Book Review: Lucretia and the Kroons

Once again, Victor LaValle spins an intensely imaginative and vivid tale. I had read, thanks to a suggestion from Oprah (well, ☺), his novel Big Machine last year and while I enjoyed it and I enjoyed the characters, it was  like Lucretia and the Kroons, in that it is quite fantastical and strange but just really very good all at the same time.

Everyday eBook published this article describing Lucretia and the Kroons and I knew immediately I would be giving LaValle another spin! Even though this novella is classified as horror and young adult, knowing the premise behind the story wasn’t going to let those two categories steer me away.

It is a very quick little novella, at just over 100 pages, it took me less than a day to read. It is the story of Lucretia, or Loochie as she is endearingly called, trying to deal with the impending loss of her very very best friend Sunny. Sunny is dying of cancer and after having a disasterous birthday party with 3 other of Loochie’s “friends” she determines that she will save her ice cream cake for the day that Sunny can come and share it with her.

Her brother tells Loochie this bizarre and horrifying story of the Kroons that live in the apartment above them that settles in to the back of her consciousness. Coupled with that a few tokes of these weird little Chinese cigarettes that Sunny gives her and Loochie is off on a wild and fantastical trip all while being chased by The Kroons. While on this wild and crazy trip, Loochie discovers how to handle the great, great loss of her friend Sunny.

It does close with an abrupt end but otherwise Lucretia and the Kroons is a wonderful tiny tale of a young girl dealing with the loss of her one true and very best friend. Loochie’s handling of the grief of finding her friend so wasted away and dying on that day of her birthday celebration would last a year and then doctors would diagnose Loochie with bipolar disorder. Everyone dismissed Loochie’s fantastical story about the Kroons and Sunny, but she never doubted it was true. (It is also this ending that strikes a chord for those that read Wichita, as Lewis feels he has seen his brother Seth one more time but in such a manner that no one believes him.) I’m giving it 3 stars, it was a tender and touching story combined with some far out fantastical situations. But I wouldn’t expect anything less from Victor LaValle.

Audiobook Review: Gold

In the immortal words of Spandau Ballet:

GOLD! always believe in your soul.
You’ve got the power to know.
You’re indestructible

(yep, singing this song the ENTIRE time I was reading!)

Thanks to Audiobook Jukebox and Simon and Schuster audio for allowing us to listen to this one– it was one of my favourite audio narrations I have listened to so far.

Emilia Fox’s reading is superb– she nails the accents (Australian, Scottish, different regions of England), ages and sexes of all of the characters– it really did feel like there were multiple narrators. And the added touches such as stadium cheers and a voice filter when the characters were speaking on the phone, radio or television just enhanced the experience all that much more. Great job! Loved it!

Zoe and Kate  are teammates and rivals, friends and enemies. They are part of Team GBs infamous track cycling team and are headed for the London 2012 Olympics in August (excellent timing for the release of this book BTW!!). It is June now and the Olympic committee has put a new rule in place– each country can only enter one competitor per event, to save air time for TV coverage. Their coach, Tom, has to make the decision who it will be. Zoe is the veteran medal winner but Kate has never been more ready as she is this year.

The story spans a time frame of about 20 years or so, flashing back to explain family histories and past Olympics; hook-ups and break-ups; lives and deaths (I did find myself questioning the time frames a little bit– but as this was an audiobook it was difficult to flip back and check the time line– I am sure everything was fine!). Each chapter starts with the date and location of the scene that is taking place and focuses in on one of the main characters– Kate, Zoe, Jack (Kate’s husband and fellow GB track cyclist), their daughter Sophie (who has leukaemia) and Tom. There were a lot of technical descriptions of track cycling training and equipment (which I found to be quite interesting), 80s and 90s music references (a nod to Duran Duran’s Rio– always gets my approval!! 😉 ) and plenty of Star Wars references (Sophie is obsessed with Star Wars and uses it as an escape mechanism much like the little boy and Batman in Little BeeChris Cleave’s previous book).

It was a bit contrived in some places– Zoe is the bad girl while Kate is the good one; 8-year-old Sophie’s leukaemia is no longer in remission and she is back on the chemo; a secret past is haunting Zoe (no wonder she is the way she is); Zoe and Kate’s constant vying for the attention of their fellow teammate (Jack) when they first meet and just as they solidify their friendship they are forced to compete for the London 2012 spot on Team GB;  Tom, a former Olympic track cyclist himself, dealing with old age as only an athlete can (in MASSIVE pain); and all topped off with a whammy of a secret! Some of it I would normally even call cheesy but, for some reason, with this book, it all worked for me. Maybe it was the Olympic hype or the top-notch narration– a solid 3.5 star rating from me (3 stars for the story, 4 for the narration).

Ps. What a freaking AWESOME logo team GB had, eh!!??