Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Book Review: Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

Title: Jellicoe Road
Author: Melina Marchetta
Publisher: HarperTeen
Source: Library, Amy
Young Adult, Contemporary

At age eleven, Taylor Markham was abandoned by her mother. At fourteen, she ran away from boarding school, only to be tracked down and brought back by a mysterious stranger. Now seventeen, Taylor's the reluctant leader of her school's underground community, whose annual territory war with the Townies and visiting Cadets has just begun. This year, though, the Cadets are led by Jonah Griggs, and Taylor can't avoid his intense gaze for long. To make matters worse, Hannah, the one adult Taylor trusts, has disappeared. But if Taylor can piece together the clues Hannah left behind, the truth she uncovers might not just settle her past, but also change her future. (From GoodReads) 

So I have to say that the blurb does the book absolutely no justice, and the thing about Jellicoe Road is that there really isn't a description that could. 
Britney has been recommending this book to me for some time as it is her favorite book in the history of ever, and she got Amy to read it. Then I had the two of them telling me that I had to read it RIGHT NOW. They also gave me the warning I'm going to give to you: The first half of this books makes about zero sense. 

Trust me, the way it all falls together is totally worth the confusion you'll feel at the beginning.

And the middle.

Melina Marchetta's writing is superb. Even when you have no idea what's going on, her writing is poignant and beautiful. Not many authors can make the jumping back and forth in time thing work, but she does it brilliantly. Her characters are real and raw and painful and human. While her writing is in fact lyrical and flowing, every part of the story is relevant, either to what's happening in the present or to what's happened in the past. 

Taylor Markham is easily one of my favorite contemporary female leads. She is not easy to like. She is tough and complex and layered. She is unkind, except when she isn't. Life has dealt her a lot of blows and the way she responds to those blows and the way she reacts to the people in her life is very real. 

There's so much you can't say about this book because it would spoil the whole thing, which is a testament to how tightly written the book is. 

Jonah Griggs is amazing. He is completely flawed and his story is beautiful and heartbreaking. His interactions with Taylor are some of my favorites.  

And there's Santangelo and Raffy and the Five and Ben...gosh this book is beautiful. 

Here, I'll describe it like this. 

Reading this book at the beginning is like having your nose pressed against the painting Reflections of Clouds on the Water by Monet. You see beautiful colors, but it doesn't make any sense because all you can see is the space right in front of you. So you read a little bit more, take a step back, look left and right and see a little bit more. It's still a little fuzzy, but it's still beautiful. You keep reading, take more steps back and you see more and more. By the end, you're able to see the whole picture and it's magnificent and breathtaking. 

I won't lie, I didn't feel this way until over halfway through the book, around page 222, in fact. In talking to other people who have read it, they hit that "Oh. Oh I need to sit down for the rest of this" moment at different points. So just trust me. If you pick up this book and you're reading and reading and still have felt the magic, just wait. It'll happen. 

Melina Marchetta is adapting Jellicoe Road for a film. 

You can read more about how where they are in this process at her blog: 

I'd recommend this book to everyone.

There were three parts where I cried and I can't tell you about any of them because again, spoilers, but I will give you my favorite line. It doesn't seem like much without context, but it will stay with me.

I remember love.

Up next, I'm reading Swim That Rock and On the Wrong Track.


Sunday, May 4, 2014

Book Review: Holmes on the Range by Steven Hockensmith

Title: Holmes on the Range

Author: Steven Hockensmith
Series: Holmes on the Range #1
Publisher: Minotaur Books 
Source: Library; Recycled Books 
Adult, Mystery, Western

1893 is a tough year in Montana, and any job is a good job. When brothers Big Red and Old Red Amlingmeyer sign on as ranch hands at a secretive ranch, they’re not expecting much more than hard work, bad pay, and a few free moments to enjoy their favorite pastime: reading stories about Sherlock Holmes. When another hand turns up dead, Old Red sees the perfect opportunity to employ his Holmes-inspired “deducifyin’” skills and sets out to solve the case. Big Red, like it or not (and mostly he does not), is along for the wild ride in this clever, compelling, and completely one-of-a-kind mystery. (From GoodReads) 

I don't have the faintest idea why it took me so long to read this book. It's a western (which I love) and it's a mystery (which I love even more) and it's got a touch of Holmes (which I love the most) and it features a pair of detecting brothers, which always wins points with me. (I blame the Hardy Boys. And Simon & Simon.)

Holmes on the Range is told from Big Red's point of view. Also known as Otto, he's the younger, more educated brother of Old Red (Gustav) who is really not that old at all. They're the only family each other has left, so while they don't always see eye to eye, they stick with each other. So when Old Red lines up to take a job at the Bar VR ranch, Big Red begrudgingly gets in line with him. As they come to find out, this is precisely the moment things start to go terribly wrong.

This was a really fun read. It's got all the things you might expect from a western including cowboys, cattle (did you know such a thing as a cattalo existed?), a stampede, an outhouse, and interesting words like "deducifying". It's got everything you might expect from a mystery including a murder, make that more than one murder, sneaking about in the dark, mysterious gunshots, and plenty of red herrings. And a cannibal. Hockensmith infuses this romp with a healthy dose of humor. Some of the characters are a little bit canned, such as the maid and the pompous old Englishman, but you've also got some very clever plot twists and unexpected moments. There's also the Swedish chef, which had better be a Muppet reference, I'm just sayin'.

I adore both Gustav and Otto. I will admit that as a reader I had a little bit of a hard time connecting with Otto as the narrator. He spends most of his time observing Gustav observing the rest of the world, and he reminds the reader frequently that Gustav is the only family he has left. I guess I wanted more of him as a character. I also wanted more of Gustav, though, so what can you do?

Read the rest of the series, I suppose.

Holmes on the Range certainly passes the "will I read the next book in the series" test and I've already checked out On the Wrong Track from my local library.

According to Hockensmith's website, there are no plans for a movie or TV adaptation of Holmes on the Range, which is a total shame. I know westerns aren't the hot thing right now, but this would make a seriously entertaining film or mini-series. Also, I vote for Christopher Gorham as Gustav.

I thought long and hard about who I'd want to play Otto and I just couldn't come up with a good idea for his actor. If you've read it, who would you choose? 

I'd recommend Holmes on the Range for anyone who enjoys a good mystery, isn't opposed to westerns, and can handle a little bit of cheesy-ness. 

Up next I'm reading Jellicoe Road, because Britney will kill me if I don't. 

Adios, pardners!