Review: Exit, Pursued by a Bear

Exit, Pursued by a Bear
Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

BRIDGE: (obvious) A Winter’s Tale by Shakespeare, Tess of the D’Ubervilles by Thomas Hardy, or House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

READ ALIKES: The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, or

REVIEW: I’m usually a sucker for a happy ending, but this one left me with a weird taste in my mouth. I saw E.K. Johnston speak at ALAN in Nov. 2016, and I knew it would be an idealistic portrayal of a rape victim’s experience. I found myself continually thinking “Wow. That would never happen that way” or “Hermione is really handling this well”. On one hand, this book could be a good “instructional” read for families and communities on How To Deal with rape cases and victims. On the other hand, this could have an adverse affect on rape victims themselves. Hermione is so calm and well-adjusted throughout her ordeal, I worry that any reader who may have had an experience with sexual assault or is the victim of rape will feel that any reaction other than one like Hermione’s is a “wrong” reaction. While a situation like this without stumbling is sometimes reality, it is hardly the norm and I worry that it’s too easy.

That being said, Johnston’s writing is great and Hermione’s life and community are fullfilling. I also enjoyed a look into a high school cheerleading world that doesn’t involve airheads or cattiness. Again, perhaps not 100% reality, but cheerleaders get a bad wrap in YA and it’s nice to see the commitment to competition and their sport. Polly is a tremendous best friend and we should all be so lucky to have such a loyally fierce and supportive person in our corner. It’s a lovely snapshot of what humankind could be if we choose love and support.

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Review and Bridge: These Broken Stars

These Broken Stars
These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It took me a while to get to this book even though I had heard buzz about it for almost a year. I also have a hard time ignoring a striking cover and this one is gorgeous.

Tarver and Lilac’s story is somewhat cliche: the poor little rich girl gets stranded with the self-made war hero. Tarver does the expected survival skills smorgasboard and Lilac has the appropriate “girlie” reactions as her expected inner strength and adaptability develop. While the dialogue is appropriately filled with snarky banter, there were a few times it felt stilted. It smooths out as the story progresses and even though readers might expect to have a hard time connecting with archetypes they’ve seen a hundred times before, the connection between Tarver and Lilac seems genuine in the end. Kaufman and Spooner did a good job keeping the story moving when there are only two speaking characters for the majority of the action. In the end, readers will be invested in both the characters’ relationship and the outcome of their situation.

Just when it seems trite, the setting and premise of the book quickly kick it out of the cliche category. Reminiscent of Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan or Across the Universe by Beth Revis, this space opera does not disappoint. The existence of space colonization and cross-galaxy travel make for rich world-building. The idea of terra-forming strange planets to make them habitable opens up so many possibilities for this series. That’s one of the things I like most about the first two books. Different worlds with different climates and different assimilation struggles make for an endless store of possible spinoffs.

I was disappointed that the second book, This Shattered World, seemed to be about a completely different set of characters. But as the story progressed, realized that the story arcs crossed paths and it’s made me highly anticipate the third book in the Starbound trilogy. The plot of the second book was more original and puts a twist on the surprise element from the first book. I’m interested to see how the authors bring everything to a close with the third book, Their Fractured Light.

Overall a good choice for sci-fi and romance fans.

BRIDGE BOOKS: This book could easily be paired with some more traditional titles to address the archetypes and plot schema used.
Romeo and Juliet – William Shakespeare
Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy

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Flashback Friday: Fool by Christopher Moore

PUBLISHER: William Morrow Paperbacks; Harper Collins Publishers Audio (originally published Feb. 2009)

LENGTH: 352 pages; 8 hours, 41 minutes

SOURCE: purchased audio

SUMMARY:  (via chrismoore.com) A man of infinite jest, Pocket has been Lear’s cherished fool for years, from the time the king’s grown daughters—selfish, scheming Goneril, sadistic (but erotic-fantasy-grade-hot) Regan, and sweet, loyal Cordelia—were mere girls. So naturally Pocket is at his brainless, elderly liege’s side when Lear—at the insidious urging of Edmund, the bastard (in every way imaginable) son of the Earl of Gloucester—demands that his kids swear their undying love and devotion before a collection of assembled guests. Of course Goneril and Regan are only too happy to brownnose Dad. But Cordelia believes that her father’s request is kind of . . . well . . . stupid, and her blunt honesty ends up costing her her rightful share of the kingdom and earns her a banishment to boot.

Well, now the bangers and mash have really hit the fan. The whole damn country’s about to go to hell in a handbasket because of a stubborn old fart’s wounded pride. And the only person who can possibly make things right . . . is Pocket, a small and slight clown with a biting sense of humor. He’s already managed to sidestep catastrophe (and the vengeful blades of many an offended nobleman) on numerous occasions, using his razor-sharp mind, rapier wit . . . and the equally well-honed daggers he keeps conveniently hidden behind his back. Now he’s going to have to do some very fancy maneuvering—cast some spells, incite a few assassinations, start a war or two (the usual stuff)—to get Cordelia back into Daddy Lear’s good graces, to derail the fiendish power plays of Cordelia’s twisted sisters, to rescue his gigantic, gigantically dim, and always randy friend and apprentice fool, Drool, from repeated beatings . . . and to shag every lusciously shaggable wench who’s amenable to shagging along the way.

Pocket may be a fool . . . but he’s definitely not an idiot.

BRIDGE: This book is an amazing adaptation of Shakespeare’s King Lear. The major trepidation I have in recommending it as a Bridge Book is the raunchy nature of the humor. There’s really no other word for it – the sexual situations and language are definitely R-rated. However, I still feel it would be a great Bridge book for college students studying Shakespeare. While the focus of the blog is usually MG and YA literature, this book will provide great discussion topics for Shakespearean scholars and fans alike. Explorations of character, plot development, thematic elements…they’re all there even though the book is a crazy mash-up of one of Shakespeare’s most famous tragedies and the low-rent version of Elizabethan England.

Moore provides extensions of characters and blends cynicism, sarcasm, erotica, and tragedy seamlessly. His Lear is jut the right balance of crazy and desperate. The daughters are as conniving as one would expect them to be with just a touch more venom because they are given more feminine confidence. While Pocket seems to be a creation entirely of Moore’s mind, he melds nicely with Shakespeare’s traditional characters. It is easy to believe that the Black Fool existed and dispensed levity and wisdom in balanced measure to keep all of Shakespeare’s characters in line. Moore tends to stay true to the cadence and language, for the most part. Of course, there’s superfluous cussing, and I’m not sure if  the f-word existed in the 13th century but, as all cuss words should, they add humor and emphasis in all the right places. Fans of The Bard will not go wrong with this racy version of one of literature’s most beloved tales. Just be warned: the faint of heart need not apply.

Afterword: Euan Morton’s narration of this tale on audiobook is superb. The different accents and tonalities used to represent different characters is impeccable. The pacing and emotive narration is beyond compare and I have no doubt that, had I read the text first, I would have been far less enamored of Moore’s tale. It is not to miss for fans of audiobooks.