Thursday, January 15, 2015

Review: Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt

The big downside of being a reviewer is that, if you dig too far into a genre, you start judging books for what they could be instead of what they are. And this isn't necessarily a problem - there are books that are such a waste of potential, it's criminal - but for others, it's extremely easy to start nit-picking and before you know it, you're getting hung up over the small stuff and missing a great read.

"Keturah and Lord Death" is a story you need to take as is.

No, really. Stop thinking right now. Go gently - this is a book to be savoured.

Keturah Reeve is 16 years old when she gets lost into the forest. After wandering for three days without finding her way back to the village, she meets her death, and Lord Death is in a gracious mood. After he lets slip that the plague is coming, she strikes a deal with him - if he lets her live for one more day, and she finds and weds her true love in that time, he will let relinquish his claim on her soul. But if Keturah fails, she will come to him willingly and be his bride. 

What follows is a beautiful tale of what it means to live and love, accompanied by some of the most gorgeous prose I have had the pleasure of reading in a long, long time.

"We all know Lord Death. Do I see him as you do? No. But it is closeness to him  that imbues my stuffs with power. What is a love potion without the breath of him upon it? How can I make a healing drought without sensing from which direction he comes? One day you will understand, Keturah, that he infuses the very air we breathe with magic."

-p 52, Paperback edition

This isn't a very long story. In fact, it's the closest thing to a fairy tale that I have come across that hasn't been written 200 years ago. At only 210 pages (judging from my paperback) it's the kind of story that you can imagine being told around a fire (as the prologue suggests.) 

The characters can seem a little flat, what with us meeting so many of them and having quite a few plot threads to wrap up, but there are enough details peppered throughout the narrative that make them just interesting enough - Gretta's pride, and Beatrice's selflessness, the Tailor and the Choirmaster and the young master John, everyone shows character in the scenes they are in, and every last bit of dialogue is meaningful. I'd go as far as saying that more books need to be like this - less faff, more meaning. 

And it's not a random stylistic decision, either. Although Keturah manages to extend her extra time for three whole days, she goes about each knowing that it could be her last. The result is her running at a frantic pace, trying to save her village, help her friends and find her one true love, but instead of making the reader feel rushed, the pace just goes to add to the overall feeling of the book. It is literally following someone who knows Death is coming for her and trying to make the most of everything.

That's really the story's main point - it is not the love story (though I find it beautiful) nor is it the action (though there is enough of that) - but rather that we appreciate life most when we understand there is a finite number of days we have. (In the afterword, the author mentions that the book is, in part, a tribute to a loved one, so there is little surprise there.) This doesn't make you cry, but it makes you shiver a little, and afterwards, it is like everything else is a little bit brighter. 

Note: image via BookLikes. 

Friday, January 2, 2015

2015 Reread Challenge

It's 2015 and, as a friend of mine reminded us all on Facebook, the angels are about to start attacking Tokyo-3. Those of you who have seen Evangelion will know what happens next. Humanity is now taking back-up pilot applications. We'll try to make the process as quick as possible, but it all depends on how quickly we can make Jagers to compete with NERV's offerings.

In all seriousness, though, it's now the 2nd January and we're all bursting with good intentions. I'm super-excited to have signed up for Novel HeartBeat's Prequels and Sequels challenge for this year, but I wanted to do a little something extra for 2015 too.

Ever read a book that is so awesome, it literally knocks you off your feet, and all you want to do is rhapsodize about how awesome it is? Or a book that plunges you into complete existential crisis (not unlike the last two episodes of Evangelion?) Or a story that all you want to do is read again and again, but your TBR is threatening to collapse on top of you, so you just give it an honorary place on your bookshelf and resolve to get back to it when you have more time?

2014 was the year I realized just how I've changed as both a reader and a reviewer. Series that I originally loathed turned out to surprise me in their second and third installments, series that I loved turned out to be disappointing (for reasons that I would have never thought of previously) and books that I previously did not read because I was sick and tired of lit-snobbery made me smile and enjoy myself like I hadn't before. (I also read a ton of romance and erotica and enjoyed it completely unironically. Oh, if my schoolmates could see me now!) 

As for my reviewing style, a cursory look through Goodreads might yield the answer to that particular question. I've either mellowed out a lot, or I don't have the energy to spend on long, vitriolic posts describing just how much I hate something and everything that's wrong with it. 

Which you might argue is the same thing.

Either way, it's made me curious about all these books that I used to love and that I enjoyed. I wonder how they would hold up afterwards, and if I will enjoy them as much as I used to. 

Hence my 2015 re-read challenge: I will strive to read at least 10 books that I have read (and hopefully, reviewed) and then post my thoughts here for your viewing pleasure. I won't just be checking out books that are the first parts of series that I need to finish (although I discovered that my memories of Queen of the Dead are quite scarce, though I remember loving it to bits.) They might also not be just YA, which means I might either just review them on BookLikes, or put them here if you prefer. (Or offer them up to Bibliodaze, if they'll have me.)

So would you like to join me for this? 

Are there books on your favorites shelf that you are dying to revisit, or haven't thought of at all since you read and you want to get back to, or ones that jump out at you while you browse? 

For myself, I can tell you, there are a lot:

- The Ghost and the Goth series by Stacy Kade
- Sputnik Sweetheart and Kafka on Shore by Haruki Murakami (both of which I loved as a teen and both of which I'd like to revisit again)
- Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard
- Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter
- Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
- Anything and everything by Hannah Moskowitz
- Sloppy Firsts and everything else Jessica Darling by Megan McCafferty
- Sabriel by Garth Nix
- Heart's Blood by Juliet Mariller
- The Lonely Hearts Club by Elizabeth Eulberg
- Nevermore by Kelly Creagh
- The Lathe of Heaven and the Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin
- The Tent by Margaret Atwood
- Ward Against Death by Melanie Card

And so on and so forth. 

What about you? Any books you might particularly love to read again? 

And would you like to see some non-YA reviews up on the Lantern, or would you rather have it as purely YA?

Note: All images via Booklikes.