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review SPOILER ALERT! 2016-09-24 07:02
Cuckoo, Cuckoo
Cuckoo Song - Frances Hardinge

This book has been on my "To Be Read" shelf pretty much since I first joined BookLikes. When I saw it at Barnes and Noble I was interested in the concept and thought it could be a fun, even spooky read. I think it was even under a shelf marked, "Spooky Reads for Teens" or something like that. It was at the library and I figured why not. 


Cuckoo Song follows Triss after she falls into the Grimmer, which I think is a river. Maybe a creek. In any case, she falls into a body of water (thus why I'm counting this for the fall square) and nothing is the same after that. Her sister hates her, her dolls scream at her, and she's always hungry. Also, leaves appear in her bed in the morning. As she tries to figure out what's happening, she learns that there's an unseen world around her and the forces in this world have it out for her family and she must stop them. 



This book was a strange read for me. I found it compelling and didn't want to stop reading, but I also found it underwhelming. Sort of like when you chug a drink and then are thirsty again almost immediately. It's kind of a cool that it parallel's Triss' inability to feel full, but I doubt that was intentional. It created an unsatisfying story for me and not because the story wasn't good or the writing wasn't well done. Hardinge is a really good writer and the story itself was a fun ride. The characters themselves were also interesting and well rounded.Those of you who like stories with complex female characters will really appreciate the ones in this story, I believe. So there was nothing that sticks out as just WRONG. It just felt hollow, didn't thrill me or anything. 


I think the story's biggest issue is there's just so much detail and events going on and it causes the story to drag. It doesn't feel like it's dragging while you're reading, but when you put the book down you realize you've just read four chapters where nothing really happens. Nothing major anyway. If I were to redo this book, I would have cut down majorly on the first fourth of the book, since it was just repeated events making you go, "What's wrong with Triss?" It really didn't do much and instead was just an elaborate set up for the actual plot. Triss has seven days, according to the weird voice, and most of them are spent not knowing what's going on. That to me feels like a waste of time and just a way to make it so when the action starts, there's a tighter timeline. It feels kind of cheap to me. 


Part of the trouble is I knew about Changelings before I read the book. The title plus the strangeness about Triss immediately alerted me that there was a Changeling in our midst. So much of the story is solely focused on the mystery of what's wrong with Triss, but that wasn't a mystery to me. I knew what was wrong with her. So I was just waiting for them to get on with the greater question of, "Why would someone want to put a Changeling in the Cresent family?" I think if I hadn't of known about the creatures, it would have been more suspenseful for me. Or if had been something different from a Changeling. That would have been cool and less predictable. Oh well. 


When it comes to the technical components of the story, it was constructed very well. Especially the world building. I LOVED the world and mechanics of the Besiders. It was such an interesting concept, the way they and their magic work. I wish we had gotten to them so much sooner and that they had a greater presence in the story. They really were my favorite part. So I have to give credit to Hardinge there. 


Overall rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars. It's an okay story. Nothing particularly special but still a fun read. If you like stories like Neverwhere, I think you'll enjoy this one. 





One last complaint to wrap up this review: There was what felt like a major copout when it came to the conflict resolution: How on earth did the Architect not realize that he was dragging Trista along? All the other Besiders could tell she was one of him. How come he suddenly couldn't? Perhaps I missed something but I was pretty miffed about that. It was so cheap to me and too easy.



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text 2016-04-01 05:42
Reading progress update: I've read 71%.
Cuckoo Song - Frances Hardinge

It seems almost silly to bother DNFing a book this close to the end (this is not a long book by any means), but honestly, I'm not going to finish it, and I've been working on admitting to myself when that is true.


Everyone seems to like this, and I can't fathom what precisely it is about it that isn't working for me, but it really isn't working for me. It feels easily two or three times as long as it actually is, and I cannot seem to maintain enough interest to get through more than a chapter or two at a time.


I don't necessarily dislike the characters, I simply don't care about them at all. At this point I feel like I've dragged out my ability to handle this much longer than I need to and I don't think that there is any kind of payoff that could possibly come that would be worth it, so away this goes.

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review 2016-03-22 00:00
Cuckoo Song
Cuckoo Song - Frances Hardinge This is the first Frances Hardinge novel I've ever read and let me just say that I will absolutely read another one. Cuckoo Song was so refreshingly different and pleasantly weird. This is not your standard cookie cutter children's novel.

I'm not even sure how to summarize this without giving anything away. Basically, you have the mystery of why Triss isn't herself, her sister Pen hating her, and her parents keeping secrets. Plus, there are all sorts of weirdness going on that I can't even begin to describe. You also have quite a mix of characters such as Triss, her sister Pen, their parents, Violet and several strange characters — Mr. Grace, the Strike, the Architect and the Besiders. And, this story takes place in the early 1920s.

Frances Hardgine is both a great storyteller and a great writer. I love her use of language and her characterization. There were times when I read something and thought Wow, I wish I could write like that. She sounds like an experienced, polished writer.

Two of her characters, Triss and Pen, had wonderful character arcs. I wasn't expecting their relationship to change the way that it did. It was so easy to like Triss and to want her to succeed. At the beginning, I hated Pen, but my feelings towards her did a complete 180 by the time I got to the end. Their parents have some real issues. No wonder the kids are so screwed up! When Violet was introduced, I underestimated her importance. She’s actually very important to the plot.

If you love children’s fiction or you’re looking for something different, give this one a try.

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text 2016-01-17 22:20
2015 Challenges - Concluded
The Journal of Best Practices: A Memoir of Marriage, Asperger Syndrome, and One Man's Quest to Be a Better Husband - David Finch
The Motherless Oven - Rob Davis
Cuckoo Song - Frances Hardinge
Here All Dwell Free: Stories to Heal the Wounded Feminine - Gertrud Mueller Nelson
Call Me Ixchel: Mayan Goddess of the Moon - Janie Havemeyer
A Day with Wilbur Robinson - William Joyce

At last, my 2015 reading challenges are concluded. I admit that the last two months were somewhat lackluster, as I began eying the finish line and became more interested in what I would read in 2016 than what I had left to read in 2015. Since my 2016 reading challenges do not relate to specific months, my wrap-up posts will be less tied to specific time periods.


November - Swapping Sites


My memberships at Paperbackswap and Bookmooch are largely to blame for my unwieldy bookshelves. So my November theme was to choose books that had come to me through swapping sites. I read:


  1. The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis - This is an incredibly odd little graphic novel, but was an enjoyable enough reading experience that I spent most of Veteran's Day (a holiday at my work) reading it rather than being "productive." I read an interview that hinted at a sequel, which I hope will materialize, because a lot of questions about the world are left unanswered. Procured from Paperbackswap.
  2. The Journal of Best Practices by David Finch - A marriage memoir from a husband with Asperger's that highlights how we all, to a certain extent, need to learn to speak a different language to communicate with our spouses. Procured from Bookmooch.


December - Get Thee To a Library


My intention was to spend most of the year "reading down" the massive TBR pile of books I actually OWN and then to indulge in some library selections for the last month of the year. As always, I did not read as many of my owned books as I hoped, nor get through as many library books as I wanted to. Here are the library books I DID manage to finish.


  1. Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge - Yes, this was the ONLY library book I managed to read in December! (not counting audiobooks, because I always get those from the library, so I didn't need a special time to focus on them.)


As for my other challenges:


From my Into the Forest Reading Challenge, I read

  1. A critical study or history of fairy tales - Here All Dwell Free: Stories to Heal the Wounded Feminine by Gertrude Mueller Nelson
  2. A novel or collection from a country you've never read from before - Call Me Ixchel: Mayan Goddess of the Moon by Janie Havemeyer (Mexico)


For the Popsugar 2015 Reading Challenge I read ...

  1. A book from the bottom of your to-read list: Here All Dwell Free: Stories to Heal the Wounded Feminine by Gertrude Mueller Nelson - I wasn't particularly in the mood to read this book, but settled in with it anyway because it fit the challenge above.
  2. A Graphic Novel - The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis


I left 11 items "unchecked" from the PopSugar challenge, which isn't bad for a challenge I wasn't really "trying" to complete. They were: A classic romance, a book with a number in the title, a book your mom loves, a book you were supposed to read in school but didn't (what!? I read EVERY book I was supposed to read in school, except an Abraham Lincoln book I did a report on in 5th grade, and I don't know how I would track that one down again), a book with antonyms in the title, a book that came out the year I was born, a book from my childhood, a book with a color in the title, a book that was originally written in a different language, a book written by an author with my same initials (I have no idea -- my initials are LL, LLV, or LV), and a play.


Disney Source Materials for A Year in Disney Movies:

I read A Day with Wilbur Robinson by William Joyce, which was the source material for Meet the Robinsons


 And that's it, folks! Of course, I'm already off and running on my 2016 reading challenges - wahoo!!


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review 2016-01-12 15:53
Book 99/100: Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge
Cuckoo Song - Frances Hardinge

Although this book opens with what is becoming a common trope in YA fiction -- a main character wakes up with gaps in her memory living in a world that seems somewhat off-kilter -- by a third of the way in it has distinguished itself from the crowd. Taking place right after World War I, it is a surreal blend of historical fiction, urban fantasy, and magical realism. It would have been considered a horror if not for the choice of viewpoint character, and that's one of the things that makes this book so interesting -- it goes inside the mind of "the other," into the character that would inspire fear in the reader if any other character told the story. Instead, this narrative choice leads us to sympathize with the very character that would otherwise inspire fear.

The characterization is skillfully done, particularly within Triss's immediate family. Her sister Penny feels like a real 11-year-old, with all her mixture of defiance and vulnerability. The family dynamic alone was enough to keep me reading, and one of my complaints about this book is that it was never more deeply explored, particularly in terms of the mother's particular neuroses. But the events of the novel definitely upset that dynamic, which is probably what the family needed most of all.

Most striking in this book are its visual descriptions, which could have come from the imagination of Tim Burton or Neil Gaiman. It would make a beautiful and haunting movie, or even a lush illustrated volume.

There were times when the book felt longer than it needed to be, but that will be quickly forgotten as the eerie visions and ethical dilemmas that arose while reading this book will remain much, much longer.

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