Tuesday, December 29, 2015


I have loved Calvin and Hobbes for a very long time, and Martine Leavitt's Keturah and Lord Death has been a long-time favorite of mine, so naturally I was intrigued by anything that promised a mash-up of two things I love. Once I got over the initial coincidences: Calvin was born on the last day Bill Waterson's famous comic ended, his grandfather gave him a stuffed tiger and named it Hobbes, and his neighbor is a girl named Susie, I really enjoyed this story.

CalvinCalvin's life seems fairly normal--aside from the whole not-having-friends thing (Susie, who used to be the closest thing he had to a good friend, recently decamped for a more popular crowd). But then comes the day when he's about to fail English and biology--and Hobbes starts talking to him. Hobbes, the stuffed tiger his mom dissolved in the wash years ago.

One hospital trip and new diagnosis later, Calvin learns a name for what has brought Hobbes back: schizophrenia. Now, he's convinced that if he can pull off a risky stunt and walk across a frozen lake Erie, he can persuade Bill Waterson to write one more comic of Calvin, as a 17-year-old, without Hobbes--and he'll be cured.

But things, of course, don't ever go entirely as planned.

I loved Calvin's voice--I liked how Leavitt managed to create a believable boy who clearly questioned the signals his brain sent him, but who never despaired because of it. And I was astonished at how she managed to make a long walk across the ice interesting, suspenseful--and even funny. If the ending was a little underwhelming, well, that's sort of how life goes a lot of the time. The story was worth it for the sympathetic portrayal of schizophrenia, Susie's strength, and Calvin's own beautiful brain.

I also ADORED her homages to Calvin and Hobbes. Anyone who's familiar with the original will appreciate the occasional appearances of Spaceman Skiff, his alien teacher, the transmogrifier, and more.

Some passages I loved:

"It was slower going when you were walking on snow and around chunks and ridges of ice. But it felt good to be in the dimension of nothing. Close to four o'clock now, the sun was lower on the horizon, a whiter hole in a white sky. It didn't shine. It looked like a dead sun, a ghost sun, as if the heat had all burned out of it." (Evokes the deadness of the landscape, the dangerous onset of night.)

"Susie: Doesn't it make you feel kind of awesome that the world is beautiful for no other apparent reason than that it is? Like beauty has its own secret reason. It doesn't need human eyes to notice. It just wants to be glorious and unbelievable"

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Rest of Us Just Live Here

I've wanted to read Patrick Ness's latest for some time--in addition to good reviews, I was so impressed by his spearheading a massive fundraiser for Syrian refugees. Luckily, I enjoyed the book--though to be honest, I'm having a bit of a time being totally objective because I LOVE the premise of this book so much.

The Rest of Us Just Live HereI'm a fan of YA fantasy--and it's hard not to see the trope of the chosen one get used (and over-used) again and again. In this quirky contemporary fantasy, our hero and his friends are decidedly NOT part of the chosen one clique--that honor belongs to the Indie kids, a group of smart, odd, poetry-loving kids with hipster names who tend to die frequently in conflict with some group of paranormal beings. The hero, Mikey, just happens to live there. So the book unfolds as Mikey deals with his worsening anxiety, his feelings for one of his best friends, and a complicated family life, all against the backdrop of some kind of supernatural event that involves blue light and resuscitated dead deer (among other things).

It's an odd sort of juxtaposition, though, where the major story line involves small things and a quiet plot, while big things are happening in the background (the chapter headings, which explained what the indie kids were up to, made me laugh). I didn't love the story, though I thought it was well-executed (it just didn't resonate with me personally). But the concept alone was worth reading for. Some language and sex (not explicit).

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Ivory and Bone

Ivory and Bone I was lucky enough to read an ARC of Julie Eshbaugh's masterful debut. This is a book I've wanted to read since I first heard about it--a YA novel set in pre-historic era is unlike anything else I can think of in the market right now. I wasn't entirely sure what to expect going in, but that didn't seem to matter--Eshbaugh drew me in almost at once with her sharp prose and interesting characters (and she manages to pull off a second-person narration, which can be extremely hard to do).

Ivory and Bone follows Kol and his family, a pre-historic clan living on the fringes of the great ice, where they hunt mammoth and other animals for meat and furs. The world Eshbaugh describes is one of incredible beauty and incredible danger, and that tension undergirds Kol's story, as his family--already worried about the future of a clan in which there are no young women for Kol and his brothers to marry--celebrates the arrival of Mya, her sister and her brother, members of a thriving clan to the south. This arrival promises welcome alliances and friendship between the clans, but almost at once, Kol and Mya find themselves wary of one another--a hesitation that's only complicated by the arrival of still a third clan and the slow unveiling of deep-held secrets that might destroy them all.

Eshbaugh does a wonderful job of fleshing out an unusual world. Though my life is nothing like Kol's, I could understand and relate to his worries--his fears for the future and his more immediate fears of being stalked by a saber-tooth tiger--and the pleasure he takes in hunting for honey. The relationships she draws were moving and believable, and I loved the slow unfolding of Kol's friendship with Mya. As the action climaxed, I couldn't put the book down. Definitely one to read in 2016!