My rating: 2 of 5 stars
And seriously that second star is me being generous and a nod to the fact there is over a dozen books in this series so obviously someone likes them (apparently I didn't review the others I've read). Technically this is a prequel set in the mid 90s with Anna on her first park service job, fresh from NYC where she was a stage manager for some small theaters and about the only other thing we know is she's recovering from losing her husband Zach (we don't know why at first) and semi under the care of her psychiatrist sister.
It opens with Anna in a solution hole, naked, concussed with a severely dislocated shoulder (to the point of the blood supply being compromised) and the only water is a canteen laced with sedatives. The first third of the novel is her trying to get out of the hole intermixed with Jenny's point of view, the lesbian housemate of Anna's and park servicewoman who's job is picking up human excrement from the park and educating rich park goers about not just dumping their crap everywhere and Regis's point of view, human resources and also lives at Glen Canyon across from Anna and Jenny with his wife, Bethy.
Problem number one, the whole first third is relatively static and Anna is so abrasive you don't really care if she gets out of the hole or not. Jenny comes across as a predatory lesbian (she does get better once Anna is out of the hole). We learn that Anna had witnessed a gang rape of a young woman, Katie just before it actually happens but that's what ends her up in the hole and Katie's body down there with here.
And here is where my biggest problems begin. It's minorly spoilerly so keep that in mind. First, Anna steals Katie's clothing and even contemplates stealing the underwear. Problem. Katie's been dead at least two days. Even in the dry desert there will still be decomposition but there's nothing but sand on the clothes. At this point, if nothing else Katie's bowels and bladder would have emptied everywhere.
Problem two comes after Anna gets out of the hole. She refuses to go the hospital (or at least stay there). She doesn't tell anyone her kidnapper cut 'whore' into her thigh other than Jenny. I can almost see that but to Not get help for that shoulder is nearly impossible for what comes next. As both a doctor and someone who has dislocated both shoulders and know how that impacted my activity, I just don't see how she can possibly do anything she does next. She has no trouble dressing herself and she's almost immediately back to work (because she managed to relocate the shoulder). Um, so the torn joint capsule, ruptured labrum and torn/stretched ligaments and tendons just heal themselves up in a few days.
Next problem, Anna decides all men are terrible and will blame her for what happened. Okay I can see some PTSD leading her that way but then of course that's what happens even if it makes literally no sense whatsoever. Especially later when she and Jenny are nearly murdered when someone removes a climb rope trapping them (oh it must have fallen in the lake)
Problem number...oh who knows, there were so many. In the next few weeks after the case is 'solved' (by the end of the second third of the book so you know it can't really be solved), Anna decides to get in shape by running then weight lifting with Bethy and then rock climbing with Jenny and Bethy. On that arm. You know the one that didn't see one lick of medical assistance or therapy? That arm that needed months (if not a full year) of therapy to recover, in just a few weeks is strong enough for her to canyoneering. I rolled my eyes so hard I might have strained something.
So Anna remains from start to finish unbelievable, abrasive to the point of rudeness and yet somehow loved by Jenny, Regis and others (how I have no idea). Weirdly she thinks of everything in terms of being a theater manager. Who does that? Is there anyone out there thinking in terms of their job about literally everything? Worse, it wasn't particularly hard to figure out who the killer was as there weren't many options.
I honestly found nothing to like about this one and finished it mostly because I needed a book set in the wilderness for a challenge.
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The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I had some mixed feelings about this one. It's a Newberry winner (so I assumed a main character was bound to die, which seems to happen more often than not in Newberry winners). If you looking at this for the middle grade reader, I will say I wouldn't get it for the reluctant reader as there is some big vocabulary in this but for the enthusiastic young reader, they'll probably love it. There are some adult themes here, no not sex but rather power, control and suppression of people. It reminds me of some of the best Disney movies where you have the story for the young viewer and then the subtle background stuff for their parents.
We have three points of view in the beginning of the novel: Xan the witch, Antain and an unknown narrator telling the tales of the witch.
In this world, that was born of a bog, we have the Protectorate a town ruled in part by the Council of men and the Sisterhood where there is a very deep divide between the haves and have nots. And these people have next to nothing because they're cut off from much of the rest of the world by the witch. She demands that they leave a baby in the woods every year. Antain, a young man being groomed for the Council by his uncle who is the head of it, wonders are all the stories real. Could anything be worth ripping babies out of their mother's arms.
So we quickly learn that Xan the witch has no idea why the Protectorate leaves these babies in the woods. She takes them to other cities on the other side of the bog/woods where the 'Star Children' are happily adopted. They're called that because as she travels, often with Glerk, the bog monster who might just have made the world, and Fryian, the 'simply enormous' (but actually itty bitty) dragon, Xan captures starlight to nurse the babies. When she rescues the baby with the crescent moon birth mark, Xan isn't as careful as she should be and accidentally feeds the baby girl moonlight, infusing her with strong magic.
Xan has to keep her. She names the baby Luna and here we begin to flip back and forth between the Xan and Antain where we see Luna grow but becoming dangerous because the magic is too much power for a child. Xan finally has to try to lock up that power until Luna's old enough to understand and there are unforeseen consequences. We also see Antain is probably the nicest person in the whole of the Protectorate.
I have to admit the middle gets a bit slow and boggy. We add in more points of view, Antain's uncle, Ethyne, a former sister and the girl Antain had always liked, the mad woman in the tower (Luna's mother). In the last third all these points of view are woven back in and it works but maybe it could have been trimmed a bit because my attention wandered.
The last third is pretty amazing. The villain is very cool. The truth behind the Protectorate is insidious. It's all very well done. The last third is Luna at thirteenish and we finally get to see her become who she'll be.
And I think in a way that's the mixed feeling part for me (outside of the slow middle). Luna might be the titular character, it's not exactly her story. It's much more Xan and Antain's story (and I truly liked him best out of everyone which is almost disappointing in a book full of strong female characters). Luna spends much of the book more in a bystander position. She's the catalyst but not really part of it until the end. But it was a good ending. I wanted a touch more out of Ethyne's role there but overall, I did very much enjoy this story.
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