Monday, November 24, 2014

VCFA Reads - Mini Reviews (1)

I've been pretty inactive on the blog this year, and that needs to change, because I miss the outlet and connecting with you all.

As I mentioned this summer, I started the MFA program at Vermont College of Fine Arts in July. In addition I've been traveling like mad, so even though I've been reading, I haven't been posting much. So, I am going to take the next couple of weeks to highlight some books I've been reading as part of the program.

One of my goals for awhile has been to read more backlist, and by backlist, I mean books not published in the year I'm reading. I've been so spoiled with review copies and arcs that I can't even keep up with those, let alone think about dipping into my shelves for books that have been patiently waiting for me to crack open their spines. VCFA has given me an excuse to read backlist and not feel guilty about it.

Here are a few favorites from my first semester of reading.

FAR FAR AWAY by Tom McNeal (2013)

The ghost of Jacob Grimm narrates from the Zwischenraum, a place between life and death for unsettled spirits. Jeremy Johnson Johnson, an outcast in his small town, is one of the few humans alive who can hear Jacob, and so Jacob becomes his mentor and protector from a malevolent presence. McNeal creates a creepy fairy tale atmosphere and a touching character arc for both Jacob and Jeremy. I cried at the end, and I rarely cry while reading fiction. My favorite read of the year!

THE SCORPIO RACES by Maggie Stiefvater (2011)

Stiefvater’s novel creates tension by giving the two POV characters, Puck and Sean, urgent and yet conflicting goals. The reader desperately wants both to win the race, Puck so she can avoid being evicted and prove herself and Sean so he can keep his beloved horse Corr. Stiefvater raises the stakes by having Puck ride her own beloved horse Dove in the race, despite the very real risk of death. I might have teared up at the end here too.


In Piddy Sanchez, readers get a sympathetic, non-stereotypical Latina character to root for. Piddy’s world is torn apart when she changes schools and becomes the target of bully Yaqui, and Medina presents Piddy’s sense of helplessness in a visceral way. She also integrates Latin culture and the Spanish language seamlessly, not calling too much attention to it, but letting it speak for itself.

THE GOATS by Brock Cole (1987)

The kids at camp play a horrible joke on Howie and Laura: they leave them on an island alone and naked. According to camp tradition, Howie and Laura have been chosen as goats. But the two teens refuse to accept their fate meekly and run away together. Through their many adventures, Howie and Laura grow closer, accepting each other more as they come to accept themselves. Cole’s language and scenes are deceptively simple, and yet they are incredibly emotionally resonant.

HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE by Diana Wynne-Jones (1986)

This is the rare fantasy novel that completely enchanted me, and I suspect it has to do with Jones’ consistency of a matter-of-fact tone and relatable main character. Sophie doesn’t believe she has a lot of offer the world, so when a witch transforms her into an old woman, she accepts her fate without question. Wizard Howl is fearful of his own power and spends most of the novel running from his responsibilities. 

Any backlist reads you'd suggest for my next semester of reading?


Amanda said...

I *adore* Howl's Moving Castle, and Howl himself. That's one of those books I can read over and over again!

I tried to listen to The Scorpio Races. I got halfway through and was so bored that I gave up, but I think I should try again someday. I love her Raven Cycle books and everyone raves about Scorpio,so I think I really need to read it!

Carina Olsen said...

THE SCORPIO RACES! Yessss. It is so damn good. <3 I am so happy you enjoyed it :) The other books looks awesome too. <3 Thank you for sharing sweetie :)