Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

bone gapFinn O’Sullivan is used to people leaving him. His father died a long time ago and his mother walked away from him and his brother, Sean, to start a new life in Oregon. But when Roza, the girl who appeared in the O’Sullivan’s barn, is abducted by a mysterious man, Finn is the only one who sees and the only one who won’t give up until she’s found.

Roza herself is actually a point of view character, but when I tried to write a plot summary for her part, it turned out to be horrifically spoilery. But she, no less than Finn, is at the heart of this story and important to it. She is no voiceless damsel; in fact, she is possibly my favorite character.

I’ve liked Laura Ruby’s books in the past–The Wall & The Wing and The Chaos King are complex, inventive stories. But Bone Gap is really something else. It’s a story that combines many of my favorite things, and I truly loved it.

I am a huge fan of stories about families, especially when relationships between siblings are at the heart of the book. This is definitely the case when it comes to Bone Gap. Roza’s disappearance is hard for Finn because she’s his friend, but Sean was going to propose to her. Since she’s disappeared, the brothers barely talk. It’s a hard thread to read because I want so much for them to be all right.

And then there’s the town of Bone Gap. A lot of times “quirky” towns just don’t work for me, but here there’s something deeper and maybe darker underlying the quirkiness. There are bullies and heartbreak and people leave. There’s also corn that whispers to people and possibly magical bees. I got a sense both for why people love the town, and why it is a little bit broken.

Woven into all of this is an echo of fairy tales and mythology that give the story a lot of depth and resonance. It’s one of my favorite fairy tales/myths, and Ruby shows us the dark side of it. (I don’t want to give too much away here, so I’m being cagey. Part of the joy of this book is seeing the pattens come together both in subtle and more obvious ways.) But I think it’s possible to love both the original and Roza’s story. And it says a lot about our world and the way women are treated, which is important but also comes naturally to this particular story and what it’s about.

While there is darkness here, it’s never utterly bleak. I loved the resolution and the sense of hope hard won. I laughed at some parts and cried at others. It’s a beautifully written, emotionally devastating story that will stay with me for a long time.

Book source: ARC from ALA Midwinter
Book information: 2015, Balzer + Bray; YA fantasy

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March releases I’m excited about

March has so many books coming out that I can’t wait to read! (Or in a few cases, have already read and want to share with EVERYONE.)

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Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein
The Penderwicks in Spring by Jeanne Birdsall
Death Marked by Leah Cypess
Shadow Scales by Rachel Hartman
Bone Gap by Laura Ruby
Persona by Genevieve Valentine
Rivals in the City by Y.S. Lee
Ravensbruck by Sarah Helm
Jinx’s Fire by Sage Blackwood
Prairie Fire by EK Johnston
Razorhurst by Justine Larbalestier
Lulu and the Hamster in the Night by Hilary McKay

jinx's fire shadow scale agency death marked

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February 2015 round up

Books I’ve already talked about
Code Name Verity: audiobook review
The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black
The Sand-Reckoner by Gillian Bradshaw
Perfect Couple by Jennifer Echols
A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar

Once Upon a Rose by Laura Florand
The Bell at Sealey Head by Patricia McKillip

Other books
Third Girl (audio) by Agatha Christie: Another Poirot mystery. This isn’t a huge favorite, in that it’s a later Christie and she is quite…odd about Young People and Drugs, etc. But it is interesting that it’s one of several Christie books to feature gaslighting, in one form or another, which makes me curious about that aspect.

The Secret of the Yellow Death by Suzanne Jurmain: Juvenile non-fiction account of the American doctors who were attempting to discover how yellow fever is spread. I found it informative, but wished that Jurmain had taken a harder look at the issues of imperialism & race which I felt lurking just behind the story.

The Just City by Jo Walton: Much like My Real Children, I have a hard time pinning down my reaction to The Just City. Thought-provoking, well-written, but for me ultimately not very satisfying. That being said, I was not aware that it is apparently the first book of a trilogy, so I don’t know the extent to which my reaction is simply confounded expectations–that is, I was looking for a story that wrapped up in one volume. I will definitely be reading at least the second book, and we’ll see where I am after that.

Above World by Jenn Reese: Interesting middle-grade SF, which was recommended by several trusted sources. I enjoyed it, although I didn’t completely love it. I’ve heard that the second book is really good, so I’m looking forward to that.

Perfectly Good White Boy by Carrie Mesrobian: I loved Mesrobian’s debut, so I was looking forward to her second (unconnected) book. Sean is a fascinating character, and it’s a quick, tight read that doesn’t sacrifice depth. I liked the portrayal of Sean’s decision to go into the military, which seemed thoughtful and nuanced from my outsider’s perspective. I think Sex & Violence hit me harder emotionally, but this one is very good.

The Shape of Desire by Sharon Shinn: I had an interesting reaction to this one in that I read it really quickly and read the second as soon as I could. And yet, I struggle with how much of Maria’s life, from start to finish, revolves around Dante and how little I could understand what she got from that relationship. I do know & believe that people do sacrifice things for those they love, and that’s not in itself unhealthy. But I never quite bought it in this instance.

Kissing Ted Callahan and Other Guys by Amy Spalding: Review coming closer to the release date.

Saint Louis Armstrong Beach by Brenda Woods: I read The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond last year and really liked it, so I decided to try some of Woods’s other books. Saint Louis Armstrong Beach is set in New Orleans before and during Hurricane Katrina. Like Violet Diamond, Saint is a compelling character who Woods shows with a lot of depth and care.

Moon Called by Patricia Briggs: Urban fantasy hasn’t really clicked with me in the past, but I really enjoyed the first book in the Mercy Thompson series. I have a couple of niggling questions about a couple of portrayals, but in general, I really liked the story and the characters.

Barbed Wire Baseball by Marissa Moss: Moss’s juvenile biography of Kenichi Zenimura does a nice job of presenting his life, while focusing on the baseball diamond he created while in a US internment camp during WWII. I really liked Yuko Shimizu’s art as well. I suspect this might work a bit better for kids who already know about the internment camps, but it’s definitely one to recommend to young sports fans.

Wildlife by Fiona Wood: I really loved this Australian YA. It’s told from two perspectives, Lou and Sibylla, as they go with their class on a wilderness term. While I often don’t find that multiple perspectives work that well, Wood absolutely nails it here. Lou’s diary especially reminded me so much of myself at that age: a little self-absorbed, a little pretentious, but also full of emotion. In Lou’s case, there’s some solid reasons for that. I also like the way the friendship between Lou and Sib is shown, tenuous and fraught.

Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear: A rollicking steampunk Wild West adventure featuring authentically diverse characters, including BASS REEVES, aka the coolest person ever. I thoroughly enjoyed this one, and Karen’s voice. It’s funny and sad and serious all at the same time. I thought the mystery aspect was fairly well done, although I did see the solution a bit earlier than the characters. All in all, if you want the feel of a Wild West yarn without getting metaphorically punched in the face, this is a good one.

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry: It’s sounds a bit odd to call a book that opens with a double murder hilarious, but this one is. Berry situates herself a little more firmly in history than she has previously done (although significant suspension of disbelief is required). I loved the humor, and the way the girls stuck up for each other even while disagreeing and arguing.

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby: Review coming later this week! (Spoiler: It’s SO GOOD.)

Still Life with Shapeshifter by Sharon Shinn: My objection to the first book is not exactly here, because the relationship is between sisters in this instance. But some of it still stands; the way Amy is absolutely the center of Melanie’s life seems to push Melanie to the edges of the story, even though it’s nominally hers. Despite all these frustrations, I do have a hold on the third book, so.

Blood Bound by Patricia Briggs: Second Mercy Thompson. I liked some of the developments in this one; I think Briggs does a decent job of conveying the creepy inhumanness of the vampires, which I imagine could easily fall flat.

Village of Secrets by Caroline Moorehead: Moorehead examines the history and myths of the Vivarais Plateau during World War II, including the most famous village, Le Chambon. I first read about Le Chambon and the Trocmés in middle school and found them thrilling. However, Moorehead’s careful scholarship shows a much more complex and fascinating situation. Without lessening any of the heroism involved, she clarifies some of the more exaggerated stories and claims and examines how the post-war years still cast a long shadow in the area.

How to Be a Victorian
by Ruth Goodman: Goodman looks at Victorian daily life from dawn to dusk. It’s not an entirely novel concept, but where this book really stands out is in Goodman’s experience actually trying the things she talks about. She’s done an extraordinary number of Victorian activities, from washing clothes to washing herself. And I found that overall, she is able to set aside modern preconceptions and note where the Victorian way worked very well in their context, and where it didn’t (laundry being the most notable one). I did find the last chapter, on sex, interesting but an abrupt ending to the book. Then again, I wanted to know about Victorian beds, so perhaps it’s just me (did they really all wear nightcaps?). Throughout, Goodman does a nice job differentiating between early and late in the era, and the wildly varying experiences of different classes (race is another matter, as I can’t remember it being mentioned at all). This would be a great reference for writing in the period, and is a really enjoyable read.

Other posts
Links from February 6
Links from February 20
Ten things I like in fictional romances
Fifteen of my favorite heroines
Melina Marchetta is a favorite author
Recap of ALA Midwinter, part 1 and part 2
Picture Book Monday
Library displays from Jan-Feb
Made & Making

TV & movies
The Scapegoat
Pitch Perfect
The Decoy Bride
Miss Fisher
Poiroté

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Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite books from the last three years

top-ten-tuesday
This is a post for Top Ten Tuesday, hosted at The Broke and the Bookish. You can find out more and follow along there!

This is an EXCITING topic! Brandy posted something similar awhile back and it seemed like a fun way to look back. However, I am completely unable to limit myself to ten books total. Sorry, not sorry.

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2012
Wheel of the Infinite by Martha Wells
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Such a Rush by Jennifer Echols
Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner
(see more favorites from 2012 here)

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2013
Laura Florand (especially The Chocolate Kiss)
Beacon at Alexandria by Gillian Bradshaw
Uses For Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt
Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen & Faith Erin Hicks
Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein
Sorrow’s Knot by Erin Bow
Jinx by Sage Blackwood
Stolen Magic by Stephanie Burgis
(see more favorites from 2013 here)

ancillary swordthe crossoverCuckoo-Song-Frances-Hardinge

2014
Ancillary Justice & Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie
Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine
The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
Greenglass House by Kate Milford
Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge
Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero
Black Dog by Rachel Neumeier
(see more 2014 favorites here)

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Made and Making: February 2015

I’m just doing cooking this month, although I did a few crafty things, because that’s how it is.

Sally Lunn bread: used white whole wheat flour which I suspect changed the texture; a pleasant bread with a nice flavor.
– I made a blood orange tart based on this recipe, but changed lots of things about it.
Cranberry Syrup: possibly I did not cook the syrup long enough, because there isn’t much of a cranberry flavor that I can detect. Still good and a very pleasant red.
– I also made a recipe called “Best Buttermilk Pancakes” which I have noted as being from Smitten Kitchen, but which I can’t find anywhere. They’re really good buttermilk pancakes, and next time I make them I will try adding fruit, etc.
Potato and Artichoke Tortilla: I kind of took the idea of this one and changed everything: didn’t preboil the potatoes, used fresh baby red peppers instead of roasted, did 1.5 times the recipe. The people I fed it to didn’t seem to mind.
Beef, Leek & Barley Soup: I made this for a friend, so I didn’t get to do more than taste it, but it’s an incredibly simple recipe and the little bit I had was delicious. I will definitely be making this one again.

From Home Made Winter:
– Rarebits with Pear & Blue Cheese: I halved the recipe and ate these for several meals. Delicious! I want to try a traditional rarebit too.
– Cheese Fondue from Stilton, Cream Cheese and Belegen (gouda): I ate this several times as fondue, which was rich & filling, and then used the leftovers as a cheese sauce for pasta.
– Pizza Bianca: I did caramelized onions, prosciutto and mozzarella, since I was completely unable to find the figs the recipe calls for. An excellent pizza.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Heroines

top-ten-tuesday
This is a post for Top Ten Tuesday, hosted at The Broke and the Bookish. You can find out more and follow along there!

This topic was so hard. I started off with a list of 33 names. THIRTY-THREE. So you’ll have to forgive me for actually going to fifteen. It’s the best I can do.

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Kate Sutton from The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope: Kate Sutton has been one of my favorite characters ever since I read The Perilous Gard for the first time. She’s stubborn and prickly, but also loyal and sensitive and entirely sympathetic.

Medair from the Medair Duology by Andrea K Höst: I have liked several of Höst’s main characters, but Mediar is definitely one of my favorites. She is out of her own time and has to face a series of almost impossible choices. It’s her strength in the face of this that I think I most appreciate.

Maskelle from Wheel of the Infinite by Martha Wells: Maskelle is older than many of the characters I have loved. She has history, and she brings the weight of her experience to the story. She’s also fantastic and awesome.

Ista from Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold: Ista’s journey in Paladin of Souls is one of my favorites ever.

Sophie Hatter from Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones: Sophie is one of those characters that I just instantly loved. If you describe her, she might sound a bit passive, but she’s really anything but.

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Laura Chant from The Changeover by Margaret Mahy: Laura is another character who is prickly and fierce and wholly endearing.

Tiffany Aching from the Tiffany Aching series by Terry Pratchett: I love Tiffany: her care for other people, her ambition and her limits on that ambition. I love how she is independent and fierce, and yet very connected to her community and the land.

Otter from Sorrow’s Knot by Erin Bow: I’m not wild about the Chosen One trope at this point, for many reasons, but I make an exception for Otter, who is brave and beautiful.

Hathin from The Lost Conspiracy by Frances Hardinge: I really love Hathin for a lot of reasons, one of which is that she’s not the Chosen One, and yet she’s a marvelous character.

Harriet Vane from Strong Poison, Gaudy Night, etc. by Dorothy Sayers: I would like to be Harriet, and not just because of Peter (though that…doesn’t hurt). I just love her, her strengths and her frailties. I love her stubbornness and her refusal to give Peter anything that’s not on her own terms. And her warmth and humor too.

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Taylor Markham from Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta: I love Jellicoe Road for a lot of reasons, including the fact that it always makes me cry. But the biggest reason of all is Taylor and her voice. This was one of the first contemporary YAs that I really loved, and it’s really because of Taylor and her journey.

Anna from Uses for Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt: Anna is a character I didn’t instantly love, but came to really value. And her story is one that’s really stayed with me ever since I read it.

Jo Hamilton from The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine: Jo is hard and fierce and stubborn and heart-breakingly alone. I loved her so much.

Julie and Maddie from Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein: Well, they make a sensational team.

Betsy Ray from the Betsy-Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace: I have loved Anne Shirley and Jo March and many other classic heroines. But Betsy Ray is the one that I think of myself as most like; she’s the most human and everyday.

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Links from around the web: 2-20-15

There are so many rich, thoughtful posts that I’m going to link to in this edition. It’s felt to me like the last two weeks have had a sudden blossoming of great discussion in several different venues.

– Leila Roy wrote a fantastic post about book reviews and criticism (which I am not just saying because I’m quoted it in it) (!!). “As a reader, I love to read reviews in which it’s clear that the reviewer has thought deeply about the book. Not just in terms of the book on its own, but the book in terms of its place in its genre, the history of the genre, how it uses tropes and/or archetype characters, how it builds on what has come before.”

Kameron Hurley on Trigger Warnings and Neil Gaiman: “The problem with mainstreaming this kind of use of the term is that instead of saying, “Yes, trigger warnings are useful so let’s not continue to water it down” what you do when you title a rather typical short story collection “Trigger Warning” is that your work becomes part of the problem of breaking it down into meaninglessness and slapping it on any old thing as a marketing gimmick.” (via The Book Smugglers)

– Amy Koester’s post “Selection is Privilege” is fantastic and should be required reading for librarians everywhere. “The position that “because we don’t have X readers in my library, we don’t need X books” also denotes a fundamental lack of respect for the children we are supposed to be serving. It suggests that we think our young readers cannot handle, relate to, or be expected to understand an experience that does not mirror their own.” And then follow it up with Ellen Oh’s “A Message to the Gatekeepers“: “But this discussion is neither new nor surprising to any of us who have been in this fight for so long…We have long known that it is the adult biases and prejudices that trickle down into the children and become part of their learned behavior.”

– Kelly Jensen has a really powerful post at Book Riot about reading and depression: “Depression took me out of my reading life. Recognizing that — and getting help for it — has put me back in in ways I could never have imagined. Reading isn’t about powering through. It isn’t about disconnecting. Reading is about being a part of something.”

– Jonathan Franzen is being a jerk, and especially focusing on Jennifer Weiner. I have trouble taking Franzen seriously AT ALL, but Weiner’s response is pretty awesome: “Women writers – even the ones whose work Franzen disdains – have a platform, and a place at the table. Our voices are being heard, and the world — at least the tiny corner of it that cares about books, and book reviews — is changing.”

– We’re doing some weeding at work right now and this post is truth.

Raven Boys fanart. Oh, I love this Blue. And RONAN. (via RJ Anderson)

– Speaking of RJ Anderson, the cover for her upcoming mg book was revealed recently. It’s amazing and beautiful, and the snippet makes me EVEN MORE EXCITED for this book. (I was already pretty excited.) And then The Book Smugglers also featured the cover and excerpt for Frances Hardinge’s upcoming The Lie Tree, and I died of happiness.

Gorgeous Attolia fanart. Also, this is a wonderful post which really captures so much of how I feel about the Attolia fandom and the friends I’ve made from it.

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