Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Chime by Franny Billingsley

Chime by Franny Billingsley

Rating: 3/5 Hoots

Release Date: March 17, 2011

GoodReads.Com Summary:
 Before Briony's stepmother died, she made sure Briony blamed herself for all the family's hardships. Now Briony has worn her guilt for so long it's become a second skin. She often escapes to the swamp, where she tells stories to the Old Ones, the spirits who haunt the marshes. But only witches can see the Old Ones, and in her village, witches are sentenced to death. Briony lives in fear her secret will be found out, even as she believes she deserves the worst kind of punishment.

Then Eldric comes along with his golden lion eyes and mane of tawny hair. He's as natural as the sun, and treats her as if she's extraordinary. And everything starts to change. As many secrets as Briony has been holding, there are secrets even she doesn't know.

My Review:
Chime is a unique, atmospheric novel. It is different than anything I've read this year, blending self-discovery, romance and mystical fantasy elements. Briony is an interesting and likeable character, even though she is a bit frustrating at times with her stubborn refusal to believe anything good about herself. I really enjoyed her dark sense of humor- I didn't expect to laugh while reading this book, it was a nice surprise!

The setting adds a lot to the story- Swampsea, an isolated, rural swampland in England at the turn of the century is on the cusp of modernization. However, it is still governed by superstitions of the Old Ones that inhabit the swamp. I loved reading about the lore of the Old Ones- the Boggy Mun, the Dead Hand, and the mint-and-apple smelling brownie.

One of my favorite aspects of the book is the relationships Briony has with the supporting characters. Her friendship and maybe something more with Eldric is so much fun to read about- their funny banter and secret society were awesome! Plus, I think most girls can relate to Briony's struggle to decipher his actions and determine whether he feels the same way about her. I also loved experiencing the change in Briony's relationships with her Father and Rose.  The other village characters are great too- poor Mad Tom, the Chime Child, Leanne, and Tiddy Rex all provided so much color to the story!

The only thing that I did not enjoy about the book was that I felt it dragged a bit in the middle- I figured out what happened before Briony did, which made reading about her struggle to uncover the truth a little tedious. I have mixed feelings about the cover design, it is pretty and really eye-catching, however I don't think it portrays Briony's personality accurately.

Overall, Chime was an interesting and fun book! I would recommend it to sophisticated readers who don't mind taking their time to enjoy the setting and language.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Blood Wounds by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Blood Wounds by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Rating: 4/5 Hoots

Release Date: 9/12/2011

GoodReads.Com Review:
Willa is lucky: She has a loving blended family that gets along. Not all families are so fortunate. But when a bloody crime takes place hundreds of miles away, it has an explosive effect on Willa’s peaceful life. The estranged father she hardly remembers has murdered his new wife and children, and is headed east toward Willa and her mother.
Under police protection, Willa discovers that her mother has harbored secrets that are threatening to boil over. Has everything Willa believed about herself been a lie? As Willa sets out to untangle the mysteries of her past, she keeps her own secret—one that has the potential to tear her family apart.

My Review:
Susan Beth Pfeffer’s Life as We Knew It and its two sequels have been on my favorites list for a while, so when I saw that she had a new book coming out this year, I was thrilled. I am pleased to report that Blood Wounds does not disappoint. Although the subject matter differs, the distinctive voice and writing style I enjoyed so much in her other books is present in Blood Wounds too.

The story is intense- Willa’s biological father brutally murders his family, and there is just enough detail to describe how horrific it is, but it is handled tastefully. The murders take place at the beginning of the book, and most of the plot is revolves around how Willa comes to terms with it, and the unexpected consequences it has on her family life.

I admired Willa, and felt compelled to keep reading about her emotional struggles as she copes with the fact that she is related to someone with someone with the capacity for that kind of violence. She is courageous, mature and handles unimaginable events with grace. As I said above, I love Pfeffer’s writing style. The supporting characters in the novel are incredibly well-developed as well- they all have their strengths and their flaws, and the relationships and family dynamic felt realistic and believable to me.

Blood Wounds was a great read, and I would definitely recommend it! I would pair it with Miles from Ordinary by Carol Lynch Williams.