David Denby is Wrong.

First of all, David, we call them our “kids,” not “teen-agers.” Yes, some of us may be parents apart from being teachers, but the “us” I’m referring to in this case is their teachers. Yes, we are the “most maligned and ignored professionals in American life.” So it’s interesting to me that you also chose to ignore the people who could have—and likely would have gladly—provided you with insight into what teenagers are actually reading.

You are right in that “The good [teachers] are not sheepish or silent in defense of literature and history and the rest.” So I’m going to tell you that you’re wrong. Teens read seriously. They read for purpose. They read for ideas. They read for knowledge. But most importantly, THEY READ.

Continue reading

Review—Flight of Dreams by Ariel Lawhon

I love historical fiction. There’s a part of me that will always be in love with British history (and the scandals that go along with it!) and historical fiction from across the pond. Lawhon’s Flight of Dreams has made me broaden my taste in historical fiction. I loved Flight of Dreams: the writing, the characters, and the curiosity it encouraged in me. That curiosity, by the way, is one of the reasons I love historical fiction the most. Because I always want to ask, “Did it REALLY happen that way? How did it really end?”

Continue reading

Review—The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee

In Alexander Chee’s novel The Queen of the Night, Lilliet Berne is a renowned opera singer in Paris. She rose to fame from life as an orphan on the American frontier, remaking herself many times over, and she finally has an offer that will allow her to originate a role. The trouble is the role seems to be based on her very own past. The reader becomes transfixed as Lilliet unravels the mystery of who knows her like no one else does, or who may be trying to destroy not only the very career the new role promises, but Lilliet herself.

Continue reading

Review—The Poison Artist by Jonathan Moore

Jonathan Moore’s The Poison Artist begins with a mystery: Why were Caleb and his girlfriend Bridget fighting? And so it is with this initial mystery we are launched into Caleb’s world, his past, and the series of mysteries he’s trying to solve.

Continue reading

Review—An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Over break, I finally read An Ember In The Ashes by Sabaa Tahir. I had been curious about the book, and then when it showed up on Amanda Nelson’s “Best of 2015,” I knew I had to read it. So I did.

Continue reading

Review—Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

I loved Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy, and I was excited to finally read Six of Crows, which takes place in the same “universe” and makes scattered references to the Grisha from that series. My excitement may have been accentuated by the hype surrounding the book, and I am here to say the hype was well-deserved, and I was not disappointed at all.

Continue reading

Review—The Shrunken Head (Curiosity House #1) by Lauren Oliver

I’m a fan of Oliver’s other works (and had previously reviewed Vanishing Girls here on this blog), and so I was excited to receive an ARC of her new book, Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head.

Continue reading

Review—The Kindness by Polly Samson

When I received The Kindness in the mail, I wasn’t immediately drawn to it based on the cover or synopsis. I’ll admit that it took me reading Samson’s bio (included with the ARC) and learning that she is married to David Gilmour of Pink Floyd before I thought, “Ok, let’s see what you’ve got.”

The Kindness by Polly Samson

The Kindness by Polly Samson

Then, of course, by the end of the first section, I was hooked.

Samson weaves the story of Julia and Julian through the four sections of The Kindness, and she does so by way of lyrical prose. The line that first struck me was about Julian falling in love with Julia:

He couldn’t stop thinking about her. He remembered the leap of his heart the moment he saw her, all sorts of less poetic places leapt too. Kidneys, stomach, gall bladder, bowel. The shape of his love was littered with organs.”

For me, the last line of that quote depicted the visceral feeling that love can sometimes be—both in a positive and negative way. As the story progressed, I learned that Julian indeed felt everything that way: the shape of his love, joy—and grief and despair—were littered with organs.

The story itself is of Julia, Julian, and their daughter Mira. First we learn what it cost Julia and Julian to be together, and then what it cost them to be apart. Throughout the story (which is told in four sections and spans over twenty years), Samson lays bare the reality of marriage and family life—the defining moments, yet also the small ones that make up the everyday. She weaves flashback into present artfully, touching on the concept that what has made us who we are is never far away, and her use of imagery was, at times, stunning. I felt as though she meted out the details of the story in a perfectly measured way, revealing just enough to keep me turning the page, before ultimately delivering a blow that illuminated the irony of the novel’s title.

The Kindness is Samson’s second novel. Her first book, Perfect Lives, a collection of short stories, was published in 2011.