Book Review: Watch the Sky by Kirsten Hubbard

Watch the Sky by Kirsten Hubbard cover

Watch the Sky
by Kirsten Hubbard
Goodreads | Amazon
Series: no
Published: April 7th 2015
Rating: confusing signs

Watch the Sky is about twelve-year-old Jory and his family who, following his stepfather Caleb, are looking for signs.  None of them are sure what the signs will be or what they mean.  

There are times that reading on a kindle is kind of disorientating.  I bought Watch the sky a few months ago but hadn’t gotten around to it.  It was in the queue and as I started reading it I realized that I had NO earthly idea what it was about what genre it was, what the cover looked like or anything else aside from the title.  How often do you go into a book with that sort of blank canvas?

I don’t know if having no prior knowledge made this book more confusing or if it was intentionally written that way.  For example Kit.  Who is she, where did she come from, why won’t she speak?  Is it important?  Dunno. She just shows up in the pumpkin field one day and becomes one of the family.  Who doesn’t talk.  Who can’t go to school because she has to be hidden from the Officials. 

I was super uncomfortable with Jory’s family.  It didn’t feel like a family preparing for a disaster.  It felt like the way a cult might feel at the beginning.  Caleb might be well meaning but he was also paranoid as hell and delusional. Jory’s mother wasn’t beaten down or abused but she was frightened of the world before she met Caleb and I think that that fear made his ideas seems more reasonable. Kids being around and influenced by that unstableness did not sit right with me.  Which is probably the point of the book. Overall, it was creepy and more than a little horrifying. 

I did like the friendship that develops between Jory and Alice.  Her persistence and kindness gradually get around his guard and he eventually comes to trust her.  The way that her family’s normality and happiness is contrasted with the strange tenseness of Jory’s family was very effective. It was also a catalyst for Jory to start to doubt all that he has been told.

The writing was quite evocative.  Hubbard has really mastered the use of details to make you feel that you are really in the book.  The imagery, of the pickles, lined up on shelves, Kits two little hair buns, or the roots of trees getting in the way when you dig.  The use of language in this book was impressive.

I needed more closure.  The ending leaves so many things unknown and I found that frustrating.  I am a character and mood book reader but I still need for the plot to resolve itself completely.  It felt as if there should have been another chapter. What I was left with was a feeling of incompleteness that made me uncomfortable.


From Goodreads:

The signs are everywhere, Jory's stepfather, Caleb, says. Red leaves in the springtime. Pages torn from a library book. All the fish in the aquarium facing the same way. A cracked egg with twin yolks. Everywhere and anywhere. And because of them Jory's life is far from ordinary. He must follow a very specific set of rules: don't trust anyone outside the family, have your works at the ready just in case, and always, always watch out for the signs. The end is coming, and they must be prepared.

School is Jory's only escape from Caleb's tight grasp, and with the help of new friends Jory begins to explore a world beyond his family's farm. As Jory's friendships grow, Caleb notifies Jory's mother and siblings that the time has come for final preparations.

They begin an exhausting schedule digging a mysterious tunnel in anticipation of the disaster. But as the hold gets deeper, so does the family's doubt about whether Caleb's prophecy is true. When the stark reality of his stepfather's plans becomes clear, Jory must choose between living his own life or following Caleb, shutting his eyes to the bright world he's just begun to see.

Book Review: Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard

Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard

by Kirsten Hubbard

Goodreads | Amazon
Series: no
Published: March 13th 2012
Rating: Time to get on a plane

Wanderlove is the story of seventeen-year-old Bria, who is in that all important summer between high school and college, and decides to go on a trip to Central America with Global Vagabonds.  She does it as an act of rebellion against her super douche ex-boyfriends. Almost immediately she starts to chafe at the tour groups structure and eventually peels off from the group to backpack with a brother and sister that she meets in Guatemala. The trip she planned was not the trip she needed.

One thing that the characters in the book talk about is the different ways to traveling. I have traveling in pretty much every way possible. I’ve backpacked, stayed in a hostel, been on a guided tour, splurged on luxury and went bare bones. The backpackers in this book always seems to look down on other kinds of tourists. It was frustrating to me but Bria does point out the hypocrisy.  One of my favorite things about Bria as a character is that she confronts people when things bother her. I am however in complete agreence with all of Rowan’s travel rules. I just don’t think that you have to backpack to understand them or live by them.

I liked this book more for the ideas that it explores than for the story or characters. Bria, Starling, Rowen and even Jack all seem to be based on archetypes of the people that you meet while traveling.  You can tell that the author has been around the traveling block before. Wanderlove also reminded me of and made me think about my own love story and how closely it is tied to travel. We met in Germany, were engaged in Paris, married in Bali, and had our first home together in China. This book reminded me how much I associate travel with falling and being in love.

One thing that is implied but not discussed: There are people who you can travel with and people who you are friends with.  Those two things don’t always overlap.  While almost everyone that you travel with end up being a friend, not every friend is someone that you can travel with.  Travelling is pretty intense and when you are sharing a room you tend to be spending 24 hours a day together.  Energy levels, sleep and eating habits and spending expectations all have to be balanced. 

It was Bria’s inner thoughts, writings, and drawings that hold interest rather than the plot.  So much of what she says or thinks is relatable. I remember feeling like that.  I remember trying to figure it out (still working on it BTW) It is clear that Hubbard understands that the real journey takes place inside.  Every place that you visit challenges set ideas that you have about how the world works.  You become uncomfortable because your values (which are so intrinsic that you are hardly aware of them) are being tested.  You before more flexible.  Bria slowly starts to understand that the physical journey is nothing compared to the internal journey.

Wanderlove was a solid hot for me.  It made me think about and remember the aspects of travel that I most value.  The writing is strong.  The descriptions of Central America were vivid enough that getting there has been pushed way up the list (the list in case you are wondering includes pretty much everywhere). If you are a traveler, like the idea of traveling or hope to travel someday this is the book for you.

From Goodreads:

It all begins with a stupid question:

Are you a Global Vagabond?

No, but 18-year-old Bria Sandoval wants to be. In a quest for independence, her neglected art, and no-strings-attached hookups, she signs up for a guided tour of Central America—the wrong one. Middle-aged tourists with fanny packs are hardly the key to self-rediscovery. When Bria meets Rowan, devoted backpacker and dive instructor, and his outspokenly humanitarian sister Starling, she seizes the chance to ditch her group and join them off the beaten path.

Bria's a good girl trying to go bad. Rowan's a bad boy trying to stay good. As they travel across a panorama of Mayan villages, remote Belizean islands, and hostels plagued with jungle beasties, they discover what they've got in common: both seek to leave behind the old versions of themselves. And the secret to escaping the past, Rowan’s found, is to keep moving forward.

But Bria comes to realize she can't run forever, no matter what Rowan says. If she ever wants the courage to fall for someone worthwhile, she has to start looking back.

Kirsten Hubbard lends her artistry to this ultimate backpacker novel, weaving her drawings into the text. Her career as a travel writer and her experiences as a real-life vagabond backpacking Central America are deeply seeded in this inspiring story.