Sunday, April 16, 2017

Back-to-Back-to-Back Reviews - this time it's Under A Painted Sky, by Stacey Lee

It's been a while since I have had 3 reviews in a row.  And I would have to say that they couldn't be more different.  Orphan X is a mystery. Irresistible in Love is definitely a romance.  And Under a Painted Sky is a YA with some historical fiction thrown in.  Here's what SPEAK, an imprint of Penguin Random House, has to say:

All Samantha wanted was to move back to New York and pursue her music, which was difficult enough for a Chinese girl in Missouri in 1949.  Then her fate takes a turn for the worse after a tragic accident leaves her with nothing and she breaks the law in self-defense.  With help from Annamae, a runaway slave she meets at the scene of her crime, the two flee town for the unknown frontier.  But life on the Oregon Trail is unsafe for two girls.
Disguised as Sammy and Andy, two boys heading for the California gold rush, each searches for a link to her past and struggles to avoid any unwanted attention.  Until they merge paths with a band of cowboys-turned-allies, and Samantha can't stop herself from falling for one.  But the law is closing in on them and new setbacks come each day - the girls will quickly learn there are not many places one can hide on the open trails."

There are 5 main characters in this book:  2 girls/boys and 3 cowboys. There were also 5 in The Girl on the Train.  You know what the difference is?  I cared about these 5.  The other 5?  Eh eh/ix-nay/not so much.  In Painted, I definitely had moments of chills, tears, and laughing.  And 23 pages from the end, I let out a big "No!"  There's also a musical instrument competition about 100 pages from the end that I found as enjoyable as any sports-related contest.  But do you know what impressed me the very most about this book?  The writing was outstanding.  It's not highfalutin', but it's spot on.  Take a look at a few examples:

"Above me, yellow and purple clouds puff out above the tree line, like someone punched the sky in the face."
"He walks with the ease of someone with places to go but time to get there."
"The water's surface shifts the rays of the setting sun like hands sifting through cut jade stones."
"The man's orbs are sunk into his skin like two olives dropped in vanilla pudding."

And how about this truism?

"Yet, I can think of no better way to cheer up Andy than with that cure-all that knows no cultural bounds: music."

Under a Painted Sky has a lot of things going for it.  And I enjoyed not only Samantha, Annamae, and the 3 cowboys.  I also got to learn a little about life on the Oregon Trail.  If you teens are absolutely forced to learn some history, then reading Under a Painted Sky will pave the way. Oh, yeah.  Adults, this goes for you too.

A KID'S WRITING CLASS:  C. Lee McKenzie, one of my very favorite MG/YA authors (check out my review of The Princess of Las Pulgas on 3/16/14, and you will see what I mean), is teaching a writing class for kids.  Here is the info:

C. Lee McKenzie will once again open the world of character creation and story development to a new group of young writers at the Young Writers Workshop.
April 29
10:45 to 1:45
Los Gatos Recreation Center, 123 East Main Street, Los Gatos 95030.
McKenzie is a traditionally published author of four young adult novels: Sliding on the Edge (2009), The Princess of Las Pulgas (2010), Double Negative (2014) and Sudden Secrets(2015). She also writes for younger readers (middle grade, 8-14) and has published three novels in that category: Alligators Overhead, The Great Time Lock Disaster, and Sign of the Green Dragon. To find out more about the author, visit her WEBPAGE.
Friends of the Library will supply all writing materials plus water and cookies at noon. Participants are asked to bring a bag lunch. 
Workshop registration forms are available at the library circulation desk and ONLINE.  Completed forms and a check for $15 should be mailed or delivered to Friends of Los Gatos Library, 100 Villa Ave. 95030
Space is limited. Sign up now.


  1. Totally agree with your review! This author is a delight, and a good writer to boot!

  2. I don't read that much historical fiction but you've sure made this book sound good.

    1. It's definitely more about the 5 central characters than it is historical.

  3. Thanks for introducing me to this writer. I'm a big fan of historical fiction, so I'll mark this as a TBR on my Goodreads.

    Also thanks so much for the shout out about the Young Writers Workshop. You should stop by and see these kids in action. You'll be reviewing their books one day! :-)