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Tag: Lauren Oliver

Rooms by Lauren Oliver

I have only read one book by Lauren Oliver (The Spindlers), and had mixed feelings about it, but Rooms seemed intriguing:

RoomsWealthy Richard Walker has just died, leaving behind his country house full of rooms packed with the detritus of a lifetime. His estranged family—bitter ex-wife Caroline, troubled teenage son Trenton, and unforgiving daughter Minna—have arrived for their inheritance.

But the Walkers are not alone. Prim Alice and the cynical Sandra, long dead former residents bound to the house, linger within its claustrophobic walls. Jostling for space, memory, and supremacy, they observe the family, trading barbs and reminiscences about their past lives. Though their voices cannot be heard, Alice and Sandra speak through the house itself—in the hiss of the radiator, a creak in the stairs, the dimming of a light bulb.

The living and dead are each haunted by painful truths that will soon surface with explosive force. When a new ghost appears, and Trenton begins to communicate with her, the spirit and human worlds collide—with cataclysmic results.

I thought it would be interesting to see how Oliver would handle a ghost story for an adult audience.  So during the holidays with the whole family sick, I curled up on the couch and dived in.  It turned out to be a dark and rather depressing ghost story.

Despite the darkness, generations of family dysfunction and the resulting tragedy, there is something compelling that pulls the story forward. Like watching a car wreck in slow motion, you can’t seem to look away as the tragic lives pile up and connect.

Oliver captures the unique voices of these disparate tragedies and packs the events leading to their convergence in/at the house.

Kirkus:

That the book succeeds is due in large part to Oliver’s characters. Though some are flat in internal monologue, most come to life when interacting with each other, as Oliver’s ear for dialogue is finely tuned. She’s able to take the tropes of the traditional ghost story and give them new energy by creating ghosts who are realistic but still terrifyingly paranormal.

I try to stay away from books that feature the sort of ugliness Rooms contains but I have to admit there is something essentially human about the ugliness and sadness at the heart of the story. A desperate need to be loved, to find peace, to be comfortable in your skin and as part of a family.

Joy Tipping, Dallas Morning News:

The book’s narration by many characters, both spectral and non, keeps the reader on her toes. But the astute reader will, by the end, have discerned the truths that the characters try so urgently to keep hidden. The rooms of the title echo human emotions, how a kitchen can feel either warm and cozy or cold, dirty and barren; how a bedroom can house the most intimate acts of love and also the deepest sorrow and loneliness.

The last 50 pages of Rooms are as devastatingly emotional as any book I’ve recently encountered. It’ll take me awhile to get past repeating those sequences in my head. For a thriller, that’s as strong a recommendation as I can make.

Bookpage:

Although author Lauren Oliver has had success as a YA novelist, it can be tricky making the transition to an older audience. But Rooms is written with grace and confidence, and packs the emotional wallop of someone unafraid of tackling difficult and delicate issues. Rooms doesn’t scare so much as haunt, and for a tale narrated in part by ghosts, it is remarkably full of life. Utterly captivating and electric, this richly atmospheric ghost story is excellent reading.

A few other perspectives:

The Spindlers by Lauren Oliver

Seeking out listens for my daily commute I stumbled upon The Spindlers at the local library. It had been on my wish list after some strong reviews when it was released. So I picked it up.

book-the_spindlersWhen Liza’s brother, Patrick, changes overnight, Liza knows exactly what has happened: The spindlers have gotten to him and stolen his soul.

She knows, too, that she is the only one who can save him.

To rescue Patrick, Liza must go Below, armed with little more than her wits and a broom. There, she uncovers a vast world populated with talking rats, music-loving moles, greedy troglods, and overexcitable nids . . . as well as strange monsters and terrible dangers. But she will face her greatest challenge at the spindlers’ nests, where she must pass a series of deadly tests—or else her soul, too, will remain Below forever.

I listened to it in the car for the last week or so.  It was … eh.

There were some creative parts (the idea of the spindlers, the nocturni, etc.) but overall it just seemed a little flat. There were lots of classical elements (changeling, sibling quest, underground world, test of character, etc.) but there was not enough magic to really make it grab you.

It almost had a quest by numbers feel to it. Oliver tried to build suspense by having much of the backstory murky and vague. You jump right into Patrick’s soul being taken by the spindlers with little explanation and soon Liza is down below rescuing him. But the suspense never quite builds and it instead feels underdeveloped. This quick and easy read seems too simple somehow.

I also felt like none of the characters were all that likeable.  Liza was cute and brave of course but her parents were distracted and stressed, Mirabella was odd, cranky, and a coward who betrayed Liza before her later change or heart. The other characters below were all ugly and selfish, etc. All the meaningful relationships seem to happen off stage.  It was Liza against the world and, again, that seemed too simple or flat to me.

One important caveat: this is a middle grade book so perhaps my expectations were too high (although many reviews seem to share my reaction) or I was the wrong audience. Also, one reviewer did make a good point: in the age of big fat book series if you are looking for a cute and quick MG fantasy read this might be a good choice.

It could just be I was not in the right mood or distracted by listening to it in the car because a number of reviewers recommended it.

Kirkus:

As in the author’s first terrific book for middle-grade readers, Liesl & Po (2011), there is a smorgasbord of literary references, including strong echoes of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. It is laced with humor and engaging wordplay, as well as riddles and death-defying tests and enchantments. Wholly original creatures populate the tale, some reassuring and wise, like the nocturni and lumer-lumpen, others wonderfully macabre (and ferocious), like the queen of the spindlers and the shape-shifting scawgs. In the course of her episodic quest, Liza discovers she is resourceful and brave; she sees things differently than before. Richly detailed, at times poetic, ultimately moving; a book to be puzzled over, enjoyed and, ideally, read aloud.

School Library Journal:

This imaginative fantasy emphasizes individual initiative and the power of hope and friendship. Below is a fully realized alternate world with echoes of both classic literature and mythology. This is particularly notable in its variety of inhabitants. Although the creatures are Oliver’s own creations, such beings as the winged, dream-bearing nocturni and the shape-shifting, cannibalistic scawgs have the feel of true folklore. With strong, self-reliant female characters and well-defined action, this is a strong addition to fantasy collections.

Say it with me: YMMV

The Spindlers by Lauren Oliver

Seeking out listens for my daily commute I stumbled upon The Spindlers at the local library. It had been on my wish list after some strong reviews when it was released. So I picked it up.

book-the_spindlersWhen Liza’s brother, Patrick, changes overnight, Liza knows exactly what has happened: The spindlers have gotten to him and stolen his soul.

She knows, too, that she is the only one who can save him.

To rescue Patrick, Liza must go Below, armed with little more than her wits and a broom. There, she uncovers a vast world populated with talking rats, music-loving moles, greedy troglods, and overexcitable nids . . . as well as strange monsters and terrible dangers. But she will face her greatest challenge at the spindlers’ nests, where she must pass a series of deadly tests—or else her soul, too, will remain Below forever.

I listened to it in the car for the last week or so.  It was … eh.

There were some creative parts (the idea of the spindlers, the nocturni, etc.) but overall it just seemed a little flat. There were lots of classical elements (changeling, sibling quest, underground world, test of character, etc.) but there was not enough magic to really make it grab you.

It almost had a quest by numbers feel to it. Oliver tried to build suspense by having much of the backstory murky and vague. You jump right into Patrick’s soul being taken by the spindlers with little explanation and soon Liza is down below rescuing him. But the suspense never quite builds and it instead feels underdeveloped. This quick and easy read seems too simple somehow.

I also felt like none of the characters were all that likeable.  Liza was cute and brave of course but her parents were distracted and stressed, Mirabella was odd, cranky, and a coward who betrayed Liza before her later change or heart. The other characters below were all ugly and selfish, etc. All the meaningful relationships seem to happen off stage.  It was Liza against the world and, again, that seemed too simple or flat to me.

One important caveat: this is a middle grade book so perhaps my expectations were too high (although many reviews seem to share my reaction) or I was the wrong audience. Also, one reviewer did make a good point: in the age of big fat book series if you are looking for a cute and quick MG fantasy read this might be a good choice.

It could just be I was not in the right mood or distracted by listening to it in the car because a number of reviewers recommended it.

Kirkus:

As in the author’s first terrific book for middle-grade readers, Liesl & Po (2011), there is a smorgasbord of literary references, including strong echoes of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. It is laced with humor and engaging wordplay, as well as riddles and death-defying tests and enchantments. Wholly original creatures populate the tale, some reassuring and wise, like the nocturni and lumer-lumpen, others wonderfully macabre (and ferocious), like the queen of the spindlers and the shape-shifting scawgs. In the course of her episodic quest, Liza discovers she is resourceful and brave; she sees things differently than before. Richly detailed, at times poetic, ultimately moving; a book to be puzzled over, enjoyed and, ideally, read aloud.

School Library Journal:

This imaginative fantasy emphasizes individual initiative and the power of hope and friendship. Below is a fully realized alternate world with echoes of both classic literature and mythology. This is particularly notable in its variety of inhabitants. Although the creatures are Oliver’s own creations, such beings as the winged, dream-bearing nocturni and the shape-shifting, cannibalistic scawgs have the feel of true folklore. With strong, self-reliant female characters and well-defined action, this is a strong addition to fantasy collections.

Say it with me: YMMV

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