Epitaph (Mary Doria Russell, 2015)

epitaph

Why did you choose this book?

It was the next fiction book discussion pick at our library!

What’s it about?

It is the story of Wyatt Earp and the events that led up to the gunfight at the OK Corral.  Other major players in the novel include Virgil and Morgan Earp, Doc Holliday, Johnny Behan, and Josie Marcus.

Categories

Western, historical fiction

Other recommended reads?

I’m not sure there are too many other modern Westerns of this sort.  Russell has also written a book about Holliday, simply called Doc.

Review

This was a solid and engrossing historical fiction novel.  I didn’t know much about the OK Corral, so this was interesting on many levels.  It was a long novel at nearly 600 pages, and it took me a very long time to read because it was very very dense.  In fact, it was so incredibly well-researched that it almost read like narrative nonfiction.  I appreciated that level of research, but wish the author had included a note describing which sections were fictional and which were not.  I also think the novel would have been better had it ended with Earp’s vendetta ride, but several of the book group members liked the fact that it ended with Josie’s death decades later.  My favorite character was Doc Holliday – he was much more complex than many books and movies make us believe.

Up next?

Works Well with Others by Ross McCammon

Stormstruck (John Macfarlane, 2015)

stormstruck

Why did you choose this book?

Honestly, we received an ARC at the library.  My officemate, upon seeing a dog on the cover, handed it to me.  I shrugged and took it home, where it has been sitting for more than six months.  I went on a 2 day trip and decided it was the perfect short read to take with me.

What’s it about? 

Sam’s parents decide it is time to euthanize his beloved Labrador, Pogo.  Pogo originally belonged to Sam’s older brother, who was killed in the war (I assume Iraq or Afghanistan).  To save him, Sam takes him out on his sailboat and runs away from home.  The duo encounter various obstacles, and end up spending a few days marooned on a previously abandoned shipwreck with no food or water.

Categories

Adventure, juvenile fiction

Other recommended reads?

If you’re into juvenile fiction about dogs, try some of the other classics like Old Yeller, Big Red, Where the Red Fern Grows, or Because of Winn-Dixie.

If you’re reading it for the adventure, try Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet or Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.

Review

I only finished this book because it was short (like 130 pages or so).  I thought Sam was far too self-centered, even for an impulsive kid.  He got on my nerves.  The book also had tons of nautical jargon about sails and navigation and parts of boats.  Those sections were too advanced for me, and I read at an adult level, which is far above the target reading level for this novel.  I would only recommend this book to kids who frequently go sailing and already have nautical knowledge.

Up next?

Epitaph by Mary Doria Russell

Violent Ends (Shaun David Hutchinson + 16 others, 2015)

violent ends

Why did you choose this book?

For many of the same reasons I chose This is Where It Ends (scroll down to read that post – it was 2 posts ago).  I was also intrigued by the subtitle: A Novel in Seventeen Points of View.

What’s it about?

During a school assembly, Kirby Matheson entered the gymnasium and began shooting.  This book doesn’t tell the story of the shooting, but recounts the lives of sixteen people and one object who knew Kirby at various points in his life.

Categories

Teen

Other recommended reads?

I’m not sure.  Maybe a nonfiction about school shootings?

Review

This book was infinitely better than This Is Where It Ends.   I really liked that this was a book not about a moment in time, but about a person and all of the facets of his flawed character.  I enjoyed getting to know the rest of his community and seeing the good in Kirby as well as the bad.  That being said, I still didn’t have a clear concept of Kirby’s motivation other than being an angsty teen.  I also didn’t have the emotional investment I wanted.  I wasn’t angry or sad or happy at any point in the story.  This clearly reads like a collection of short stories, since each perspective is a different author.  I liked most of the stories, though I thought having one from the perspective of the gun was a little strange.    A decent read, but not a perfect one.

Up next?

Stormstruck by John Macfarlane

Court of Fives (Kate Elliott, 2015)

court of fives

Why did you choose this book?

I love a good YA fantasy novel.  Elliott has also written several adult fantasy novels and I thought this could be a good way to find out whether or not I like her as an author.

What’s it about?

In this world there are elite Patrons and second-class Commoners.  Jessamy’s father is a Patron who has become famous for his skill in commanding forces on the battlefield.  Her mother is a Commoner.  Her parents cannot get married for fear of ruining her father’s career, and the mixed blood of Jessamy and her sisters makes them somewhere between the two social classes.  It also means that they need to behave.

The family’s fortunes abruptly change when the family’s aristocratic benefactor dies and a new one takes over.  He stipulates that Jessamy’s father must marry a Patron of his choosing and disown his family.  Jessamy must move to the benefactor’s stables and begin competing in the Fives (more on that later).  The rest of her family faces an unknown fate and Jessamy must try to save them.

The Fives are an obstacle course competition around which society revolves.  Some people make money and become famous through competing.  Jessamy is passionate about the game.  The outer ring of the course consists of four obstacles, with a competitor starting on each one.  Trees is a vertical test with climbing posts, Traps is a series of high-above-the-ground nets/ledges/trapezes, Pillars is a maze, and Rivers is a series of moving stepping stones over flowing water.  After completing all four, the competitors must do Rings, which involves spinning loops, some with inner rings spinning at different speeds.  The first to finish all of them and scale the victory tower wins.

Categories

Teen, fantasy

Other recommended reads?

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir.  It’s young adult fantasy with a series of tasks the protagonist must complete.  It was one of my two favorite books of 2015 and the sequel, A Torch Against the Night, comes out later this year.

Review

I really enjoyed the Fives.  That being said, I felt that there could have been a bit more world-building.  Some of the characters, like Kalliarkos, were very underdeveloped.  I felt like all I knew about him was that he was the romantic interest and a prince.  I did enjoy that while some magic was alluded to, this wasn’t a novel packed with magic like so many fantasy novels are.  It was a different take.  I’ll read the rest of the series, but I’m not sure I can give this book a glowing recommendation.

Up next?

Violent Ends

This Is Where It Ends (Marieke Nijkamp, 2016)

this is where

Why did you choose this book?

There was a lot of pre-publication buzz about this book online and in professional journals.  Also, I took a class on the memory of catastrophe in graduate school, and it was quite probably my favorite history class of all time.  While the tragedies we studied were horrific and incredibly sad, learning about the different ways that individuals and communities treat the places tragedy occurred can be incredibly fascinating.  School shootings fall into the realm of such tragedies, and I was curious to read a fictional recounting of a shooting.

What’s it about?

The story is told over the span of 54 minutes from four different points of view.  The points of view are: the shooter’s ex-girlfriend, the shooter’s sister, the shooter’s sister’s girlfriend, and the shooter’s sister’s girlfriend’s brother.  Confused yet?  These interlocking points of view cover different aspects.  One person is outside the school, two are in the auditorium where the shooting starts, and one is outside the auditorium but breaks in to start freeing hostages.

Categories

Teen

Other recommended reads?

If you’re reading this because it’s about a school shooting, don’t.  Read Violent Ends instead.

Review

I did read this book in one sitting.  It was a fast read, but it wasn’t a great one.  I never understood the shooter’s motivation or who he was as a person.  He was just a stock character with a lot of numbness and rage.  I also didn’t care about the other characters in the book.  When reading a novel about any kind of tragedy, be it the sinking of a ship in wartime or a school shooting, I want to be emotionally invested.  I wasn’t.  I didn’t care which characters survived and which didn’t and I didn’t have that sense of needing to finish and to know what happened.  I could have put the book down, gone to sleep, and finished it the next day without constantly wondering what would happen next.  So it was an okay read, but that’s all.

Up next?

Court of Fives by Kate Elliott