Review: HUNGER by Jackie Morse Kessler

7247856I’ve had this book on my TBR for a long time, but some part of my brain pigeon-holed it as “another anorexia book,” so it took me a while to get down to reading it. Fortunately, it was well-written, focused and interesting, with a mythological twist that kept me reading. It’s definitely worth the read!

I like that this book is so short. There are many, many 400-page YA books that I just want to slice down to half the page-count because the protagonists spend so much time wandering around, wondering what to do and wondering who they are. Hunger gets right down to the story, who the characters are, and what they want and need.

Lisa, an anorexic who is about to commit suicide, is chosen as the new Famine, who is one the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Death is the one who gives her the job, and he seems to be the leader of the four. War and Pestilence come into the story, too, in their own ways. I really enjoyed how the Four Horsemen were modernized, so to speak, and it was really interesting how Lisa’s struggle with anorexia feeds into her role as Famine, and how her role of Famine influences the rest of her life choices. Death, War, and Pestilence were all really interesting characters in their own right, although we don’t get to completely know any of them; this is one of the drawbacks of the shortness of the book. However, there are three sequels for the three Horsemen aside from Famine. Death was the most intriguing and fleshed out (so to speak).

Lisa’s adventures as Famine, both in faraway countries and close to home were very interesting, but every time she got on her horse (Midnight, who is much nicer than you might expect from a Horseman’s steed), the tone of the book became almost surreal and very dream-like. I liked that. It made you question a little just how much of it was really happening, but it doesn’t really matter because it all reflects what is happening in her real life so well.

There is also a small cast of human characters in Lisa’s “real” life. Her boyfriend James and her ex-BFF Suzanne have realized Lisa has a problem and are trying to help her. Her new best friend, Tammy, is bulimic, and Lisa looks up to her but comes to realize that Tammy isn’t as confident or self-controlled as Lisa had though. Lisa’s parents are polar opposites but were a really great part of the cast. Her mom and dad are both flawed, realistic characters but still her parents.

There are a lot of detailed descriptions of anorexic or bulimic habits, which were really unpleasant to read but really helped me to understand the lengths people with those illnesses will go to feel some sort of control over themselves. Obviously, it’s really sad, and Hunger, through Lisa and Tammy, helps you understand and sympathize with those characters.

I gave Hunger four out of five stars.

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Children’s books are cool (mini-reviews)

I’ve read a handful of children’s books this year already, and they’re all good ones, so have some mini-reviews!

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Earwig and The Witch by Diana Wynne Jones:

Diana Wynne Jones is one of those authors who makes me flail and go ASDFGHJKL; no matter what she does, so it’s hard for me to review her books. I am striving to remain objective about this book because I loved it to pieces, but I know it has some flaws. So, flaws first: There are several characters and a couple of plot threads that are introduced in this book which then disappear or taper off by the end of the book. This was her last book so I am guessing that if she had lived (RIP forever) to finish it, she would have fleshed out those better. In any case, there is still a complete story here, but it feels like there should be a sequel or more chapters for sub-plot/characters.

Besides that, though, this book is flawless. Earwig is hilarious, bossy, and clever, and sets herself to taking control of her household in a forthright manner that you can’t help but root for. It reminded me of a kids’ version of Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons (another EXCELLENT book, by the way). The illustrations were really fun, too, and matched the feel of the story. The characters are all shown as varying degrees of “ugly,” but they’re so unique and expressive that it’s fabulous.

The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien:

This was a reread, and was so much better than I remembered! I mostly remembered lots of tramping through the wilderness and Bilbo derping all over everywhere, but Bilbo is seriously epic. The dwarves are still really difficult to keep track of.

One thing that I appreciated more this time around was how the seeds for the final confrontation (I don’t mean the dragon) are sewn much earlier in the book than I remembered, and the entire story is very cohesive within itself. It can seem like an episodic travelogue, but there are a lot of themes and threats that interweave through the whole story and make it very complete. It’s awesome.

I may or may not have cried at the end.

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne Valente:

Fairyland, the series that this book belongs to, is a really great romp of a story. It’s a brilliant postmodern take on the older child-in-Faerie/Alice-in-Wonderland stories, so if you’re familiar with those, there are constant hilarious subtle (or not so subtle) references to those. Valente likes turning all expectations on their head and twisting tropes into pretzels. But even if you don’t “get” that layer, like I said, there’s still a fun, hilarious, dark, awesome story in the forefront.

I didn’t like this one as much as the first (The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making) but it was still fabulous. The Mad Scientist and her inventions was probably my favorite bit, but the Duke of Tea is not to be missed!

The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan:

After the perfection of Son of Neptune, the sequel had a hard time standing up to it. The plot was a lot smaller scale(even though there were plenty of bad guys and angry Romans for our heroes to deal with), which made me just want the book to be over so they could get back to dealing with The Big Bads of the series. It was good to have Annabeth back in the forefront, smarter and more badass than ever, and I was happy to have a Leo POV again, too.

My favorite part of this new series is how Riordan brings in the Roman gods—they are still the older Greek gods, but with different personalities and/or powers. In this book, Athena/Minerva and Dionysus/Bacchus stand out as really clever reimaginings of the characters we’re already familiar with.

PS: Nico is very special to me and I demand more page time for that boy.

Bout of Books: Book Crack mini-challenge

bookgoonie’s mini-challenge for today asks: What is your Book Crack? What can you NOT SAY NO to? What bookish things make you blissful?

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Russian folklore reimagining
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Sleeping Beauty retelling

I have a weakness for fairy tale reimaginings/retellings (the twistier, the better!), as well as stories where someone goes to Fairyland/Faerie (willingly or unwillingly). Robin McKinley is a good example, but if I read the premise and it is a new take on a fairy tale, I’m halfway sold already.

 

 

 

10060016I also love stories that are retellings of really old stories but told from a different character’s perspective. Some examples are Lavinia by Ursula K Le Guin (The Aeneid), The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (The Iliad) and Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis (Cupid and Psyche). Different authors treating a story that you love is always really interesting. If it’s bad, of course, it makes me 500 times as angry, but if it’s good, it feels like additional “canon.”

 

 

As for “bookish things” that make me “blissful,” I love seeing interesting ways to decorate your house using books or bookshelves, odd bookstores, and “book architecture.”

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Kansas City Public Librarytumblr_m9p910gJcw1qd5tf8o1_500El Ateneo Bookstore in Buenos Aires, Argentinatumblr_mb70bbI6Jn1rq31qso1_500

Bout of Books: Book Spine mini-challenge

Escape Through the Pages has a Book Spine Poem mini-challenge for the day. Write a poem using the titles of books you have on your shelves. You may use one extra word for every book you use. I am using eight books so I can use up to eight extra words.

Here’s mine, using books on my shelf:

bookspine Just Listen

(Before I Fall):

Every Day

The City of Glass

grows Chill;

but it is

Not Without Laughter:

Endlessly

Deathless.

 

 

Bout of Books: Page 48 mini-challenge

Booking In Heels has a great challenge for today! Here are the rules:

Turn to page 48 of your current book, or 48% if you’re using an e-reader.
Take the first complete sentence on that page and copy it.
Now you’re going to continue the story! Ignoring the real plot or anything else you know about that book, add four new sentences of your very own. You can morph the plot completely, kill everybody off or go off on a huge tangent – anything goes!

From page 48 of Carnival by Elizabeth Bear:

Normally, he would have felt it happen, felt it fall into place with an almost audible click.

My brain may or may not have plunged into the gutter like a penguin into icy water, however I overcame my baser instincts. Here is my continuation of it:

But he was so distracted by the other patient, a tall fierce woman who insisted that she could replace her metal limb herself, no thanks to you, you crazy, greasy, wood-fingered lad. His own leg, a full size bigger and made of a brand-new alloy (guaranteed to last twice as long as steel) was already attached by the time he dragged his eyes away from the woman. The limb-dealer finished making the connections between his metal leg and flesh, and then handed him a stiff sheet which read “Instructions for Care and Cleaning” at the top. He already had the full text memorized, but took the sheet anyway.

Bout of Books: Cover Love mini-challenge

MsBuff’s Bout of Books mini-challenge for today is to share your favorite cover and/or the funniest cover you’ve seen. Here are a few of my faves!

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The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien: 75th Anniversary edition. I got this for Christmas, and it looks way more gorgeous in real life. The insides of the covers have Thorin’s map and a smaller-scale map of Mirkwood and surrounding lands. It’s awesome.

3136191All the Windwracked Stars by Elizabeth Bear. I really like all of the covers for Bear’s “Edda of Burdens” series, but this one is my favorite. I haven’t even read these, trollololol, but I love Bear.

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Conrad’s Fate by Diana Wynne Jones. DWJ’s books don’t always get great covers, but when they do, they’re damn fabulous. This is my ultimate favorite.

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Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan. I generally hate YA covers with photos, models, photomanips, etc. The new-ish silhouette trend makes me incredibly happy, and Unspoken has my favorite so far.

Bout of Books 6.0 (main post)

The Bout of Books is over! Scroll to the end of the post for my wrap-up thoughts.

I am participating in The Bout of Books! I am hoping to read the books below for this goal. A bunch of them are ones I’ve already started reading, but they’re long and I need to finish them, so there. I’ll be tracking page count more than book count because of that.

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If I finish those, I will tackle the rest of my Elizabeth Bear books.

Here is the main blurb for the readathon, but the rest of the rules and stuff can be found at the link above:

“The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, January 7th and runs through Sunday, January 13th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional.”

I will keep updating this post, so check back if you want to watch my progress. Daily updates below the cut.

Continue reading “Bout of Books 6.0 (main post)”