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Registered Members => Book Talk => Topic started by: Joni on June 23, 2011, 09:40 AM

Title: CHIME by F. Billingsley
Post by: Joni on June 23, 2011, 09:40 AM
I just finished this after hearing mixed reviews from friends (which is what made me want to read it -- along with the knowledge that this is a mid-lister-revived story) and I'd love to chat about some elements of the book. Anyone else read it?

What I loved: the world-building, the swamp, the witches (not enough of them!), the other Old Ones. Some of the writing...
What I didn't love:   ... some of the writing. E.g., the MC's voice, her whole POV, kinda drove me up a wall... I didn't think that her crafting as an unreliable narrator was believable, just annoying. I'm really interested in learning more about writing unreliable narrators, but I sure don't want to use this as a model.

I had some other issues with the book, too, but mostly wanted to see what others thought on a more detailed level than "liked it" or "didn't." The Amazon reviews are nearly all raves, but I don't trust those folks' opinions and they don't really dissect. ;) What were your reactions?
Title: Re: CHIME by F. Billingsley
Post by: dinalapomy101 on June 23, 2011, 09:44 AM
I'm about halfway through it....the fact that I've read and finished about 3 other novels while reading that one means I think it is OK.....  I picked it up bc I'd heard a lot of buzz about it recently.

I agree, the voice drives me nuts in some places...yet in others it really fits the story. I find myself skimming a lot of it bc of it, though I also love the setting and the swamp.

The cover and story/character/voice do not match at ALL imo, which made it harder for me to get into (false expectations).

I'll report back when I finish it (though I have 2 other books I know I want to read before it now).
Title: Re: CHIME by F. Billingsley
Post by: annastan on June 23, 2011, 10:28 AM
I had mixed feelings about this one, too. I loved the setting and the interesting cast of characters. I also mostly loved the writing (there were sentences I stopped to reread because they were so great) but at times the narrative felt a bit repetitive. I think this was a reflection of her telling the story after the fact, from memory, but it was a little distracting.

My main issue was with the story arc and with the stakes. I never really felt a sense of danger, even when bad things were happening. I think it was because some of the danger would be acknowledged but then disregarded. I kept coming back to the book not because I wanted to know what happened next, but because I wanted to dive back into the mood Billingsley had created.

I LOVED her other book, FOLK KEEPER, so I guess I had pretty high hopes for this one. I did like how original it was, but I guess I wish there'd been a stronger story arc.
Title: Re: CHIME by F. Billingsley
Post by: Deva on June 23, 2011, 10:37 AM
Anna, I had a very similar reaction. I am glad I am not the only one it didn't quite work for, since it seems like everyone else adored it!

The other thing that threw me a bit was the reaction (or lack thereof) to the execution of the (innocent) "witch" girl.

But I adored Rose and her firefighter, and the magic, and the language (once I got into it)!
Title: Re: CHIME by F. Billingsley
Post by: andracill on June 23, 2011, 06:02 PM
I started this and put it down after only a chapter -- the voice was too distant for my taste, and I couldn't find a connection to the MC (granted, I didn't give it very long).  *shrugs*  I skimmed the ending, and it wasn't enough for me to want to read the entire book.
Title: Re: CHIME by F. Billingsley
Post by: HaroldU on June 23, 2011, 07:24 PM
I'm biased, because I know the author, but I loved it. It's not an easy book to read, in TWO ways--you have to work at the story, and it's unsettling. The MC is also not sympathetic as a character for much of the story, and that's a very unusual thing to find in what I'd call a young YA.

But it's the most original story I've read recently. If you gave up on it, give it another chance. Disregard the reviews on Amazon, but CHIME has received multiple starred reviews from respected sources and some early Newbery buzz. Though it may not be to everyone's taste, there's something going on there...
Title: Re: CHIME by F. Billingsley
Post by: andracill on June 23, 2011, 09:06 PM
Okay, you've convinced me -- I'll give it another try ;)
Title: Re: CHIME by F. Billingsley
Post by: Joni on June 23, 2011, 10:59 PM
But see, I didn't think you had to work at the story at all -- almost the reverse. I thought much of the solution/resolution for the character was evident from almost the beginning, and I couldn't believe it would never occur to her, not even in a way she might dismiss. (I think the title does the book a disservice in this regard, actually.) And I thought the degree to which the reader is asked to suspend disbelief about things she'd "forgotten" was a huge stretch, so that felt to me more like the author cheated/manipulated the reader.

I guess I just never bought into the narrator generally (maybe that's what you mean by working at it, Harold -- you have to WANT to accept her story?) and I suppose most of my issues stemmed from that.

But I agree that it's very original! And I liked the supporting characters and some of the relationships immensely. I think for me it's a case of thinking some parts of it were SO good that I'm twice as disappointed in other parts, more than I would be if it was just a mediocre book overall.

But thanks for sharing your view!
Title: Re: CHIME by F. Billingsley
Post by: Whizbee on June 24, 2011, 09:53 AM
I agree that it's hard to believe the mc wouldn't realize the solution to the story sooner. On the one hand, she's been so emotionally manipulated that I can buy her ignorance. On the other hand, the clues are put forth so directly (especially in the title!) that the reader is able to see the truth long before the mc is, so it's hard to understand why the mc isn't picking up on the same clues the reader picks up on.

One thing I want to highlight about this book is the romance. I know it left some people cold (according to what I've seen on Goodreads), but I thought it was very well done. The relationship between Briony and Eldric grows from a genuine friendship, which is pretty refreshing after all of these stories about girls falling head over heels in love with complete strangers. Their interactions felt genuine to me, and also fun--the way they joke around, Eldric's interactions with Briony's sister, Briony's appreciation for Eldric's tinkering. I think this relationship was my favorite aspect of the book, alongside the interesting monsters haunting the swamps.

I've read a lot of reviews in which the reviewer praised the prose of the novel, but I've yet to hear from any other reader that they liked Briony's unusual narration. For me, it was a bit grating, but I found some really lovely phrases that I very much enjoyed.
Title: Re: CHIME by F. Billingsley
Post by: HaroldU on June 24, 2011, 05:10 PM
Joni, you are simply smarter than me. I did NOT know from the beginning how things were going to be sorted out, though I hoped they would be.

What I felt I had to work at was the narrator. I didn't start to like her until well into the story, and I also didn't start to see through her blindered point of view until well into the story. But there was so much going on that I kept going...
Title: Re: CHIME by F. Billingsley
Post by: ello on June 29, 2011, 06:15 PM
I have to say this is a favorite for me. I absolutely LOVED this book! As soon as I finished it, I wanted to read it all over again. And for me, even though I guessed the problem very early on, I had no issue with it because it was so very clear how terribly she'd been manipulated. I thought it was very true psychologically  - very akin to an abuse survivor. So I thought it all worked and I really, really, really loved this book something fierce.
Title: Re: CHIME by F. Billingsley
Post by: HaroldU on June 29, 2011, 07:11 PM
ello, that's it exactly! It WAS an abusive relationship--and a very powerful story, to see how she worked her way out of it...
Title: Re: CHIME by F. Billingsley
Post by: dinalapomy101 on June 29, 2011, 07:22 PM
OK so I finished it this weekend. I really enjoyed the second half MUCH better than the first! I grew into the voice, and I loved the romance from the Eldric friendship!

And when I saw how all the step-mother stuff had actually influenced the MC, I thought it had been really well done from the beginning and completely integrated.

But the first half was slow for me bc it was hard to sympathize with Briony and to get into the voice and understand what the heck she was talking about.
Title: Re: CHIME by F. Billingsley
Post by: ello on June 29, 2011, 07:38 PM
I have to say that I really loved the MC's voice. It brought me right into her head and I felt I really could see all her quirks and issues and I loved that about this book. But I really can see how this would not be for everyone.
Title: Re: CHIME by F. Billingsley
Post by: Lwrites on July 05, 2011, 01:55 PM
ello hit the nail on the head about the abusive relationship.

On a separate note, since you said you want to learn more about writing unreliable narrators: this isn't YA, but The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien does some pretty awesome things with unreliable narrators. (Fair warning, it's a collection of interconnected short stories, and only some of them have the unreliable narrator element.)
Title: Re: CHIME by F. Billingsley
Post by: Joni on July 05, 2011, 03:11 PM
Oh, thanks for the tip, Lpaper! I've been meaning to read that book anyway. More motivation now.
Title: Re: CHIME by F. Billingsley
Post by: Jo Knowles on July 05, 2011, 03:45 PM
I loved this book, too, for many of the reasons Ello highlights. The writing reminds me of Margo Lanagan's Tender Morsel's. It's very gritty in its beauty. And I love that style. I thought it was YA though, not middle grade. I would think it would be far more appealing to teens than to younger kids. At any rate, I thought it was brilliant.

Title: Re: CHIME by F. Billingsley
Post by: olmue on July 26, 2012, 10:09 AM
I'm a little slow, I guess, but I finally just read this. Yeah, definitely not a book that you just love or not--it's one that you (or at least I) think about and take apart. The biggest thought in my mind when I was reading it was that it felt like one of those Orton effect photos (do a google image search to see what I mean--like seeing through multiple layers, some of which are out of focus. Sometimes the mood is glowing and lush, and sometimes ghostly and eerie.) What I really liked: Eldric--he was great "glue" to the whole town, and despite his bad boy claims, he very much wasn't. The way the reader's perception changes on certain characters 180 degrees over the story (a bit like Heather Dixon's ENTWINED that way, only with a whole different mood). The very, very end--even though there were times that I felt rather distant from Briony, the MC, I found myself tearing up on those last couple of pages. That said, I did have a hard time connecting with Briony early in the story, and I also guessed some of the big reveals early on, too. But I was also engaged in the disentangling of various abusive relationships, so I wasn't too disturbed to have guessed. Overall, some things touched me but I think other parts missed me somehow. An interesting book to talk about because of that, though!