Thursday, November 13, 2014

[Review] Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie - Jordan Sonnenblick

Title: Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie
Author: Jordan Sonnenblick
Genre: YA Fiction
Published: 2004
My Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Steven has a totally normal life (well, almost). He plays drums in the All-City Jazz Band (whose members call him the Peasant), has a crush on the hottest girl in school (who doesn't even know he's alive), and is constantly annoyed by his younger brother Jeffrey (who is cuter than cute - which is also pretty annoying).

But when Jeffrey gets sick, Steven's world is turned upside down, and he is forced to deal with his brother's illness, his parents' attempts to keep the family in one piece, his homework, the band, girls, and Dangerous Pie (yes, you'll have to read the book to find out what that is!)

***

I got this book from Book Riot's Quarterly Subscription, otherwise I never would've picked it up. I don't read realistic fiction very often (ok, never). Because Book Riot got me to read it, I thought I'd resubscribe and get the next box some time this month. Much excite.

The book is almost too short. I read it in only a day and I'm the slowest reader ever. The writing is simple, yet powerful. When I wasn't laughing, I was trying not to bawl my face off. It's saying something when you can provoke an emotion besides rage out of me. Watching Steven's brother--who is in fact cuter than cute as the synopsis says--go through cancer treatment is heartbreaking. I mean, why doesn't Sonnenblick just take a sledgehammer to my chest cavity? It'd have been a lot less painful.   

Steven's character is pretty funny, though he gets a little whiny at times, especially when he's feining for attention. It's nice to watch him as he learns there are more important things in life than his wants. The relationship he comes to have with his brother is, well, amazing.

Unfortunately, that all goes to hell in the sequel, After Ever After. From what I understand (mind you, I haven't read it yet) the book is set years later when Jeffrey, the younger brother, is a teen (yay, he survived the first book). Steven's not around, however, because he's gone off to Africa to find himself (musicians, eh?). I'm not sure what that's all about, but I'm looking forward to seeing Jeffrey grown up.

I'm glad I gave this book a try. It's made me more willing to break through my cocoon of science fiction and fantasy and try something realistic. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

[Review] The Fiddler's Gun - A.S. Peterson

Title: The Fiddler's Gun
Author: A.S. Peterson
Genre: YA Historical Fiction
Published: 2009
My rating: ★★★★


Description: America is on the of war with England, and Fin Button is about to come undone. She's had it with the dull life of the orphanage, and she's ready to marry Peter and get away from rules, chores, and a life looked after by the ever-watchful Sister Hilde. But an unexpected friendship between Fin and the fiddle-playing cook, Bartimaeus, sets her on a course for revolution. 

With Bart's beloved fiddle and haunting blunderbuss as her only possessions, Fin discovers her first taste of freedom as a sailor aboard the Rattlesnake. She's hiding some dark secrets, but there are bigger problems for the crew--they are on the run from the Royal Navy, and whispers of mutiny are turning the captain into a tyrant.

When Fin finally returns home, will she find Peter still waiting, or will she find she's lost everything she once held dear? 

***

First of all, can we just admire the book's cover for a second? What really captured my attention was how the title was presented. The texture of the cover is, well, simply delicious, and the roughly cut pages fit the piece well. It gives it that extra dimension. I love holding it (and stroking it) and flipping through the pages. Also smells pretty good too, but what book doesn't?

I don't read the genre as much as I should, but I'm big on historical fiction. I'm trying to get into the habit of reading about one time period and coupling it with nonfiction books, like 1776 by David McCullough, so I can learn myself good on one subject. Right now I'm pretty interested in the American Revolution (next up: The Inventor's Secret by Andrea Cremer). I will say the book is more of a (serious) pirate adventure than a Revolutionary War novel. Fin mostly tries to stay alive rather than shape the course of the war, though she'd be happy to join the ranks if she could.

Fin is a rich character and her voice is phenomenal; her speech almost reminds me of Tom Sawyer. She's a tough tomboy, but unlike usual tomboy characters, she actually wants to settle down, get married, and have children. There's a lot of depth to her. I really enjoyed her character, which is rare of me to say about female protagonists.

The scenes are powerful and moving, the descriptions vivid. Sister Hilde's nose will be forever in my thoughts. I found myself terrified the characters I liked (and there were quite a few) were going to die. And some of them did. Bastards. It's pretty impressive when you're able to make me care about so many secondary characters, and at the same time make me hate (instead of love) the villains.

Quotes I enjoyed and, no, I didn't just steal them off of Goodreads even though they're the exact same ones posted:

"...time has a way of leading a person along a crooked path. Sometimes the path is hard to hold to and people fall off along the way. They curse the road for its steep grades and muddy ruts and settle themselves in hinterlands of thorn and sorrow, never knowing or dreaming that the road meant all along to lead them home. Some call that road a tragedy and lose themselves along it. Others, those who see it home, call it an adventure." 
"Beautiful, that's what you got to do with that hurtin', you got to turn it beautiful." - Bartimaeus (my favorite character)

In the back of the book, the author includes a few extras, like short stories and letters written by Fin to her love, Peter. Mostly they're about her wondering who on the ship's been snufflin' her boots. I never did find out. I have a tiny attention span, so when a book ends, I'm done. It goes back on the shelf. 

If you like pirate books, there's no reason not to read this one. It's a shame this book hasn't gained more popularity. It's truly an enjoyable read, and I look forward to the conclusion in Fiddler's Green.