Review: Blue Sky Days

Blue Sky Days, by Marie Landry

A year after graduating from high school, nineteen-year-old Emma Ward feels lost. She has spent most of her life trying to please her frigid, miserable mother – studying hard, getting good grades, avoiding the whole teenage rebellion thing – and now she feels she has no identity beyond that. Because she spent so many years working hard and planning every moment of her life, she doesn’t have any friends, has never had a boyfriend, and basically doesn’t know who she is or what she really wants from life. Working two part-time jobs to save money for college hasn’t helped her make decisions about her future, so she decides it’s time for a change. She leaves home to live with her free-spirited, slightly eccentric Aunt Daisy in a small town that makes Emma feel like she’s stepped back in time.

When Emma meets Nicholas Shaw, everything changes – he’s unlike anyone she’s ever met before, the kind of man she didn’t even know existed in the 21st century. Carefree and spirited like Daisy, Nicholas teaches Emma to appreciate life, the beauty around her, and to just let go and live. Between Daisy and Nicholas, Emma feels like she belongs somewhere for the first time in her life, and realizes that you don’t always need a plan – sometimes life steers you where you’re meant to be.

Life is wonderful, an endless string of blue sky days, until Nicholas is diagnosed with cancer, and life changes once again for Emma in ways she never thought possible. Now it’s time for her to help Nicholas the way he’s helped her. Emma will have to use her new-found strength, and discover along the way if love really is enough to get you through.

I’m part of Marie Landry’s blog tour. Click on the image to visit her website!

I’m also reading this book as part of the Self-Published Reading Challenge.

Writing: 3 wings

So I’ve been pretty busy this month editing and writing about editing…and so when I crawl into bed at night and read something, it’s pretty hard to turn off my editor’s eye. While the sentence structure was fine and Landry could often paint lovely pictures of characters with a giant stroke of her magical writing paintbrush, I was laying there with a giant red pen crossing out the redundant paragraphs of description/telling that did not need to be there. We know that Emma is learning to live a fuller life, and that moving to Riverview was the best thing that ever happened to her. This is evident not just because you tell us it is so, but because of what she does and how she acts. There’s a point in the editing process where we have to remove the words that bog down the story so that it can really grow and shine.

Plot: 4 wings

While the first half dragged on, about 45% the way through, things started to get interesting. Nicholas was finally diagnosed with cancer–I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that, as it’s in the description–and the tension starts like a BANG. In my opinion, I think the disease should have been introduced earlier–or, he should have been diagnosed earlier, before the beginning of the book, and only reveal it to Emma half-way through. Having Nicholas know that he might die soon yet loving the life he is creating with Emma would have created a more interesting character dilemma that Emma could’ve sniffed out.

If you read Landry’s author bio/acknowledgements, you’ll see that fighting cancer is a subject that is personal to her, so, kudos for writing about a difficult subject and conveying the pain that one goes through when someone you love is suffering. Near the end, I actually had no idea what would happen to Nicholas, and I was concerned for his well-being. It really made me think what I would do if something happened to Dave–and I think that’s probably what makes this book special: its ability to allow the reader to place herself in the situation.

And, I loved the idea of the Blue Sky Days. I thought that was very real and did kind of tie the first half of the book to the second half.

Characters: 3 wings

Like I said above, Landry often had the ability to paint people with one stroke, and give you an image of a character. The story was populated with several characters that loved each other very much and considered one another as family–this was endearing in the second half of the book when there was real hardship, but in the first half when nothing was wrong I found it a little cheesy.

In addition, everyone had a similar voice and it sometimes broke the illusion. They would talk about their inner feelings in a way that seemed forced–kind of like they were talking heads. The exception would probably be Nicholas; his dialogue seemed genuine, especially after his diagnosis.

I found Emma relateable to a certain point–again, the repetitious paragraphs about her learning how to live life to the fullest, etc, were a little much and I think got in the way of her character development. Yes, her character developed, but I felt like I was an observer rather than a participant in the growth.

Overall: 3.5 wings

The writing was a little repetitious, but the story kept me going. Second half held my attention much more, and at times it was emotionally gripping. Recommended for those who want to read about a romantic relationship that is tested through hardship.