Thursday, September 22, 2011

Book Review: A Lifetime of Secrets: A PostSecret Book by Frank Warren

My rating: 5/5

From the author: "For A Lifetime of Secrets, the fourth PostSecret book, I've selected postcards that show how secrets can reveal a momentary impulse or haunt us for decades and arranged them by age to follow the common journey we all take through childhood, adolescence, adulthood, maturity. Stretched over a full lifespan, the secrets expose the meaningful ways we change over time, and the surprising ways we don't.

"The postcards narrate childhood stories that have never been spoken; they voice the guarded confessions of our parents and grandparents. They confirm that our rich interior lives are not defined by how old we are, and that with aging comes not only loss but also the possibility of grace and wisdom."

For something with a premise that at first seems purely voyeuristic, this was one of the most interesting, touching, and introspective works of nonfiction that I've ever read.  I am amazed, and at the same time not surprised at all, that so many people would be willing to write a secret on a postcard and send it to a total stranger.  And I'm also amazed at how well the author put the postcards together in this book.  They flow almost seamlessly from one life stage to another, even though they were all written by different people.  Some are uplifting; many are depressing and even downright cringe-worthy.  But it makes the reader think, How would I handle that? How did I handle that? How great that must feel, and how awful that must have been.  And you can't help but examine your own secrets, your own shortfalls and triumphs, and think, how would I decorate my postcard?

Few books make me cry, and this one did.  But I swear it's a good thing. ;)  I'm looking forward to reading all of the other PostSecret books.

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Book Review: Shifting Fate (Chronicles of Fate series) by Alexis Leno

My rating: 3/5

From Amazon: "Times in the mystic realm of Lizon are changing. The Great War remains a distant past for many, but for others, the bleak past is all too clear. When the royal family of Alii is targeted, the kingdom's only Princess begins a quest to set things right. In a world completely controlled by fate, Brynn of Alii must fight against the Shifters, bent on altering the predestined future, to save the world she knows and secure destiny."

I liked this book well enough, but I'm afraid my biggest problem with it was that it just isn't my favorite genre.  I like fantasy, but the Middle Ages-like atmosphere of this type of fantasy all runs together in my head, and I have a hard time keeping interest.  I really enjoyed the beginning; the premise (and promise) of an evil, red-eyed, powerful, vengeful villain was good.  But I never quite fell in love with the good guys, I never quite enjoyed their journey, and the ending wasn't quite satisfactory for me.

I do think the biggest problem though was me, which is why the rating stays at an even 3.  If you're a fan of the magical medieval-ish settings, then this isn't a bad read. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Book Review: Rotters by Daniel Kraus

My rating: 4.5/5

From Amazon: "Grave-robbing. What kind of monster would do such a thing? It's true that Leonardo da Vinci did it, Shakespeare wrote about it, and the resurrection men of nineteenth-century Scotland practically made it an art. But none of this matters to Joey Crouch, a sixteen-year-old straight-A student living in Chicago with his single mom. For the most part, Joey's life is about playing the trumpet and avoiding the daily humiliations of high school.
"Everything changes when Joey's mother dies in a tragic accident and he is sent to rural Iowa to live with the father he has never known, a strange, solitary man with unimaginable secrets. At first, Joey's father wants nothing to do with him, but once father and son come to terms with each other, Joey's life takes a turn both macabre and exhilarating."

Though I at first thought this was a zombie book when I checked it out at the library, I wasn't disappointed when it ended up being decidedly un-supernatural.  Graverobbing, as it turns out, is an artistically morbid profession, and Joey is a very interesting main character who's put in a situation that's both familiar and (hopefully) unfamiliar all at once.  And though Joey deals with things in a sometimes quirky manner, it always makes sense.  The entire book is also filled with the most realistic cast of normatively abnormal people I've ever read.  The only characters I had trouble distinguishing between were the Diggers, and I assume that to be on purpose... as gravediggers prefer their anonymity.

I loved all the action, as well as the non-action, and the reader can't help but feel desperately sorry for Joey in his predicament of losing his mother, moving to a new school where he's bullied, and suddenly living in poverty with a father who at first seems unstable.  If any of those situations even remotely ring true, you will probably enjoy this book. 

The only thing that didn't quite make sense (and is the reason for a 4.5 instead of a 5) was a turn in Joey's personality midway through the book.  He goes from being unsure of himself to being confident, all over Christmas break.  Though I could see Joey heading in this direction, and very much wanted to see him head this way, the change happened so quickly that it threw me off.  That being said though, I quickly got over it and enjoyed the rest of the book without pause.

As usual with a teenage character, there is some swearing, but not unreasonably so.  I would be more concerned about the gore and the drug use (though the drugs are definitely put in a bad light) with the under-high-school crowd.

Also, check out the book trailer here