Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Sisters Red

Pearce, Jackson. Sisters Red. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2010. Print.
[Book cover credit:]

"Versteck euch!" Oma March whispered hoarsely, pointing urgently toward her bedroom in the back of the cottage. Hide. Hide now.
"Schatzi, my treasures, I won't let him have you!" Oma March murmured under her breath, like a prayer. She dashed for the telephone and began dialing.
"Charlie? Charlie, one is here. Outside," Oma March whispered frantically to Pa Reynolds, the woodsman who lived down the road. "Oh god, Charlie, hurry," she pleaded.
But Pa Reynolds didn't make it in time, changing the lives of Oma March's granddaughters, Rose and Scarlett, forever.

Everyone was raving about Sisters Red when it came out last year, and I, ever the cynic, figured no book could live up to that much hype. So I skipped it. Even though it's a fairytale retelling of sorts. Even though it's a fairytale retelling of Little Red Riding Hood.

Sometimes I'm dumb.

Luckily, I'm willing to admit my mistakes, so when I overheard someone in the bookstore telling her friend how much she loved this book, I snuck up and grabbed a copy for myself. By "myself" I mean "my library,"* but Sisters Red is a book I would gladly spend my own cash monies on. I loved it, and my gushing while reading has already prompted a holds list, which is pretty unusual for a YA novel in my academic library. Here are just a few of the things I was gushing about:
  • Scarlett is so tough. She's deadly with a hatchet and harshly truthful and fiercely loyal and secretly proud of while being secretly self-hating because of her many battle scars. She feels overwhelmingly obligated to do the work that she does, and she's good at it. She's generally kick-ass.
  • Rose is so conflicted. She wants Scarlett to trust her to hunt alone, but she also wants Scarlett to need and protect her. She wants to remain half of a pair, but she also wants to break away into a different life. She's got wicked aim with throwing knives, and she holds Scarlett together when no one else can. She's generally kick-ass.
  • Silas is quite literally the boy next door. As such, he's managed to win the crushes of both Scarlett and Rose over the years. But he is first and foremost Scarlett's partner; they are a team and they act like one. He also manages to be first and foremost Rose's support. He pushes Scarlett to trust Rose on the hunt, and he pushes Rose to break away from hunting and live her own life. And he does all of this without being two-faced or playing one sister against the other. He totally gets that no matter how much Rose might swoon over him or how much Scarlett depends on him, he will never be able to compete with the relationship Scarlett and Rose have with each other. So he doesn't try.
  • The twist that Pearce puts on werewolf mythology is great. They're still totally evil people-eaters (unlike some other werewolves you may be familiar with), but they're not the werewolves of B-rated horror films (or Harry Potter) either. How she weaves the girl in the red riding hood into this mythology made me giddy. She's created a werewolf that is, a lot of the time, victim to his own senses and sensations. In showing how Scarlett and Rose manipulate these monsters, she completely immerses the readers in a rich fantasy: the one that Scarlett and Rose (with help from Silas) nightly create. 
  • None of this compares to the twist Pearce has put on the ending of her own story. I thought I had it figured out about halfway through the book, then I lost it, then I figured it out again, but by then things were so complicated that I didn't know how Scarlett, Rose, and Silas were going to pull it off.

Seriously guys, I loved this book. The opening hook worked like a charm, and by the end, I was reading with my heart in my throat. I was so invested in these characters. Pearce's second book, Sweetly, came out last month. I will not be skipping it.

Book source: bought it for and then checked it out from work!

* And, of course, i couldn't just get one book... They'll never let me out with the library credit card again.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

National Coming Out Day!

Happy National Coming Out Day Everyone!

I love NCOD, partly because of the traditions that surrounded it at Bryn Mawr. Every year, the Rainbow Alliance would get together (along with a bunch of honorary members who would show up just for NCOD) and put bat triangles*, triangles of construction paper with writing on them, all around campus. These triangles would have all sorts of things on them from "Being a lesbian doubles your wardrobe" to "Did you ever have to come out as straight?" Walking around campus on the morning of October 11 was always an eye-opening experience as we read the thoughts and feelings of our fellow classmates. Hopefully, one day we won't need a special day when it's "okay" to come out, but I also hope that we never stop listening to each others thoughts and feelings about the coming out process.

*Lots of things at Bryn Mawr are prefaced by "bat," bat triangles and bat robes (otherwise known as graduation regalia) being the most common.

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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Darwen Arkwright

Tween Tuesday was started over at Green Bean Teen Queen as away to highlight awesome books for the 9-12 yr olds or Tweens. This week's book is:

Hartley, A.J. Darwen Arkwright and the Peregrine Pact. New York: Razorbill - Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 2011. Print.
[Book cover credit:]

     Darwen stood up and turned. Behind him the forest continued, but -- suspended in midair, exactly at the height he had hung it on the back of the door -- was the empty mirror frame, and through it he could see the shelves and coat hangers in his bedroom closet. For a moment, all the strangeness fell away and a single word came to mind.
     "Cool," he said into the night.
When Darwen gets to Atlanta he's far from home with no friends, a business-minded aunt, and the specter of a stuffy prestigious private school looming over his head. A magical world only he can see on the other side of his closet mirror is just what he needs. Until things start going wrong there too. Darwen just has to save that other world, even it it means he also has to make some friends in Atlanta he can trust with his secret.

Darwen immediately falls in love with the world through his mirror (as did I). It's lush and quiet and exciting, and he almost immediately makes a new friend. In short, it's nothing like Atlanta, where the weather's hot but the tea is only lukewarm, which is nothing like the small town near Manchester that Darwen used to call home. As things start to go badly in Silbrica (mirror world) and Darwen and his new friends become more involved in finding a solution, the more we find out about Darwen's past and how he ended up in Georgia. He is so very sad and doesn't want to let anyone in. I thought that his issues were just going to be left unresolved once the action in Silbrica got going, but I was happily surprised to see that Silbrica and the "real world" were much more connected than I could have imagined in that and other respects.

Darwen briefly mentions that he has one Black parent and one white, something that, in the past, made him feel like he never belonged in either group. This is not, however, an issue for him at his new school in Atlanta (his newness and lack of familiarity with American football provide more than enough fodder for the bullies). In this prestigious school for which tuition must be paid in advance, class is a much bigger divider than race. In this respect, Darwen should be good -- his aunt is a successful businesswoman, after all -- but his blue-collar Manchester accent (as opposed to a posh one from London) gets in his way. On the other hand, Darwen's friend Alexandra is avoided by everyone because she is just so annoying (so so annoying), and yet approved of by Darwen's aunt (who also finds her exhausting) because of Alexandra's mother's success and refinement. His friend Rich, who is super smart, kind, and polite, is looked down upon by classmates and Darwen's aunt alike because of his family's "white trash" farming background. All three of them feel their outsider status acutely, which is part of why they end up becoming friends even though they have little in common.

All of these real life concerns pale, both in Darwen's mind and in the reading, in comparison to Mr. Peregrine and his mirror shop of gateways to Silbrica. Though the beauty and the magic of the place does not last long for Darwen, he sees enough of it to know that the world on the other side of the mirror is special, that it is a place worth saving, and that he is a part of it. The more horrible the situation gets there and the more horrible the creatures Darwen et. al. encounter, the stronger his determination to save it (and the stronger the intensity of the story) becomes.

This is a really fun, adventurous read. Though it is a bit darker, I think it fits well with other secret-world-in-the-wardrobe-type books, and it will be a good book for readers ready to graduate from those books but not yet ready for the content in older YA fantasies.

I'll leave you with one last quote to seal the deal:
     "... Well, this is excellent."
     "Excellent?" Darwen repeated. "I almost got killed!"
     "Almost is such a wonderful word, don't you think?" said the shopkeeper with a wink. "So full of wiggle room and loopholes, so not-absolutely-anything. Almost killed means still very much alive, which, I'm sure you will agree, makes all the difference. So, the only remaining question is, when are you going back?"

Darwen Arkwright and the Peregrine Pact comes out next week!

Book source: ARC provided by the publisher through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.

*Quotes and page numbers are from an uncorrected proof and may not match the published copy.

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

All Good Children

Austen, Catherine. All Good Children. Custer, Wash.: Orca Book Publishers, 2011. Print.
[Book cover credit:]

We've gone too far treating children like they're precious when actually there are billions of them in the world and most of them are good for nothing.
Yikes, right?

In a future not far from our own, Max is struggling to maintain his independence while everyone under the age of 18 is turning into some kind of zombie. The scary, do-what-you're-told kind, not the fun, brain-eating kind. They're being changed in the hope is that this program, called NESTing, will make sure that no child is "good for nothing." They will all be good doing what they're told.

All Good Children is a great book. The world that Austen has created really is a whole lot like ours could be in, oh, 50 years (or less). The majority of the population is desperately poor and living in cars they cannot afford to fuel. The (what we now call) middle class minority works in some capacity with the booming elder care industry. Everyone has an RIG that connects them constantly to entertainment, work, communication, whatever (ie, it's what iPad aspires to be). A chemical spill has created a whole region's worth of people born with physical deformities...that compete on a reality TV show. The cities are dangerous places, and everyone has moved to gated communities (actual communities rather than housing developments) for their own safety. That they've given up a whole host of civil liberties in exchange for that safety bothers almost none of them. They even give up the right to know what vaccinations are being administered in their children's schools and why their children suddenly have no discernible personalities. It's cool though, because they're just so darn well-behaved.

Max is not well-behaved. He never has been, and if he has anything to do with it, he never will be. He, along with his best friend Dallas, struggle to maintain their own thoughts and personalities while pretending to be perfectly "good children." Their struggle was awful, but their friendship was great.

The fact that Max's mom is Black and his father was white is not a constant issue, but it is an important one. In their own community, it is a non-issue (or it's supposed to be), but outside is another story. Without the visual aid of their father, Max's mom is always eyed with suspicion while traveling with Max and his sister Ally.

This is a really plot-driven book, which makes it hard to review; I don't want to give too much away.

Though it is published by Orca, it is not technically a hi-lo (high interest, low reading level). It's appropriate in both areas of measurement for the 12 and up set. It is, however, about a couple high school seniors and could be used as reading material for the same. I think it will be great for reluctant readers and dystopian lovers alike.

All Good Children comes out in in hardback in October!

Book source: ARC provided by the publisher through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.

*Quotes and page numbers are from an uncorrected proof and may not match the published copy.

Links to may be affiliate links for the Amazon Associates program. If you buy something through this link, I may receive a referral fee.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Texas Gothic

Clement-Moore, Rosemary. Texas Gothic. New York: Delacorte Press - Random House Children's Books, 2011. Print.
[Book cover credit:]

When Amy agreed to ranch-sit for her aunt, she envisioned a quiet, normal summer relaxing and feeding the goats. Unfortunately, her sister Phin, along with all of Phin's half-magic half-physics experiments, are also spending the summer at Aunt Hyacinth's ranch. And the goats climb trees. Amy has been balancing her normal self and her white magic family her whole life, so she's not going to let Phin and some misbehaved goats ruin her summer. The ghost that's taken a liking to her from the next ranch over, on the other hand...

There are two things that Clement-Moore does fantabulously: community and swoony guys. The ranch town in which Amy and Phin are spending their summer is great. It's not the setting, really, that's great; it's the people in it. They make this small town believable. There's the crazy grandad, the close-minded town folk, the local pothead, the nerdy college students, the local "royal" family, and the brooding son of those royals. We don't get to know all of these characters well; this is not a crowded book. And yet, these are not stock characters. Altogether, they are the town. They give the town a feel and a history. They make it a place. The town bar and the community picnics are just where they hang out.

And then there's the guy. Le sigh. Now, I'll be the first to admit that I have a weakness for rugged folk who wear cowboy hats unironically. But even if that's not your thing, this guy is sooo great. Ben McCulloch, literally the guy next door, is so swoony and angsty and responsible and gentlemanly. I fell for him, and hard, long before Amy figured out why Ben made her feel both frustrated and fluttery at the same time. Mark, one of those nerdy college students, isn't so bad either. His sweet and awkward flirting with Phin is so cute! The best part about both of them, though, is that they are both completely devoid of cheese. There is no heavy-handed romance talk or gazing into one another's eyes.

So the guys and the cast of characters are what made Texas Gothic great for me. Amy and Phin's relationship, the complicated ghost story, the small town rumors and legends, and the ranching drama were all added perks for me. These aspects of the story were just as strong as the ones I loved, and they might be what makes this a great book for you.

Book source: Philly Free Library

Links to may be affiliate links for the Amazon Associates program. If you buy something through this link, I may receive a referral fee.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Dark Parties

Grant, Sara. Dark Parties. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2011. Print.
[Book cover credit:]

Neva looks a lot like her best friend Sanna who bears a striking similarity to Neva's boyfriend Ethan who has a passing resemblence to Sanna's boyfriend Braydon who you can tell is related to just about everyone else in Homeland. When everything is shared, including the gene pool, life can be suffocating. But in the dark, no on looks the same and the possibilities are almost endless.

Dark Parties is my favorite kind of dystopian novel. The society therein is totally recognizable, and life seems almost completely normal. Only the over-abundance of hand-me-downs and the community-wide family resemblance mark Homeland as different than real life. Until ... DUN Dun dun ... Neva figures out why her life is the way it is and decides to do something about it. This set-up almost never disappoints me, and Dark Parties was no exception. I really liked this book! But as nothing in Neva's world or ours is ever perfect, I had a few issues with this book.

The first is that part of the mystery of what's really going on hinges on Neva not knowing what IVF stands for. If you don't know what IVF stands for, ignore this concern and skip to my next one. It's only mentioned briefly, but in the context of the story, it gave a lot away (Spoiler?: society desperate for healthy babies + teenage girls being taken by the government = In Vitro Fertilization fueled baby factory, obvs). That said, I doubt this will be an issue for the majority of teens reading this book.

My second issue is with Neva's relationship with Braydon. Let me rephrase: Neva's romantic relationship with her best friend's boyfriend. Kissing your best friend's boyfriend in a pitch black room where you can't see anyone could be an honest mistake. Every make-out session behind your best friend's back after that, however, is Not Okay.* Neva and Braydon's affair lasted for jsut about the entire book, and though Neva felt guilty about the inevitability of Sanna's broken heart, she continued to be the one doing the breaking. It made me not like her a bit, and apparently I am one of those people who has a hard time in an unlikable main character.

These two issues aside, Dark Parties really was a great book. It has a great dystopian setting that still has a few secrets left to reveal. I hope Grant chooses to let us explore them!

Book source: ARC provided by the publisher

*Is there a girl version of "bros before hos"? There should be.

Links to may be affiliate links for the Amazon Associates program. If you buy something through this link, I may receive a referral fee.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Comfort Reading

My apologies for the radio silence, folks.

I don't want this to be the place where I spill all my troubles, so I won't go into it, but things have been, for lack of a better word, difficult lately. I just haven't been able to make myself sit down and write any reviews. I've been doing what any good raised-by-baptists girl would do. I've been making comfort food. Nothing like mac'n cheese or mashed potatoes or mini chocolate nanner muffins to make bad times better. This baptist upbringing has also instilled in me the need to provide a comfort casserole or lasagna to anyone remotely in crisis.

My kitchen's been busy.

But I've also been reading. In recent weeks, I've read some great books (Dark Parties, Rotters, Texas Gothic), and I'm going to try to make myself sit down and talk about them with you all soon. What's really been taking up my time, though, is the Song of Ice and Fire series (many thanks to The Lost Entwife whose non-spoilery reviews pushed me over the edge into Must Read Now). I've not been able to put them down. Part of this is because these books are great and end with just enough left unresolved that I've just HAD to rush into the next 1000+ page installment. The bigger part, I think, is that books like A Game of Thrones et al. are my reading comfort food. The fantasy part is, unsurprisingly, just the kind of thing to make me feel better, but the combination of fantasy with a medieval or feudal setting just does something for me. I blame the books leftover from my father's Arthurian fantasy phase that littered my childhood. I have one more Ice and Fire book in my possession, and there is another that I can buy after that. But I don't feel the need to read them anymore. I just want to. Which means they worked.

I'll be back to my normal book-reviewing self soon, I hope, but in the meantime, what's your favorite comfort reading?

Links to may be affiliate links for the Amazon Associates program. If you buy something through this link, I may receive a referral fee.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Almost Perfect

Katcher, Brian. Almost Perfect. New York: Delacorte Press - Random House Children's Books, 2009. Print.
[Book cover credit:]

ALA Best Books for Young Adults (2010)
ALA Quick Picks for Young Adult Readers (2010)ALA Rainbow List (Fiction, 2010)
ALA Stonewall Book Award (Children's and Young Adult Literature, 2010)

     She turned to me. "Hi," she said. "I'm Sage Hendricks."
     Sage had a deep but sexy, feminine voice, the kind you hear on ads for 900 numbers. I waited for her to say something else.
     "Dude," whispered Tim, jabbing me with a chocolaty finger. "Your line."
As soon as she walked through the classroom door, Logan became enamored with Sage. But love is seldom without complications, and Sage's hard-to-get act is hiding a doozy of one.

Almost Perfect, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thine characters in their complexity and their completeness,
From their talk of motorboating to their genuine concern for each other
They make me think of actual teenagers rather than teen-aged "types."
I love Tammi's fierce love for her sister, masquerading as aloofness:
Most quiet need to protect and hope at the same time.
I love Logan's mother, who has done her best in trying circumstances.
I love Logan's cool and supportive older sister (who tries to help him get laid).
Logan, I love thee. Insecurities and bravery and insecurities again
In situations never expected, and with grace unmatched by peers.
I love every characters' flaws; none is the pinnacle of righteousness or political correctness.
Sage, the object of Logan's affection and mine, shines as brightly as her braces.
She lives in the belief that the world can be better and love worth the risk;
And, if God choose, she is right.*

Seriously guys, this is an amazing book, and Brian Katcher is an amazing author.** That might explain why I've been waiting for my turn to read it from the library since it was announced as the winner of the Stonewall in January. It was more than worth the wait. Everyone has talked about the Big Issue that Almost Perfect addresses, but I have yet to see someone talk about how the issues (more than one, even) are in perfect balance with the flirting and the humor and the sexiness and the teenage-guy-ness of the book as a whole.

I loved it. You probably will too.

Book source: Philly Free Library (but I'm gonna go buy my own asap)

*  To Elizabeth Barrett Browning, I extend my greatest thanks for the inspiration. And my apologies.

** And also a practical genius! The standard has been set, folks, any author's note containing lists of websites that offer support to queer or genderqueer or drug addicted or suicidal or [insert thing you don't want your parents to know about here] kids should also contain detailed instructions for how to clear your cache history.

Links to may be affiliate links for the Amazon Associates program. If you buy something through this link, I may receive a referral fee.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Lost Art of Reading

Ulin, David L. The Lost Art of Reading: Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time. Seattle: Sasquatch Books, 2010. Print.
[Book cover credit:]

Sometime in the last few years -- I don't remember when, exactly -- I noticed I was having trouble sitting down to read. That's a problem if you read, as I do, for a living, but it's an even bigger problem if you read as a way of life.

"I write entirely to find out what I'm thinking, what I'm looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear," Joan Didion notes in her essay "Why I Write," and it's no understatement to suggest that this is what the dynamic between a writer and a reader offers from the other side as well. Or it was, at any rate, until the moment I became aware, in an apartment full of books, that I could no longer find within myself the quiet necessary to read.

The Lost Art of Reading, which is really a long essay more than a book, chronicles Ulin's realization that he can't find the quiet to read in our plugged in, always on world. With all of the tweets and blogs and google searches and links leading to links leading to more links all with music playing the background, it's an understandable dilemma. It's also not that original. What makes Ulin's account different is the way he draws a parallel between his own inability to concentrate enough to just read and his son's inability to do the same because of classroom mandated annotations. Granted, this is not the main focus of the book, though his son's Great Gatsby assignment is what starts Ulin evaluating his own reading problems. Still, it is what really hit home for me. Two of the five articles I've linked to above are about over-"wired" kids who are so plugged into technology that they can't focus. Everything is an exercise in multitasking. When we finally sit these kids down in front of a great book like The Great Gatsby, why do we make them stop reading on a regular basis? I know, I know, it's so we can force them to analyze all of the similes and metaphors and tone and allusions. And so the kids can prove that they did the reading assignment. But really, why don't we let them just read?

Anyway, I loved this little book. It's full of readerly quotes from plenty of authors. I made a conscious effort to sit and read it in a day (it's roughly 100 pages), just to prove that I could maintain the concentration that Ulin could not. I know; I'm petty. I had no trouble turning off the TV, not checking status updates or email. I wrote down book titles I wanted to look up later on my due date card. And really, it wasn't that hard. Now, I'll be the first to admit that I do most of my reading on the train to and from work when I don't have an internet connection. At home I generally watch TV and at work, when I'm not actually working, I'm still on the computer. It was nice to know that I still have it in me to sit and read an entire book in a day. It's been a while.

Since reading this book, I have noticed that whenever I sit down at the computer to write (and review) I have all of Ulin's multitask-y symptoms. I check my email, check facebook, read articles, read all of your blogs, all with a blogger window or word document untouched in my taskbar. I'll write a sentence, read an article, format the picture for a blog post, check my email. I can't sustain the concentration to write in the way that I did in school or even the way that I do when I read (I don't know how you authors do it!). Ulin says his need to unplug when reading is part of the reason he hasn't switched to an ereader. If he could surf the web in the same device that he uses to read a book, he'd be doomed! Sometimes I feel that way about writing and reviewing. When I was an undergrad, I almost always wrote papers, or at least the backbone of papers, longhand before sitting down at a computer to type them out. I used to do that for my reviews as well, back when I was posting 2-3 a week. Instead now, I have a backlog of books to review that'll last me at least the rest of the month, and I still only manage to post one a week. If only I knew now what I knew then. :)

So, maybe I'll try to unplug a bit more often and get back to writing while Ulin unplugs and gets back to reading. How about you? Is the information superhighway impeding on your intellectual pursuits?

Book source: checked it out from work

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Threads and Flames

Friesner, Esther. Threads and Flames. New York: Viking, 2010. Print.
[Book cover credit:]

Before Raisa even takes her first steps in NYC, she has managed to acquire a younger "sister," and she's managed to lose the older sister with whom she was supposed to live. Through the kindness of strangers, serendipity, and not a little bit of trial and error, she manages to get a great job that allows her to both support Brina, her younger sister, and look for Henda, her older sister. She's lucky; the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory is one of the best places a girl can work in 1911.

I think the best thing about Threads and Flames is that Friesner provides oodles of information and context without ever making me feel that I'm reading a book about the plight of immigrants or factory girls and how the injustices they faced lead to the tragedy of the Triangle fire.* I was simply reading an engaging story about Raisa's new life in America, complete with a little bit of mystery, a little bit of (the cutest without being the least bit saccharine) romance, and a whole lot of my-gumption-is-both-my-greatest-flaw-and-my-greatest-strength. And yet I finished the book knowing a lot about how the ill-treatment of immigrants in general and factory girls in particular created the perfect storm of awfulness that caused so many deaths in the fire.

While the book is undoubtedly about the Triangle fire, Raisa doesn't even start working at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory until at least halfway through the book, maybe more. Usually, this delay of the "point" of the story would drive me batty, but in this instance, I didn't mind the wait. Raisa is such a fun character; she's so headstrong and determined to do what is right for her sisters, both Henda and Brina. It never occurs to her that she shouldn't take responsibility for Brina, even though she can barely take care of herself. I was rooting for her before she even got to Ellis Island. Raisa's little romance with Gavrel is also handled beautifully. When you're reading about Raisa who is on her own and working more than full time to make enough money to cover room and board for two people, it's easy to forget how young she is. Her relationship with Gavrel, however, with all of Raisa's do I or don't I feelings, constantly reminded me that she's just in her early teens. Their romance had all the little flutters of any middle grade romance, but with the added seriousness of two people, no matter how young, who work full time and both immediately start working even more when they "get serious." That's why they're both in the factory on the Saturday when it catches fire.

The fire itself is gruesome. The rush for the elevators after finding all the doors locked, the description of girls jumping from the windows rather than dying the flames, the display of unclaimed bodies that Raisa must search for Gavrel afterwards. The broken families who either found bodies to claim or were left with nothing. It's all so harsh. We see it all through Raisa who is still so determined to do what's right, who finds another job right away, and who becomes the strength and stability that Brina and Gavrel's family need in the fire's aftermath. Watching her continue on was possibly just as, if not more, heartbreaking as the fire itself. Slightly spoilery (highlight away): When the ending was happier than I would have expected, it did not feel like a cop-out on Friesner's part. I was just happy Raisa got a little bit of what she deserved. 

There was recently a request on the yalsa-bk list-serv for fiction books that teach the reader something. I wish I had finished reading this book in time to suggest it! Threads and Flames is so informative, but it's still great fiction too. I highly recommend it!

Book source: Philly Free Library

* This book reminded me very much of Annette Laing's books in that way. I kept wanting to re-read A Different Day to see how Raisa's factory experience differed (or in a lot of ways didn't) from Hannah's experience 50 years earlier and across the pond.

Links to may be affiliate links for the Amazon Associates program. If you buy something through this link, I may receive a referral fee.