Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Book 7 of '11 White Oleander by Janet Fitch

Dust Jacket Description:

Astrid is the only child of a single mother, Ingrid, a brilliant, obsessed poet who wields her luminous beauty to intimidate and manipulate men. Astrid worships her mother and cherishes their private world full of ritual and mystery--but their idyll is shattered when Astrid's mother falls apart over a lover. Deranged by rejection, Ingrid murders the man, and is sentenced to life in prison.

White Oleander is the unforgettable story of Astrid's journey through a series of foster homes and her efforts to find a place for herself in impossible circumstances. Each home is its own universe, with a new set of laws and lessons to be learned. With determination and humor, Astrid confronts the challenges of loneliness and poverty, and strives to learn who a motherless child in an indifferent world can become.

Characters: I'm not sure where I stand emotionally with Astrid. Fitch uses Astrid's character to be a narrator above all. Astrid may have a jaded view of events that she's directly involved in, but it's easier for me to categorize her as a narrator than as a protagonist. Still, Astrid's life is flawed, traumatic and brilliant. Did I like or hate her? No. But perhaps it's difficult to love or hate someone whose main personality trait is their will to survive. Astrid's resilient and brilliant even from the start of White Oleander. Her main change is how she hardens from child to woman. I can't exactly put my finger on it. Astrid already has huge responsibilities before she is put in foster care. But there is a definite change by the end of the book. That change is Fitch's best accomplishment.

Ingrid made me physically ill in parts, due to how she frequently reminded me of manipulative people I know in the latter part of the book. Fitch shows quite well the complexity of a complete and utter narcissist that is still magnetic to other people.

I don't want to talk about the other characters, because I can't really talk about them fully without including spoilers. What is obvious though, is that Astrid is exposed to drastically varied kinds of women and the relationships that help shape them. I didn't like any of her foster parents, but each new home was an entirely new world. It certainly made me think about who could be my neighbours. 4 and a half flowers.

Writing: Fitch's writing is absolutely gorgeous. Occasionally, there were parts where I thought she was trying too hard to make metaphors translate onto paper, but for the most part the writing is stunning. 4 and a half flowers.

The tension between Ingrid and Astrid held the story together over so many different characters. The pacing was also brilliant. The plot was well crafted overall. 4 and a half flowers.

The last paragraph irked me. The ending didn't surprise me, but it did satisfy me. 4 flowers.

Dust Jacket Description:
Oprah winners are probably destined to have flowery, mainstream style descriptions. This one makes me cringe internally after now reading the book. White Oleander is more edgy than Oprah followers will give it credit for. 2 and a half flowers.

Love, love, love it. I think it's absolutely stunning.

Overall: If you like literary books about women's issues, this is for you. The writing melts like butter and the characters will probably reveal your neuroses. 4 and a half flowers.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Book 6 of '11 The Dust of 100 Dogs by A.S King

Dust Jacket Description:

"In the late seventeenth century, famed teenage pirate Emer Morrisey was on the cusp of escaping the pirate life with her one true love and unfathomable riches when she was slain and cursed with "the dust of one hundred dogs," dooming her to one hundred lives as a dog before returning to a human body-with her memories intact.

Now she's a contemporary American teenager and all she needs is a shovel and a ride to Jamaica."

Characters: Neither Emer or her contemporary teen counterpart, Saffron really struck me emotionally. It was more their outside surroundings and the people inhabiting them that were so interesting. A character like Emer usually would have compelled me with her strong sense of self, but I had no connection with her.

Her adventures as a pirate and the people she meets though were fascinating. However, it was her traumatic and difficult childhood that made me value Emer. Hearing about her parents and childhood dreams made Saffron a much more interesting character. I really wish Emer's romance with Seanie came across as more than a simply childhood romance. The idea that she had been so in love with Seanie for all of that time seemed a bit far fetched because I never felt like I got the whole extent of their relationship.

Saffron didn't seem to have any real personality of interest. She was living for Emer and Emer's past, and that made her a fairly uninteresting individual. The only intriguing part about the chapters with Saffron was her relationship with her parents.

I think my favourite parts of the story, though, were with Fred Livingstone. It's when I finally saw King's true writing talent. He didn't make me fall in love with the book, but Fred did make me see that King has a lot of potential as a writer. 4 flowers.

Writing: I loved how King crafted the narratives, especially the parts where Saffron talked about her time as a dog. The dialogue is solid and the descriptions can be lyrical. The writing as a whole is very solid, but it's King's narrators that give it magic. 4 and a half flowers.

Plot: Often through out the book I wondered what the point of all the back story was. The plot didn't satisfy me, but the narration did. 3 and a half flowers.

End: I adored the ending. But I almost wish that the book started from this point instead of ended at it. 5 flowers.

Dust Jacket Description: Usually a simplistic description like this would annoy me. But there is something about this description that I love. 5 flowers.

Cover: I ADORE this cover. I think it's brilliant. 5 flowers.

Overall: I can't say I was entirely satisfied with this book, but I did love the ending. I think it's a fabulous book for people who like "indie" style YA books. 4 flowers.