by Julia Swift & Andrew Landis

Bold

Bold by Julia Swift and Andrew Landis. 260 pp.

Sasha, a shy, 15-year-old girl who hides from the world, almost dies in a car crash and vows that if she survives, she will be bold and live life to the fullest. Her newfound courage is tested when she meets Will, who just moved to her Air Force desert town after his journalist father’s disappearance. Will is fascinated by Sasha’s brush with and secret knowledge of death.
Sasha and Will push each other to take chances and break out of their sheltered suburban world. But will they discover there is a difference between being bold and being stupid before they put themselves, or someone else, in danger?

Bold starts out with an interesting premise: Sasha, a painfully shy girl, has a near-death experience and decides to start living more fully and fearlessly. She has been given a new lease on life and intends to make the most of it. As a shy girl myself, I admired her willingness to break free of her comfort zone. She wants to talk to Will, so she does. She reasons (and I paraphrase), What’s the worst that could happen? He will act like he’s not interested in me, and the conversation will end. Then I’ll know how he feels. She goes to the worst-case scenario, decides she can live with it, and acts. I wish I had her guts sometimes. Okay, a lot of the time.

Will’s story is moving as well, albeit in a different way: he’s a boy trying to figure out life after the loss of his father, a journalist who was killed while reporting overseas. Longing to be a journalist himself, Will puts himself into uncomfortable — and sometimes dangerous — situations in order to get his hands on a good story.

In the interests of living boldly, Will and Sasha make some exciting decisions, along with a handful of unwise ones. The authors do a good job of showing how making careless choices could have far-reaching — and harmful — consequences. As much as I’m not a fan of moralizing or cautionary tales, I have to say that this is a good message for young adults to hear.

I liked reading the same bits of the story from two points of view. I enjoyed hearing Sasha’s doubts about herself while knowing how great Will really thought she was. Dual narration is a great trick to remind us all that there are at least two sides to every story — that our actions affect others, that life usually isn’t as bad as we think it is, etc. I appreciate it when literature forces me to get inside someone else’s head like this.

My biggest complaint with this book is the storyline itself. It’s introduced adequately, but the last quarter or so of the book feels scattered. I couldn’t see where things were going — in fact, some events seemed thrown in at random — and I found that frustrating.

All in all: An interesting story. It could use some structural work, but it definitely has promise. I hope these authors continue to work together!

Blog Tour: Our Love Could Light the World by Anne Leigh Parrish

Hello, and welcome!

I’m happy to be a part of TLC’s blog tour for Our Love Could Light the World, a collection of related stories by Anne Leigh Parrish. Here’s the synopsis:

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You know the Dugans.  They’re that scrappy family down the street.  Their five children run free, they never clean up after their dog, and the husband hasn’t earned a cent in years.  You wouldn’t want them for neighbors, but from a distance, they’re quite entertaining.


This book is a slow burner. When I started it, I thought, Gosh, this is dry. I’m not connecting much. But I kept reading, and I’m glad I did. The Dugans are like every other family in America. And at first that seemed like a bad thing. Like, Yes, I see the problems this family has. The same ones as any other family. But, just like any other family, the closer you get, the more invested you become in their troubles. And as I spent more time with the various characters in this book, I cared more and more about what happened to them. I saw where they’d been and where they were going, and I was glad to be along for the ride.

There’s a lot happening in here, and chances are, there’s nothing you haven’t seen before: divorce, remarriage, alcoholism, affairs, kids getting into trouble, hopes being formed, dreams being shattered. The thing that makes this collection strong is how well the author knows her characters and how she manages to portray their everyday lives in a way that is at once both simplistic and poignant.

I’m glad I stuck with this one. If you need an overarching plot, this probably isn’t for you. But if you’re at all interested in human nature — or even just looking for a glimpse into another family’s day-to-day life — you ought to enjoy this. It’s sweeping and personal at the same time, showing how one decision can affect so many other events, and I hope it will make you think about your loved ones and how your actions affect them.

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Anne Leigh Parrish’s debut novel, What is Found, What is Lost, is forthcoming in late 2014 from She Writes Press.  Her first story collection, All The Roads That Lead From Home, (Press 53, 2011) won a silver medal in the 2012 Independent Publisher Book Awards.  To learn more, visit her at www.anneleighparrish.com

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OtherTourStops

Monday, January 6th: Bibliophiliac
Tuesday, January 7th: Knowing the Difference
Wednesday, January 8th: girlichef
Thursday, January 9th: Lavish Bookshelf
Friday, January 10th: Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Monday, January 13th: Good Girl Gone Redneck
Tuesday, January 14th: 5 Minutes for Books
Wednesday, January 15th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Thursday, January 16th: My Bookshelf
Friday, January 17th:  Too Fond
Thursday, January 23rd: Kahakai Kitchen
Monday, January 27th:  Booksie’s Blog
Wednesday, January 29th: Broken Teepee
Monday, February 3rd:  A Lovely Bookshelf on the Wall
Monday, February 10th:  The Lost Entwife

Review: Crewel by Gennifer Albin

Crewel

Crewel by Gennifer Albin. Square Fish. 400 pp.

Incapable. Awkward. Artless. 
That’s what the other girls whisper behind her back. But sixteen-year-old Adelice Lewys has a secret: She wants to fail. 

Gifted with the ability to weave time with matter, she’s exactly what the Guild is looking for, and in the world of Arras, being chosen to work the looms is everything a girl could want. It means privilege, eternal beauty, and being something other than a secretary. It also means the power to manipulate the very fabric of reality. But if controlling what people eat, where they live, and how many children they have is the price of having it all, Adelice isn’t interested.

Not that her feelings matter, because she slipped and used her hidden talent for a moment. Now she has one hour to eat her mom’s overcooked pot roast. One hour to listen to her sister’s academy gossip and laugh at her dad’s jokes. One hour to pretend everything’s okay. And one hour to escape.

Because tonight, they’ll come for her.


I’m terrible with books sometimes: I’ve fallen in love with some pretty obscure titles (one of my favorite books is The Basic Eight by Daniel Handler; please tell me if you know it), but sometimes I don’t hear of popular ones until they’re everywhere. And, as sheepish as I am to admit it, I hadn’t heard of Crewel before when I won a copy in a giveaway hosted by A.T. O’Connor on her blog, Whispering Minds. As soon as I saw the cover, though, I had a feeling I was going to like this one. I get like that with covers sometimes. It’s like love at first sight. (Of course, there are times when my first impression is terribly, terribly wrong, but usually I’m pretty good about it.)

Here’s my only real complaint about Crewel: the description doesn’t give the book justice. It makes it sound like the entire story revolves around the last hour that Adelice has before the Guild comes to get her, and there’s so much more than that. (Also, it makes it sound like she actually escapes, so I was bewildered when the Guild swoops in and completely upends her life.)

Other than that, no complaints, really. I couldn’t stop reading this book. The idea of a world where environment and events are part of a carefully woven tapestry was new and interesting. (Well, new if you don’t think about the Fates. But this interpretation still struck me as pretty fresh.) The world of Spinsters (girls selected for their above-average ability to work the looms and weave — quite literally —  the fabric of society) is one of glamour, as long as you don’t think too hard about what it is they’re doing…especially when it comes time to rip a thread. (Or, in not-so-subtle terms, end a life.) The amount of power held by these women is envious to some and terrifying to others, and I enjoyed watching the power plays in action. Like so many recent YA titles, there’s a love triangle, but it’s not terribly distracting. The world is well crafted and well explained, and I really enjoyed reading this.

All in all: Worth reading, particularly if you enjoy dystopian novels. However, I recently finished Altered, book two in the series, and I don’t think it held up to the promise of Crewel. So if you’re looking for a consistently strong series, maybe search elsewhere. (Altered isn’t bad, just…it didn’t excite me the way the first installment did.)

Review: Before My Eyes by Caroline Bock

Before My Eyes by Caroline Bock. St. Martin's Griffin. 320 pp.

Before My Eyes by Caroline Bock. St. Martin’s Griffin. 320 pp.

Dreamy, poetic Claire, seventeen, has spent the last few months taking care of her six-year-old sister, Izzy, as their mother lies in a hospital bed recovering from a stroke. Claire believes she has everything under control until she meets “Brent” online. Brent appears to be a kindred spirit, and Claire is initially flattered by his attention. But when she meets Max, the awkward state senator’s son, her feelings become complicated.

Max, also seventeen, has been working the worst summer job ever at the beachside Snack Shack. He’s also been popping painkillers. His parents—more involved in his father’s re-election than in their son’s life—fail to see what’s going on with him.

Working alongside Max is Barkley, twenty-one. Lonely and obsessive, Barkley has been hearing a voice in his head. No one—not his parents, not his co-workers—realizes that Barkley is suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. Until the voice in his head orders him to take out his gun.

Narrated in turns by Claire, Max, and Barkley, Before My Eyes captures a moment when possibilities should be opening up, but instead everything teeters on the brink of destruction.


What to say about a book that revolves around three characters, especially when you didn’t particularly care about any of those characters? I’m not sure. I mean, there were some interesting bits here and there, but overall, I found this book to be very forgettable.

This is a SPOILER, but not terribly, because you’ll find out within the first twenty pages: there’s a shooting at a political rally for a state senator facing reelection. The viewpoint chapters are told by the senator’s son, the shooter, and their mutual love interest. The author tells things about each of the characters (family troubles, personal insecurities, etc.), but I didn’t find much emotion in the pages of this book. I felt like I watched these three young adults in action for hours without really getting to know them, and I didn’t find that to be interesting at all.

The middle of the book (and the vast majority of it, at that) takes place in the three days prior to the rally. Here’s the problem with that: the three days prior to the rally aren’t really related to the rally, so if you’re like me, you’ll find yourself thinking, Why am I reading this? Is it supposed to explain something? I could see where things were going, because I was given that information up front, but I didn’t feel any sense of suspense or foreboding or anything like that. (Maybe that’s because I didn’t really care about what happened to the characters?)

Are you ready for the biggest disappointment in this book? (It was an ARC, so I guess this could be remedied before publication, and I do hope that it is.) There’s an Edgar Allan Poe quote attributed to none other than my beloved LEWIS CARROLL! It’s recurring, too — mentioned twice, with additional dialogue about Alice in Wonderland, so it wasn’t a slip of the pen or something. Anyone who’s actually read Alice in Wonderland should know that that “dream within a dream” line can’t be found in its pages. Grrr.

Even though I didn’t like it, I have to admit that this book has a couple of redeeming factors: There are some beautiful descriptive passages, but again, they’re fleeting. They do portray summer days and nights on Long Island well, though. Also, the Barkley scenes are chilling and once or twice are actually a little terrifying. But being inside the head of a paranoid schizophrenic for a few scenes, and seeing some of the paths the human brain can take, isn’t enough of a reason to read an entire novel, in my opinion.

All in all: Not the worst thing I’ve read this year, but still, it’s only so-so. I’d say skip it.