Review: Sorrow’s Knot

Sorrow's Knot

Title: Sorrow’s Knot
Author: Erin Bow
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 342
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Review Copy: Purchased
Availability: On shelves now

Summary: At the very edge of the world live the Shadowed People. And with them live the dead.

There, in the village of Westmost, Otter is born to power. She is the proud daughter of Willow, the greatest binder of the dead in generations. It will be Otter’s job someday to tie the knots of the ward, the only thing that keeps the living safe.

Kestrel is in training to be a ranger – one of the brave women who venture into the forest to gather whatever the Shadowed People can’t live without. It will be Kestrel and her sister rangers who stand against whatever dark threat might slip through the ward’s defenses.

And Cricket wants to be a storyteller – already he shows the knack, the ear – and already he knows a few dangerous secrets.

But something is very wrong at the edge of the world.

Willow’s power seems to be turning inside out. The ward is in danger of falling. And lurking in the shadows, hungry, is a White Hand – the most dangerous of the dead, whose very touch means madness, and worse. —(Summary and image from author’s site)

Review: I fell in love with this book from the second page, which is such a rare experience for me that I actually had to reread the opening scene to make sure of my feelings.

The world of Sorrow’s Knot is a fascinating and ahistorical creation that borrows from Native American, Celtic, and Japanese folklore. Erin Bow did a lot of research in order to build this world, and the effort shows in everything from the food to the houses to the descriptions of the drums and drumming. Perhaps what I love most is that Bow trusts the readers to learn from context anything that’s unfamiliar instead of assuming they won’t get it.

That allows Bow to focus on the actual prose, which is spectacular. There were times I wanted to stop and read the book aloud, just so I could hear the rhythm of the words. Stories and storytelling are of major importance in the book, and Bow wrote a book that sounds like old fairytales, if that makes any sense. (You can read an excerpt here.) This is a book where you can really luxuriate in the world and the atmosphere the author creates for you. The descriptions of the scaffolds and the dead (particularly the White Hand) are all the right sorts of eerie, and I appreciated how wide and full of unknowns the world felt.

Otter, Kestrel, and Cricket are a fantastic power trio who are all competent, intelligent, and courageous. Their banter—and Kestrel and Cricket’s romance—was adorable, and I had no trouble believing that these were friends who would break taboos or go to the end of the world for one another. The depth of their trust, love, and respect for each other made the first half of the book compelling despite the comparatively slow build of the plot. Most of the other important characters felt like people in their own right and not just accessories to the main trio.

In other books, I would probably complain about the relative lack of explicit rules for the magic, but the magic meshes well with the world and the storytelling style. While the solution to the story was a bit too simple for my tastes, I was ultimately satisfied by the characters’ trials, journeys, and sacrifices that made that solution possible.

Recommendation: Buy it now. Sorrow’s Knot was easily one of my favorite books this year. (With Christmas around the corner, there are people on my shopping list who may very well end up owning this book.) The world is rich, the characters are believable, and the prose is moving and mesmerizing. I’m definitely looking forward to future works by Erin Bow.

Need a Little Humor in Your Life?

When the days get shorter and darker, I often turn to humor for a lift. While some of these titles deal with serious topics, they all have a healthy dose of humor. We often hear that laughter is the best medicine, so here is your prescription.

since you asked

Since You Asked by Maureen Goo

A humorous, debut novel about a Korean-American teenager who accidentally lands her own column in her high school newspaper, and proceeds to rant her way through the school year while struggling to reconcile the traditional Korean values of her parents with contemporary American culture. Reviewed on Rich in Color here.

wrapThe Wrap-Up List by Steven Arntson

In this modern-day suburban town, one percent of all fatalities come about in the most peculiar way. Deaths—eight-foot-tall, silver-gray creatures—send a letter (“Dear So-and-So, your days are numbered”) to whomever is chosen for a departure, telling them to wrap up their lives and do the things they always wanted to do before they have to “depart.” When sixteen-year-old Gabriela receives her notice, she is, of course devastated. Will she kiss her crush Sylvester before it’s too late?

ABC

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

All Jin Wang wants is to fit in. When his family moves to a new neighborhood, he suddenly finds that he’s the only Chinese American student at his school. Jocks and bullies pick on him constantly, and he has hardly any friends. Then, to make matters worse, he falls in love with an all-American girl…

diary

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

In his first book for young adults, bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author’s own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings by acclaimed artist Ellen Forney, that reflect the character’s art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live.

Does My Head Look Big in This

Does My Head Look Big in This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah

Sixteen-year-old Amal makes the decision to start wearing the hijab full- time and everyone has a reaction. Her parents, her teachers, her friends, people on the street. But she stands by her decision to embrace her faith and all that it is, even if it does make her a little different from everyone else.

Can she handle the taunts of “towel head,” the prejudice of her classmates, and still attract the cutest boy in school? Brilliantly funny and poignant, Randa Abdel-Fattah’s debut novel will strike a chord in all teenage readers, no matter what their beliefs.

cuba

Cuba 15 by Nancy Osa

Violet Paz has just turned 15, a pivotal birthday in the eyes of her Cuban grandmother. Fifteen is the age when a girl enters womanhood, traditionally celebrating the occasion with a quinceañero. But while Violet is half Cuban, she’s also half Polish, and more importantly, she feels 100% American. Except for her zany family’s passion for playing dominoes, smoking cigars, and dancing to Latin music, Violet knows little about Cuban culture, nada about quinces, and only tidbits about the history of Cuba. So when Violet begrudgingly accepts Abuela’s plans for a quinceañero–and as she begins to ask questions about her Cuban roots–cultures and feelings collide. The mere mention of Cuba and Fidel Castro elicits her grandparents’sadness and her father’s anger. Only Violet’s aunt Luz remains open-minded. With so many divergent views, it’s not easy to know what to believe. All Violet knows is that she’s got to form her own opinions, even if this jolts her family into unwanted confrontations. After all, a quince girl is supposed to embrace responsibility–and to Violet that includes understanding the Cuban heritage that binds her to a homeland she’s never seen.

— cover images and summaries via Goodreads

New Releases

Two new releases this week, both of which I’m really looking forward to. The first I’m reviewing for Rich In Color, so look for my thoughts in Dec. and the second book is the sequel to a fascinating dystopian YA novel that deals with angels. I loved Susan Ee’s first novel “Angelfall”, so I’ve been looking forward to the sequel for some time now. I don’t know about you, but my reading list keeps getting longer and longer. Thank goodness Thanksgiving vacation is next week.

he saidHe Said, She Said by Kwame Alexander

Amistad Press

Summary: He says: Omar T-Diddy Smalls has got it made: a full football ride to UMiami, hero-worship status at school, and pick of any girl at West Charleston High.

She says: Football, shmootball. Here’s what Claudia Clarke cares about: the hungry, the poor, the disenfranchised, Harvard, her GPA, Pat Conroy, the staggering teen pregnancy rate, investigative journalism…the list goes on. She does NOT have a minute to waste on Mr. T-Diddy Smalls and his harem of bimbos.

He Said, She Said is a fun and fresh novel from Kwame Alexander that throws these two high school seniors together when they unexpectedly end up leading the biggest social protest this side of the Mississippi—with a lot of help from Facebook and Twitter.

The stakes are high, the romance is hot, and when these worlds collide, behold the fireworks! (cover image and summary via Goodreads)

world afterWorld After (Penryn & End of Days #2) by Susan Ee

Skyscape

In this sequel to the bestselling fantasy thriller, Angelfall, the survivors of the angel apocalypse begin to scrape back together what’s left of the modern world.

When a group of people capture Penryn’s sister Paige, thinking she’s a monster, the situation ends in a massacre. Paige disappears. Humans are terrified. Mom is heartbroken.

Penryn drives through the streets of San Francisco looking for Paige. Why are the streets so empty? Where is everybody? Her search leads her into the heart of the angels’ secret plans where she catches a glimpse of their motivations, and learns the horrifying extent to which the angels are willing to go.

Meanwhile, Raffe hunts for his wings. Without them, he can’t rejoin the angels, can’t take his rightful place as one of their leaders. When faced with recapturing his wings or helping Penryn survive, which will he choose? (cover image and summary via Goodreads)

Book Review: Champion

Title: Ch14290364ampion
Author: Marie Lu
Genres: Dystopian, SciFi
Pages: 369
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers
Review Copy: Target!
Availability: On Shelves now

Review: I wish I could write gushing praise for Champion. I really wanted to say that I loved the novel and everyone needs to run out and buy it right now. I wish I could say a lot of things, but what I truly wish for is a different ending to the book. For me, I might enjoy 80-90% of a book, tv, or movie, but if the ending is not done well, then I usually end up disappointed with the entire product. Unfortunately, I did not like the ending to Champion and it has sullied my entire enjoyment of the novel. I will not say why I didn’t like the book because I’m not one to ruin someone’s reading pleasure and give away the end of the book, so you’ll just have to read it for yourselves.

The rest of the novel, with the exception of the last 20 pages, was tense with almost non-stop action. After all, the entire book encompasses a very short time period (a week, I think) where Day and June are literally fighting for their lives, for the lives of the people of the Republic, as well as trying to find a cure for the new plague. This makes for some very intense moments where Day and June have to make adult decisions that will effect their entire nation. That is a lot of responsibility for teenagers, but as established in Legend and Prodigy, Day and June are not ordinary teenagers. Their relationship begins strained at the beginning of the novel, but they eventually come together and the scene where they finally admit how they feel for each other is one of the best in the book. I cheered for them and hoped against hoped that Day and June would be able to have their happy ending. At that point in the story, it really didn’t look like that was going to happen, so much Kudos to Marie Lu for keeping the reader in such suspense.

One aspect of Champion that I really loved was learning more about the world that Day and June live in. In my copy there was a map of the world that showed how the melting of the glaciers affected the entire globe. We learn that Africa is a superpower and that Antarctica is a thriving continent, with a wonderful super-charged technology advanced city and even has their own language. This attention to world building detail thrilled me and I even wondered what the Antarctican language sounded like and where it’s roots where. While Prodigy explained more of what happened to the United States, Champion gives more information as to how the world changed and the former US’s status among the world’s governments. To me, the world that Lu created feels very real and I can imagine our future turning into Day and June’s familiar world.

Overall, maybe my disappointment comes from having Day and June’s story come to an end. I seriously loved Legend and Prodigy, and was eagerly anticipating Champion. Day and June, for me, are one-of-a-kind characters and I grew to really care for them. I cared for each of their individual stories, their heartaches, and I cared for them as a couple. I felt they were a realistic portrayal of a couple who pushes and challenges the other to be better, while at the same time can work together as a team. That type of relationship is uncommon in Young Adult fiction these days, but I hope that more publishers take note on the popularity of Lu’s series and publish more novels where the teens are equals to each other instead of a lopsided relationship.

Marie Lu, thank you for giving us Day and June. I will miss them greatly.

Join Us for a Group Discussion

If I ever get out of hereWe had a lot of fun with our last group discussion, so we have decided to hold another one. Join us on December 14th, when we will be posting our thoughts on Eric Gansworth’s If I Ever Get Out of Here. If you haven’t read this book already, here’s what it’s about:

Lewis “Shoe” Blake is used to the joys and difficulties of life on the Tuscarora Indian reservation in 1975: the joking, the Fireball games, the snow blowing through his roof. What he’s not used to is white people being nice to him—people like George Haddonfield, whose family recently moved to town with the Air Force. As the boys connect through their mutual passion for music, especially the Beatles, Lewis has to lie more and more to hide the reality of his family’s poverty from George. He also has to deal with the vicious Evan Reininger, who makes Lewis the special target of his wrath. But when everyone else is on Evan’s side, how can he be defeated? And if George finds out the truth about Lewis’s home—will he still be his friend?

Acclaimed adult author Eric Gansworth makes his YA debut with this wry and powerful novel about friendship, memory, and the joy of rock ‘n’ roll.

Run to the library or your local bookstore soon to pick up a copy of the book so you’ll be ready to chime in with your thoughts. We’re looking forward to hearing what you have to say!

New Releases

Here are two exciting books being released this week. As always, if we have missed any diverse releases, please let us know.

angel

Angel de la Luna and the 5th Glorious Mystery by M Evelina Galang (Coffee House Press)

Angel has just lost her father, and her mother’s grief means she might as well be gone too. She’s got a sister and a grandmother to look out for, and a burgeoning consciousness of the unfairness in the world—in her family, her community, and her country.

Set against the backdrop of the second Philippine People Power Revolution in 2001, the contemporary struggles of surviving Filipina Comfort Women of WWII, and a cold winter’s season in the city of Chicago is the story of a daughter coming of age, coming to forgiveness, and learning to move past the chaos of grief to survive.

the livingThe Living by Matt De La Peña (Delacourt Press)

Shy took the summer job to make some money. In a few months on a luxury cruise liner, he’ll rake in the tips and be able to help his mom and sister out with the bills. And how bad can it be? Bikinis, free food, maybe even a girl or two—every cruise has different passengers, after all.

But everything changes when the Big One hits. Shy’s only weeks out at sea when an earthquake more massive than ever before recorded hits California, and his life is forever changed.

The earthquake is only the first disaster. Suddenly it’s a fight to survive for those left living.

You may read a sample of The Living here.

— Cover images and summaries via Goodreads