Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater – Book Review, With Notes on the Audio Production

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

Note: I first read this book last fall and really enjoyed it. More recently I listened to the audiobook as a refresher before reading “Linger,” which I will be reviewing next week (also look for a giveaway of both Shiver and Linger).

Being attacked by the wolves six years ago hasn’t lessened Grace’s love of the majestic creatures in her backyard – particularly the wolf with the haunting yellow eyes. Unfortunately, another boy was attacked by wolves lately, in a manner that has gotten the entire town of Mercy Falls, MN up in arms against the wolves. When a boy with haunting yellow eyes shows up on Grace’s back porch with a gunshot wound, she knows immediately that, somehow, he must be her wolf. The two fall in love quickly, but what does their future consist of if Sam will soon be a wolf again forever?

Isn’t the cover of this book gorgeous?  I love how it is a tangled forest, but if you look closely, the leaves look like hearts. Very apropos for this book.

I actually really enjoyed “Shiver.” It is to me all of the things that people say they like about “Twilight” but without some of the things I disliked about “Twilight,” (misogynism, bad writing, stalker-ish relationship). I was slightly annoyed by the way Grace’s parents didn’t seem to know or care much about what was going on in her life, but that is a problem that many YA books have and is not limited to “Shiver.”

I thought that Stiefvater’s take on werewolves was very interesting, I liked her mythology as to when and why they changed between their wolf and human forms and the fact that they were either wolves or they were humans, but they were never monstrous hybrids. Stiefvater’s mythology of the wolves also gave me a better explanation for the immediate connection between Grace and Sam – a relationship that otherwise might have really annoyed me.

I wasn’t really pleased with the audiobook, however, when I used that for the reread. I thought the narrator for Grace’s sections sounded a bit too young and ended up overemphasizing her naiveté. Sam, on the other hand, sounded far too old to play a teenager and I didn’t really care for his narration style. They weren’t bad narrators, but they didn’t match up well with the book for me.

This is a fun, engaging YA series, but I would really only recommend it in print, not on audio.

Buy this book from:

Powells.*
A local independent bookstore via
Indiebound.*
Amazon.*

This review was done with a book I purchased myself.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver – Book Review

The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver

Irina and Lawrence have been together for 10 years and have yet to get married. Most of the time that’s okay with Irina, most of the time she is happy with their traditions – or are they ruts? – but sometimes, she gets a bit fed up with it all. One year when Lawrence is going out of town, he pushes Irina to make plans with their acquaintance Ramsey for Ramsey’s birthday. Going out together on Ramsey’s birthday had been a tradition for them when he was married to Irina’s former partner Judith, but Lawrence had always got on better with Ramsey – a professional snooker player – than Irina had. Now that Irina is no longer partners with Judith and Ramsey is single, Judith thinks things might be a bit awkward. Throw in Lawrence not being able to come along as a buffer, and she is incredibly hesitant to make dinner plans with Ramsey, but she is eventually convinced to do so. While at dinner, Irina starts to feel something for Ramsey, a hint of desire. When they return to his flat for drinks and some weed, she has an overwhelming urge to kiss him.

And she does. But also she doesn’t.

The majority of “The Post-Birthday World” is given over to showing what Irina’s life would be like if she kissed Ramsey, versus what her life would be like if she did not.

Shriver is not the world’s most subtle author; in fact, she nearly hits the reader over the head with her point. She’s also pretty cynical about both romantic and family relationships. Obviously no relationship is perfect, but it was somewhat depressing how rocky Irina’s relationships ended up no matter what she did. And nobody was close to their parents: Irina’s mother was overbearing and a bit crazy and Lawrence and Ramsey’s parents were both out of the picture – Lawrence’s because they were gauche and he didn’t care much for them, Ramsey’s because they disapproved of his life as a snooker player. Profoundly negative attitudes about, well, everything can really turn me off in a book if the characters aren’t at least somewhat sympathetic.

Luckily, I actually did find all of these characters at least a little sympathetic, as opposed to the characters in the first Shriver book I read, who I simply couldn’t be bothered to care about. They weren’t just blithely callous, they actually did care somewhat about how what they were doing impacted one another, even if they did decide to simply do what was best for themselves anyway.

Really, though, I think what kept me fascinated by this book was the concept. I loved how Shriver had Irina go many of the same places and even have many of the same conversations in the two stories, but with different twists depending on her earlier choices and actions.

Although Shriver still occasionally bothered me with her need to hit me over the head with her dark view of most relationships, I did very much enjoy the book overall and, after reading “The Post-Birthday World” I am definitely interested in reading more of her work.

Buy this book from:
Powells.*
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound
.*
Amazon
.*

This review was done with a book won in a contest.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead – Book Review

Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead

Benji and his brother Reggie are so close in age that, at one time, they considered themselves virtual twins. Every summer they leave their elite prep school where they are some of the only African-American students and summer in Sag Harbor, the largely African-American beach community abutting The Hamptons.

And honestly, there’s not a whole lot more to the plot than that. “Sag Harbor” is a semi-autobiographical novel depicting Benji’s summer of 1985 when he was about 15. He and his friends have some fun – including doing incredibly stupid things like a BB gun fight – work, pine after girls, and generally act like largely unsupervised teenage boys. At the same time, Benji is dealing with the reality of his father’s abusive alcoholism and the fact that not so deep down he’s a big nerd and everyone at his school knows it, thanks to the fact that he talks too loudly about Dungeons and Dragons.

Overall I really just wasn’t feeling this book. For one thing, I wasn’t invested enough in Benji to really care about his summer adventures. For another thing, there were a lot of retrospective remarks from Benji’s adult self who is narrating the story that were never really followed up on, like this example on page 158:

We always fought for real. Only the nature of the fight changed. It always will. As time went on, we learned to arm ourselves in different ways. Some of us with real guns, some of us with more ephemeral weapons, an idea or improbably plan or some sort of formulation about how best to move through the world.

There was just far too much of that sort of thing for my taste, particularly when I wasn’t invested in the book in the first place. The whole thing seemed somewhat over-written for me, surprising for such a short novel. I did, however, really appreciate what Whitehead had to say, through Benji, about the tension between the dominant white middle-class culture that Benji lived in physically and the black culture that he was told or felt that he should fit into.

All in all, not a bad novel by any means, but one that, 90% of the time, didn’t really hold my attention.

Buy this book from:
Powells.*
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound.*
Amazon.*

This review was done with a book passed on to me by a friend.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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31 Hours by Masha Hamilton- Mini Review

31 Hours by Masha Hamilton

As I read this book quite some time ago, I will be using my mini-review format, which means I will be using the publisher’s description instead of writing one of my own.

Publisher’s Description:

A woman in New York awakens knowing, as deeply as a mother s blood can know, that her grown son is in danger. She has not heard from him in weeks. His name is Jonas. His girlfriend, Vic, doesn t know what she has done wrong, but Jonas won t answer his cell phone. We soon learn that Jonas is isolated in a safe-house apartment in New York City, pondering his conversion to Islam and his experiences training in Pakistan, preparing for the violent action he has been instructed to take in 31 hours. Jonas s absence from the lives of those who love him causes a cascade of events, and as the novel moves through the streets and subways of New York we come to know intimately the lives of its characters. We also learn to feel deeply the connections and disconnections that occur between young people and their parents not only in this country but in the Middle East as well. Carried by Hamilton s highly-lauded prose, this story about the helplessness of those who cannot contact a beloved young man who is on a devastatingly confused path is compelling on the most human level.

I read this book for Julie’s appearance on That’s How I Blog. Hamilton tells an interesting story with interesting characters, and I was really intrigued with how she intertwined the lives of the different characters. Ultimately, though, I didn’t feel that there was enough justification presented for why Jonas behaved as he did, and that really kept me from loving the book.

Buy this book from:
Powells.*
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound.*
Amazon.*

This review was done with a book received from the library
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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