Christie Burke's Infinite Booklist

The Butterfly Clues October 18, 2012

Filed under: fiction,mystery,YA — Christie @ 12:47 pm
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Ellison, Kate. The Butterfly Clues. 978-1606842638.

This book’s summary intrigued me: a 17-year-old with OCD and a dead brother gets wrapped up in the murder of a young stripper in a bad part of town. Fast-paced mysteries featuring high-school protagonists are pretty thin on the ground, so I thought I’d take a look. (I also thought it’d be important to preview, given the stripper content. The school where I work has a pretty conservative clientele.)  Well.

Kate Ellison brings the reader right into (Pene)Lo(pe) Marin’s experience; I was drawn into the tics and compulsive behaviors right away, and it’s clear that Lo’s home life is not helping her address her mental health issues. While the story is a touch implausible (near-miss murder; incredibly dangerous stalker type and misinterpreted clues all along the way; on-again, off-again, sweet/weird romance; perfectly neat and orderly ending), I do think that mysteries ask us to suspend disbelief more than some other genres do.  With that in mind, I’d recommend this book to readers who like mysteries and thrillers. It isn’t typical shoot-em-up stuff, but it moves fast and slows down regularly to allow the reader (and Lo) to take a breath.

What I think The Butterfly Clues does really well is open a window into the world of a person with OCD. Some of Lo’s behaviors (arranging and rearranging her collections, for example, and a fixation with multiples of three) seem harmless; others (like a particular sequence that Lo needs to complete before entering a room) are obviously in her way. Other reviewers have said that the continuous repetition of that sequence and others was bothersome and interrupted the flow of their reading. I thought that including them continuously, repetitiously, annoyingly throughout the book played up the fact that they interrupt the flow of Lo’s entire life. While it may be unrealistic to think that a 17-year-old girl (other than Nancy Drew) would pursue a murder investigation, this girl has to follow through to the end, by any means possible. We wouldn’t get there if Lo didn’t have OCD.

Overall, The Butterfly Clues was a decent read. Not perfect, and not earth-shattering literature, but definitely the kind of first novel that will make me look for more from Kate Ellison.


I Will Save You September 12, 2012

Filed under: fiction,guys,realistic fiction,YA — Christie @ 7:20 pm
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The jacket blurb for this book is a little mysterious: Kidd is running from everything and runs into a girl, Olivia, who’s different from him in every way (except maybe the important ways that might mean something). Devon is both Kidd’s best friend and his worst enemy, carrying around a death wish and a lot of spite. Kidd doesn’t even know how Devon found him, but now Devon’s staying until Kidd learns a lesson or two. It doesn’t give you a lot to go on, but it does build suspense before you turn a single page.

The plot twist at the beginning of I Will Save You (yes, the beginning) opens the door for the rest of the story to be told as flashbacks, flashforwards, and dreamy-yet-revealing interludes. Ordinarily this would drive me a little crazy, but de la Peña does it skillfully and reveals a little at a time… bringing us through daredevil stunts, particularly sweet Kidd/Olivia moments, and terrible understanding at just the right pace. And then… guess what? Another plot twist at the end, so perfect and fascinating that I had to read the book twice.

This book moves quickly enough that it’d be a good choice for a reluctant reader. It’s a good “guy book,” especially for guys who may feel like no one really gets them. Readers who enjoy suspense and psychology will like I Will Save You, as will those who just appreciate a good, realistic narrative.


Railsea September 10, 2012

Filed under: adventure,fiction,guys,steampunk,YA — Christie @ 2:58 pm
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Though it was a little bit of a slow start for me, once I got into Railsea I This is a steampunk novel full of adventure, action, and suspense.

Sham ap Soorap is an apprentice aboard a moling train (think whaling ship and you’ll have the right idea). The sea is a sea of rails instead of water; the beasts that molers hunt (and are hunted by) are giant moles, ant lions of unusual size, and burrowing owls that can lift a train from the tracks. Sham’s voyage takes him to a wrecked train that’s carrying some surprising information, and the pictures he finds lead him to Caldera and Dero Shroake, whose parents (like Sham’s) have long been missing.

The Shroakes’ quest to finish their parents’ mission brings Sham into epic danger, to a daring escape from near-certain death, and ultimately on a journey to the end of the railsea: the place where there’s only one track to travel on.

This is a great novel for those who like adventure, suspense, and action, with a dark and funny little surprise at the end of the line. Recommended.


quick quote: what to do with a book May 17, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Christie @ 2:32 pm

“Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.”

— Francis Bacon, English philosopher


quick quote: on the nature of libraries May 10, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Christie @ 2:26 pm

window“A library doesn’t need windows.  A library is a window.”

— Stewart Brand, American author and businessman, 1994.


quick quote: the importance of libraries May 3, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Christie @ 2:26 pm

“What is more important in a library than anything else — than everything else — is the fact that it exists.”

— Archibald MacLeish, U.S. poet, 1978.


This Gorgeous Game October 14, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Christie @ 9:19 am

Donna Freitas is a religion writer.  She’s done some nonfiction for adults and a teen novel, The Possibilities of Sainthood. Her latest novel is This Gorgeous Game; it deals with the experiences of 17-year-old Olivia Peters, a gifted writer who’s caught the professional eye of nationally-known novelist Father Mark Brendan.  Olivia is initially pleased and flattered by the attention, but when it starts to be something a little darker she doesn’t know quite how to handle things.


I have mixed feelings about This Gorgeous Game. I think the author does a nice job of articulating Olivia’s ambivalence about Mark and her feelings of guilt and self-doubt.  I think she’s dead on about the grooming process and the attempts at manipulation and control on the part of an abuser.  I think that part of the story is really, really important, and it’s a story that doesn’t often get told.


At the same time, I don’t know that the way Olivia lives is entirely realistic.  She’s 17 and has never had a boyfriend, only ever kissed one boy (and it’s not like she’s socially awkward), and the parish priest is a frequent dinner guest at her home.  Olivia’s older sister (oddly named Greenie) has a boyfriend, but has chosen not to kiss him until they get engaged.  I don’t get that, really — and maybe it’s just me, but I don’t know that a lot of high school kids would really get it either.  The very best thing about this book for me is Olivia’s struggle to figure out what’s what and remain true to herself.  She really embodies the internal conflict of an abuse victim, and (lucky for her) happens to connect with a boy who has the chutzpah to help Olivia get the help she needs.  This Gorgeous Game is an important book, but I think all the uber-Catholic references may distract from the message.