foggidawn and the many-more-than-75 books of 2013 (thread 3)
Únase a LibraryThing para publicar.
Este tema está marcado actualmente como "inactivo"—el último mensaje es de hace más de 90 días. Puedes reactivarlo escribiendo una respuesta.
I'm a children's librarian, so I read a lot of juvenile fiction and young adult, plus some cozy mysteries, some inspirational fiction, some fantasy, and whatever else catches my interest. I plan to review pretty much everything I read, though some reviews will be briefer than others!
Here are links to thread 1 and thread 2 of 2013.
Also, I have a blog: http://kidlitgeek.blogspot.com/
Most of what I post there will be duplicated on this thread, but not everything . . .
1. The Bronte Sisters: The Brief Lives of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne by Catherine Reef
2. Envious Casca by Georgette Heyer
3. Goose Chase by Patrice Kindl
4. Secret Society Girl by Diana Peterfreund
5. Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey
6. Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood
7. Curse of the Thirteenth Fey by Jane Yolen
8. My Mixed-Up Berry Blue Summer by Jennifer Gennari
9. Lulu and the Duck in the Park by Hilary McKay
10. The Reluctant Heiress by Eva Ibbotson
11. A Company of Swans by Eva Ibbotson
12. The Morning Gift by Eva Ibbotson
13. A Song for Summer by Eva Ibbotson
14. Mind Games by Kiersten White
15. The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy
16. Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
17. Cinders & Sapphires by Leila Rasheed
18. Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo
19. Fairest of All by Sarah Mlynowski
20. Princess of the Silver Woods by Jessica Day George
21. Going Vintage by Lindsey Leavitt
22. Obsidian Mirror by Catherine Fisher
23. Catherine by April Lindner
24. Thieftaker by D.B. Jackson
25. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
26. Just One Day by Gayle Forman
27. The Nightmare Affair by Mindee Arnett
28. The Water Castle by Megan Frazer Blakemore
29. The Princesses of Iowa by M. Molly Backes
30. The Diviners by Libba Bray
31. The Maid of Fairbourne Hall by Julie Klassen
32. The Tutor's Daughter by Julie Klassen
33. The Emperor's Soul by Brandon Sanderson
34. Dodger by Terry Pratchett
35. Hokey Pokey by Jerry Spinelli
36. The Seventh Sinner by Elizabeth Peters
37. The Murders of Richard III by Elizabeth Peters
38. Die for Love by Elizabeth Peters
39. Matilda by Roald Dahl
40. The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall
41. The Spindlers by Lauren Oliver
42. Breathing Room by Marsha Hayles
43. The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare
44. Clementine and the Spring Trip by Sara Pennypacker
45. The Peculiars by Maureen Doyle McQuerry
46. Wonder Show by Hannah Barnaby
47. The BFG by Roald Dahl
48. The Museum of Thieves by Lian Tanner
49. City of Lies by Lian Tanner
50. Wednesdays in the Tower by Jessica Day George
51. Bath Tangle by Georgette Heyer
52. Cotillion by Georgette Heyer
53. A Change of Fortune by Jen Turano
54. Poison by Bridget Zinn
55. The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani
56. Mr. Monk Gets Even by Lee Goldberg
57. Tilly's Moonlight Garden by Julia Green
58. The Case of the Left-Handed Lady by Nancy Springer
59. The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets by Nancy Springer
60. The Case of the Peculiar Pink Fan by Nancy Springer
61. The Aviary by Kathleen O'Dell
62. The Vicious Deep by Zoraida Cordova
63. The Savage Blue by Zoraida Cordova
64. The Green Man by Michael Bedard
65. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
66. Path of Beasts by Lian Tanner
67. Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger
68. Hattie Ever After by Kirby Larson
69. Garden Princess by Kristin Kladstrup
70. Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
71. Frogged by Vivian Vande Velde
72. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken
73. A Lady of High Regard by Tracie Peterson
74. McKenna by Mary Casanova
75. Jinx by Sage Blackwood
76. Destiny, Rewritten by Kathryn Fitzmaurice
77. Strands of Bronze and Gold by Jane Nickerson
78. The Vengekeep Prophecies by Brian Farrey
79. Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt
80. Dicey's Song by Cynthia Voigt
81. The Case of the Cryptic Crinoline by Nancy Springer
82. The Case of the Gypsy Goodbye by Nancy Springer
83. The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen
84. The Runaway King by Jennifer Nielsen
85. The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis
86. The Year of Miss Agnes by Kirkpatrick Hill
87. Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson
88. The Hero's Guide to Storming the Castle by Christopher Healy
89. Emily's Runaway Imagination by Beverly Cleary
90. A Midsummer Night's Scream by R.L. Stine
91. The Rose Throne by Mette Ivy Harrison
92. Come a Stranger by Cynthia Voigt
93. A Solitary Blue by Cynthia Voigt
94. The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud
95. Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko
96. Al Capone Shines My Shoes by Gennifer Choldenko
97. The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood
98. The Hidden Gallery by Maryrose Wood
99. The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall
100. The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud
101. Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu
102. The Real Boy by Anne Ursu
103. Aunt Dimity and the Duke by Nancy Atherton
104. The Cats of Tanglewood Forest by Charles de Lint
105. The Life and Times of William Shakespeare by Kathleen Kuiper
106. The Tragedies of William Shakespeare by Kathleen Kuiper
107. Will Sparrow's Road by Karen Cushman
108. Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast by Robin McKinley
109. Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made by Stephan Pastis
110. Too Good To Be True by Kristan Higgins
111. Secrets of Shakespeare's Grave by Deron R. Hicks
112. The Unknown Ajax by Georgette Heyer
113. One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
114. P.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams-Garcia
115. Circus Galacticus by Deva Fagan
116. The Golem's Eye by Jonathan Stroud
117. Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman
118. Ptolemy's Gate by Jonathan Stroud
119. This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith
120. Catch of the Day by Kristan Higgins
121. Tower of the Five Orders by Deron Hicks
122. Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan
123. The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
124. The Gypsy Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
125. Dog Friday by Hilary McKay
126. Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth by E.L. Konigsburg
127. The Reece Malcolm List by Amy Spalding
128. The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats
129. Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein
130. Binny for Short by Hilary McKay
131. Boston Jacky: Being an Account of the Further Adventures of Jacky Faber, Taking Care of Business by L.A. Meyer
132. Nancy and Plum by Betty MacDonald
133. Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
134. The Arctic Incident by Eoin Colfer
135. The Eternity Code by Eoin Colfer
136. Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
137. The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson
138. Dust Girl by Sarah Zettel
139. The Princess of Cortova by Diane Stanley
140. The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
141. The Thing About Luck by Cynthia Kadohata
142. The Center of Everything by Linda Urban
143. Twelve Kinds of Ice by Ellen Bryan Obed
144. The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery
145. The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
146. Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch
147. Nancy Clancy, Super Sleuth by Jane O'Connor
148. Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool
149. Sweet Legacy by Tera Lynn Childs
150. The Opal Deception by Eoin Colfer
151. The Lost Colony by Eoin Colfer
152. The Time Paradox by Eoin Colfer
153. The Atlantis Complex by Eoin Colfer
154. Doll Bones by Holly Black
155. A Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graff
156. Shadows by Robin McKinley
In updating my list, I discovered that I never reviewed Charity Girl by Georgette Heyer, which I read back in August. I'm not going to attempt to review it now, but I did want to note it here so it is included in my yearly count!
*bustles off in search of refreshments*
The House of Hades by Rick Riordan is the fourth book in the Heroes of Olympus series. This review will contain some spoilers for earlier books in the series.
Gaea the earth goddess is waking, and this means trouble for all of the Olympians and demigods. As Jason, Piper, Leo, Hazel, Frank, and Nico fight to continue their quest, Percy and Annabeth struggle to survive in Tartarus. If both groups of demigods can arrive at the Doors of Death at the same time -- Percy and Annabeth from Tartarus, and the others from the human realm -- Percy and Annabeth can be saved, and the monsters can be stopped from constantly regenerating. But neither journey will be easy. . .
This series continues to be a lot of fun, packed with action and humor and a little bit of romance, too. The problem with having such a large cast of characters is that it's hard to give each of them time to shine, but I actually thought that was done better in this book than in the previous one. Frank, Hazel, Leo, and Nico each had nice moments of character development in this book, and since Percy and Annabeth were apart from the rest of the group, they also had plenty of page space. This book also manages to balance the series dynamic with the story arc of the individual book -- it's the penultimate book in the series, but it didn't feel like it was just there to build up to the final battle. I'm looking forward to The Blood of Olympus next fall, but I'll probably try to reread not only the Heroes of Olympus, but the Percy Jackson series as well before that book's release.
You liked The House of Hades more than I did, but I'm still just as excited for the finale!
I picked up Attachments by Rainbow Rowell because I read about it on somebody else's thread (it's been making the rounds, so I can't remember where I saw it first), and I'm so glad I did, as I may have just discovered another favorite author.
It's 1999, and the company Lincoln works for is wary of giving their employees the freedom of Internet and email. That's where Lincoln comes in. He probably wouldn't have taken the "Internet Security" job if he had known from the start that it would mean reading people's personal emails. Take, for instance, the constant stream of banter between Jennifer and Beth. Lincoln knows he should send them a form notice about not using the internal email system for personal business, but the stuff they're chatting about is so innocuous . . . and he finds that he kind of looks forward to reading their exchanges. In fact, he finds that he genuinely likes both women -- particularly Beth. But how can he ever admit to her that he became interested by reading her personal email?
I just loved this story. Lincoln, with his geekiness and awkwardness, and his sense of being adrift in the world, is such a great character; I just wanted to pat him on the back and tell him it would be okay. I also loved the plotting; I really couldn't tell if Lincoln and Beth would ever get together, or whether this would just be some kind of sad learning experience for Lincoln. All in all, a fantastic read, probably in my top ten this year.
I've actually been hearing about Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell ever since it came out this past February -- so much so, in fact, that I resisted reading it. But after reading Attachments, I knew I had to pick this one up.
When Park meets Eleanor, it's not exactly love at first sight. Park isn't one of the cool kids; he gets by by keeping his head down. Which is obviously not what Eleanor is doing when she gets on the bus the first day of school, all wild red hair and loud clothes. But there's an open seat next to Park, and when nobody else will let her sit down, Park ungraciously allows her to take the space. Over the next few weeks, Park notices that Eleanor is reading his comic books over his shoulder. The relationship progresses, and soon they are sharing mix tapes. Then they find that they are friends, and then, eventually, more than friends. But this is not as easy as it sounds -- Eleanor is a hard person to get close to, partly because she is hiding how truly dire her home life is from the rest of the world -- even from Park. Maybe even from herself.
The characters, oh, the characters in this book! The titular characters are great, of course, but the secondary characters are really fascinating and complex as well. I love Park's parents. Throughout the book, I could see them making parenting choices that were clearly in what they saw as Park's best interest, even when I (or Park) didn't agree with them. Eleanor's mother and stepfather, on the other hand -- what a pair! The stepfather is sleazy and terrifying, but the mother is the one I struggle with most -- not because she is poorly written, but because the writing is excellent and I have known people like this, which makes her all the more troubling. And throughout the story, I kept thinking, Park can't fix this -- but somebody needs to.
And so, even though I originally hesitated because I don't care for books set in the '80s, and because I don't love graphic novels or heavy metal, I find that I loved this book, and would recommend it . . . even if you don't think it sounds like your sort of thing.
And, having read Attachments and Eleanor & Park, of course I immediately grabbed Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.
Cather writes fanfic -- and she writes it really well. In fact, her long-running fic, based on the über-popular Simon Snow fantasy series, has thousands of fans. And when she goes off to college, Cath plans to continue writing -- in fact, when she gets to college, she finds that the comfort of writing the fanfic is all that keeps her going some days. Her roommate is intimidating, the campus is overwhelming, and her twin sister, who opted to live in a different residence hall, wants to have nothing to do with Cath. Meanwhile, her father may be kind of self-destructing back at home. But it's not all downers -- Cath is accepted into an upper-level writing course, eventually makes peace with her roommate, and meets Levi, an ag student who is relentlessly charming (and who admits to not having read the Simon Snow series. "But I've seen the movies!" he protests). Then again, her lit professor views fanfic as little more than plagiarism, and Levi . . . is dating Cath's roommate. And then there's Nick, who meets with Cath regularly to collaborate on a writing project . . . Well, it's complicated. But throughout, Cath handles things with wit and humor.
This may be my favorite Rainbow Rowell book yet, probably because I was just like Cath when I started college (well, except for the whole fanfic thing). If I had been at a big school, I too would have been too introverted and intimidated to locate the dining hall. So there's an element of nostalgia playing into my love for this book. Also, while the Simon Snow series doesn't actually exist, it's pretty obviously a stand-in for Harry Potter (my love for which is well-documented). I've never wandered into the wilds of fanfic, but I can sympathize with wanting more and more of a series. Cath writes slash, basically analogous to Harry/Draco (just, yikes), but it's her enthusiasm and obvious skill that's really impressive, and the way that she has to find her way from writing in the comfortable, familiar world created by another author, to creating her own stories and finding her own voice and strength as a writer. (I can't help but wonder if Rowell is partially basing the character on Cassandra Clare, who got her start writing Harry Potter fanfic featuring Draco.) The romance aspect of the book ties up almost too neatly, but there are so many things going on in the story that I wasn't bothered by that -- it's less about Cath and her romance, and more a general coming-of-age story that includes a romance.
I'm not sure that I would recommend this book as widely as I would Eleanor & Park -- but on the other hand, this is the book I'm more likely to go back and reread. I would definitely recommend it to fellow Harry Potter fans, fellow introverted college students or former college students, and especially to anyone who has been part of a fandom, particularly lovers of fanfic.
I'd be in, if I could find any Rainbow Rowell. Hmm … maybe I can influence our librarian ...
I read The Circle by Dave Eggers for the big One Book, One LibraryThing initiative. Since discussion starts today, I thought I'd better write my review now!
Mae is stuck in a dead-end job at the public utilities in the town where she grew up. Desperate for a better position, she swallows her pride and approaches her college friend Annie, who is a high-ranking employee at The Circle, the company that has revolutionized social media and online interaction. When Mae is hired on in an entry-level position at The Circle, she is ecstatic. The campus is huge, offering seemingly limitless perks to its employees, from a sample room full of free clothes and products, to dorms where staff can stay if they are working late or attending a social function. The workload is challenging, but Mae finds that she can easily keep up, and she loves the constant feedback from both customers and her supervisors, so she always knows exactly where she stands. In fact, by increasing her social media interactions, she can actually improve her standing among her fellow employees. Granted, this leaves little time for any non-Circle interactions with family or former friends, but it's a small price to pay to be part of the company that is creating the future of the Internet. And the more Mae rises in the staff hierarchy at The Circle, the more she buys in to its philosophy of transparency.
I found this an enjoyable enough read -- not a favorite, and certainly not one that I want to purchase and reread, but I didn't hate every minute of it, either. On the positive side, it was a fast, gripping read, which I finished in a couple of days. I thought the setting was good (I could clearly picture the campus, even though parts of it seemed impractical -- multi-level glass dining area, really?), and I did spend a lot of time thinking about what my responses would be if I were in Mae's shoes. Since I'm sure that's what the author intended, the book was a success on that front.
On the other hand, the book does suffer from a few basic issues -- it's message-heavy, for one thing, and none of the characters are particularly likeable. Also, the author obviously didn't do his homework in several areas, leading to some factual inaccuracies that can take the reader right out of the story. Mae is also not particularly believable as a woman, nor does her character show much depth. The latter may have been an authorial choice rather than an unintentional flaw, but the former is almost certainly a weakness in the writing. Also -- I'm not sure if this is actually a negative, but I knew one of the major plot twists early on (Spoiler --I'm going to use the spoiler tag, but I know it doesn't work in all browsers):
It didn't take away from my enjoyment of the story; on the contrary, I felt quite pleased to be vindicated when that plot twist was revealed! However, I did wonder why Mae didn't see through it sooner.
I'm really looking forward to the big group discussion about this book, as I know it has engendered a lot of strong reactions, both positive and negative.
Republic of Thieves is the long-awaited third book in the Gentleman Bastard sequence by Scott Lynch.
If there's one group of people Locke Lamora is unlikely to want to work for, it is the Bondsmagi of Karthain. (Readers of previous volumes will know why!) But when they make him an offer that he literally can't refuse, he finds himself embroiled in Karthaki politics, facing off against none other than Sabetha -- a former member of the Gentleman Bastards, and Locke's first love. There's a lot of history between the two of them, and the political battle that the Bondsmagi have set up is quite real; neither can afford to expend anything less than their best effort. Who will triumph -- and will the cost of the battle be, once again, their friendship?
There are two stories being told here: the present Karthaki elections caper, and the past story from when Locke, Sabetha, and the gang were teenagers. I find that I liked this book better than a lot of reviewers -- both stories seemed strong to me, whereas in the past when Lynch has used flashbacks, they have generally only served the present-day storyline. In this case, the flashback story may actually be the stronger of the two, as the present-day storyline is pretty similar to what we've seen before: Locke is unwillingly roped in to working for a more powerful person or entity and must strain his reserves to make it out alive. The best thing about the present-day story is Sabetha. For once, Locke Lamora may not be the cleverest person in the room! And since the flashback story focuses on theatre -- a type of theatre not too far removed from our world's English Renaissance theatre -- I was bound to like it.
The book ends with a couple of minor twists and revelations, setting up for the next volume in the series without leaving us with the sort of cliffhanger that concluded Red Seas Under Red Skies.
I'd been meaning to read The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden for some time now. So, when I was browsing through available audiobooks for a recent trip, I was pleased to come across this -- and not only was it a book I had been meaning to read, but it was narrated by Tony Shaloub!
Mario's family owns a newsstand in the Times Square subway station. One day, while minding the stand, Mario hears a sound one doesn't usually hear in New York City: the soft chirping of a cricket. The cricket in question is Chester, who inadvertently caught a ride in from Connecticut in a picnic basket. Mario is fascinated by the small creature and makes a pet of him -- albeit one that lives at the newsstand, since his mother will not allow the insect into her house. At the newsstand, Chester is soon befriended by Tucker Mouse and Harry Cat, two street-smart city dwellers who appreciate Chester's friendly personality and musical ability. Chester enjoys life with his new friends, but then, disaster strikes, and it is at least partially Chester's fault. Can he find a way to make up for it to his benefactors -- and will he ever find his way back home to Connecticut?
I'm not sure how I missed out on this book as a kid, since it's just the sort of thing I would have liked. I enjoyed it now, of course, though it is a little dated in spots (Mario visits Chinatown and the depictions of his visit there don't sit as well with a modern audience as they may have in the past). Unsurprisingly, Shaloub's narration is excellent and contributed to my enjoyment of the story.
Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo is a quirky story about a comic-book-obsessed girl and her poetry-loving squirrel.
Flora Belle Buckman is a cynic -- but even she is amazed when she sees a squirrel get sucked into a vacuum cleaner, and emerge triumphant. The ability to escape almost certain death by vacuum proves to be only one of Ulysses the Squirrel's extraordinary abilities. Of course, he has enemies, too . . .
To tell the truth, the plot of this story is not what sticks with me after reading -- it's the quirkiness that makes an impression. Amid the wacky squirrel-related adventures, there are some deeper musings on philosophical questions of life and love, elevating this above the level of "just another crazy superhero book." I liked it well enough, but did not love it.
Longbourn by Jo Baker tells a story that bustles behind and beneath the familiar world of Pride and Prejudice.
Sarah was an orphan before the housekeeper at Longbourn took her on as a housemaid. Now she scrubs floors, does laundry, helps prepare meals, and does dozens of other tasks for the members of the Bennet family. Sarah sometimes dreams of more -- of being a lady, or at least, not a servant -- but Longbourn is a good place, all in all, and Sarah is lucky to be there. When a new footman is hired, a taciturn man with a mysterious past, Sarah is at first intrigued, and then, when he seems to snub her in favor of keeping to himself, disdainful. Another man, a servant of Mr. Bingley who has recently arrived in the neighborhood, also fascinates Sarah, as he has ambitions beyond his current station. Will he be Sarah's ticket to freedom, or does happiness lie with the enigmatic but undeniably attractive footman?
One of the fascinating things about this story is the way it ties in to the familiar events of Pride and Prejudice, but does not tell that story from a different perspective. Those looking for a below-stairs view of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy's romance may be disappointed; Sarah has plenty going on in her own life, and the concerns of her employers take a backseat to matters of her own heart. The Bennets, though generally portrayed as kind employers, are also exposed in some of the foibles that only servants would be privy to. And, of course, some events in P&P have more of a bearing on the servants' hall than others: the visit of Mr. Collins is a noteworthy affair, since he will someday be the servants' employer, and could decide to summarily fire all of them when he takes possession of the house, if he is not suitably impressed by the quality of service!
I found this a highly enjoyable book, well-written and well-researched. If you are an Austenophile or generally interested in historical fiction about ordinary people, I certainly recommend this book.
Happy Thanksgiving, foggi.
The Last Guardian by Eoin Colfer is the final book in the Artemis Fowl series. As with the other books, I listened to the audiobook narrated by Nathaniel Parker, who does an excellent job. In terms of plot, I found this book better than its predecessor, but not quite on par with the early books in the series. Worth reading to finish off the series, but not so excellent as to put the series on the radar for anyone who was not already interested.
Also, I read Attachments earlier this year and had a "new favorite author!" discovery moment too. Haven't managed to track down any of her other work yet, but I'm really looking forward to Fangirl.
Hero by Alethea Kontis is the second book about the Woodcutter sisters. This book focuses on Saturday, the second-youngest.
When Saturday Woodcutter accidentally calls an ocean into being where her front yard used to be, she finds herself on the adventure she's always dreamed of. With her enchanted sword in hand, she faces pirates and sea monsters and a sly and irritable mountain witch who takes her captive, mistaking Saturday for Jack Woodcutter, the brother Saturday thought was long dead. Also held captive by the witch is a young man named Peregrine, whom the witch thinks is her dutiful daughter (the witch has lost her eyes, leading to all of these cases of mistaken identity). Can Saturday and Peregrine escape the witch's clutches without waking the dragon that slumbers beneath the mountain? And does romance have to be part of the adventure?
I'm really enjoying this series, which takes storylines from various fairy tales and legends and combines them into the lives of one large family. Saturday's story is more of a typical fantasy adventure and less of a fairy-tale mashup than Sunday's story (Enchanted) was, but it's still a fun read with intriguing bits and pieces of fairy tales tossed in, no doubt to be expanded upon in future volumes. And I, for one, can hardly wait to read them!
Ghost Hawk by Susan Cooper is an historical fantasy set in colonial America in the years leading up to King Philip's War.
When Little Hawk leaves his village for a winter in the wilderness, a rite of passage that every Wampanoag boy must face. When he returns, however, it is to find that nearly the whole village has succumbed to a fever spread from the white traders who have recently come to the region. As Little Hawk and the few survivors are incorporated into another village which has also seen losses from the fever, by chance he meets John Wakely, a boy a few years younger than himself. Little Hawk will meet John Wakely once again in his lifetime, and that meeting will change both boys' lives in profound and startling ways.
This is a gripping read that deals with an historical period that may be unfamiliar to some readers. Life in Little Hawk's Wampanoag village is respectfully described, and the conflicts between the settlers over issues of church and state are shown in dramatic and interesting ways. While the book has its flaws -- for instance, I thought a character that appears toward the end of the book was too obviously a stand-in for the author -- I found it an enjoyable read overall, and would recommend it to readers who enjoy similar types of stories.
The Chaos of Stars by Kiersten White is a fun, snarky read featuring Egyptian mythology in a modern setting.
Isadora is the mortal daughter of Egyptian gods, and she's kind of bitter about it. After all, what's the use of one mortal lifetime in comparison with her family's eternal years? In dealing with her moody teenage daughter while preparing for the birth of another child, Isis sends Isadora from Egypt to America to spend time with Sirus, Isadora's older (but also mortal) brother. But to keep her still involved with family concerns, Isis arranges for Isadora to volunteer at a museum that will be hosting an exhibit of art and sculpture belonging to Isadora's family. While working at the museum, Isadora makes friends with Tyler, a cheerful girl who is also volunteering there. She also meets handsome, brooding Ry -- but Isadora is determined not to fall in love, so she can just be friends with him, right? Life in California is not all parties on the beach and romantic tension, however: unexpected dangers await Isadora, and disturbing dreams point to trouble for her mother back in Egypt. Isadora is irritated at her mother, true, but she doesn't want any real harm to come to her . . . but who could harm a goddess?
This is a light, fluffy read, but it does a lot of things well. I'm no Egyptian mythology buff, but Isadora's brief explanations of life with her crazy family made the complex myths interesting and comprehensible to even a casual reader. The romance aspect of the plot was predictable but probably still enjoyable for most readers, and the mystery not too terribly obvious. Characters are well-written and likeable -- I was particularly fond of Sirus and Tyler. The dialogue and Isadora's snarky inner voice are the real stars of the book. If you like light reads with romance and mythology, and don't mind just a little teen angst, give this book a try.
(apologies for hijacking your thread foggi)
So what's the issue? It's not as though you don't chat with enough librarians here on LT.
Happy Day to you!
Far Far Away by Tom McNeal is assigned reading for a seminar I'm attending in January. I can already tell that I'm going to have a hard time discussing it critically . . . because I loved it so much!
Jacob Grimm may have died in 1863, but his spirit is doomed to wander until he figures out what it is he has left undone. After some years of roaming, he finds a boy in a small town who is one of the few in the world who can hear the voices of ghosts. Jacob knows that there is also in Jeremy's small town a Finder of Occasions, who will do Jeremy harm if left unchecked. If Jacob can protect Jeremy and encourage him to excel in school and go away to college, Jacob reasons, he can perhaps move on himself, to whatever comes next. Of course, it won't be that easy. . . .
I'm over-simplifying the plot with that summary, and certainly not doing it justice. This book has magic, humor, suspense, and romance. The characters are excellent, the writing is brilliant, and I didn't figure out who the Finder of Occasions was until fairly late in the story, though perhaps a savvier reader would have caught on sooner, since there are some nice fairy-tale related clues dropped with gentle precision at key points. There are some dark parts to the story, as well -- I wouldn't recommend it to kids, necessarily, but readers from middle school up who love magical realism and fairy-tale references should definitely read this book!
This is one of my rare five-star reads, and will definitely be among my favorites for the year.
Diamonds & Deceit by Leila Rasheed is the second book in the At Somerton series. I had some issues with the first book in the series and didn't intend to read on, but I was given an e-galley by the publisher, so I figured I'd see if the series could redeem itself. I'm going to have to include spoilers for Cinders & Sapphires in the following review . . . you've been warned.
In this book, Rose is caught between two worlds: she is not made welcome in polite society despite her new status, but neither is she allowed to return to her comfort zone below stairs. When she meets and enigmatic, artistic peer, she finds him unconventional and attractive, but so far above her that there's no question of a romance between them. Can they at least be friends, despite a few initial blunders? Meanwhile, Lady Ada has determined to accept a socially acceptable (and lucrative) proposal, putting her love for the Indian student Ravi behind her in order to save her family from further disgrace. But can she really deny her heart?
I'm a little mollified by the events of this book -- there was some fallout from the stuff that bothered me in the first book, which made it a little more realistic than the happy-sappy ending of Cinders & Sapphires promised. However, there's still nothing that elevates the writing above the common run of period romances. So, readers looking for Downton Abbey readalikes may want to consider this series, but don't expect it to transcend its genre.
As my reading count indicates, I am a book addict and tend to read anything at any available time. My interests are vast as they go from mystery to memoir to science fiction/ fantasy to middle readers to travel books. You will never see me without a book. I am a very fast reader but not a speed reader my any means.
#64 -- Maybe they will get one some day. I'd suggest you request it, but we just had that conversation! :-)
#65 -- :-D
Blood of Tyrants by Naomi Novik is the eighth book in the Temeraire series. I'm not going to give it a proper review, since I'm way behind and since it's so far into an established series. However, if "Napoleonic wars with dragons" sounds even the slightest bit interesting to you, you should definitely read His Majesty's Dragon. Temeraire continues to be a favorite character, the sort that I would like to spend time with. This book was slightly better than the previous two books, but it does have amnesia as a major plot point, which always makes me roll my eyes a little bit. Still, worth a read for fans of the series!
Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle is a lighthearted story about one crazy day in New York City.
For Nate, life in the Pittsburg suburbs is sheer misery -- he's a theatre-loving thirteen-year-old in a sports-obsessed area. He's fortunate enough to have Libby, a best friend, who loves musicals as much as he does. When she hears about open auditions for an upcoming Broadway show, she hatches a plan to get Nate to New York City for a day so he can try out. Of course, the plan is complicated and relies on several factors over which Nate and Libby have no control, so something is bound to go wrong . . . not to mention that Nate has no real stage experience, or any idea what to expect at a Broadway audition. The big city is a real eye-opener for a kid who thinks that Applebees is the height of haute cuisine. As Nate wanders haplessly through New York City, readers will be on the edge of their seats: Will Nate make it to the audition and live to tell the tale?
This is a really fun light read, recommended for fans of broadway musicals. It touches on some deeper issues in Nate's life, but in a lighthearted and humorous way, and none of the really terrible things that could happen to a kid on his own in a big city actually happen. I'd recommend this, especially if you love Broadway and/or NYC.
Better to Wish by Ann M. Martin is the first book in a new middle grade series by Ann M. Martin.
Abby's family lives in a small town on the Maine coast. They don't have a lot of money, but they're better off than many during the Great Depression. Abby's father works hard and is determined to provide a better lifestyle for his family. Unfortunately, this quest brings out hardness and cruelty in his character. Abby's growing-up years are full of both joys and sorrows, and as an adult she reflects that sometimes it's better to wish than to know what lies ahead.
I had high hopes for this series, but they have not been realized in this first book. I found the pacing a little jerky -- the story jumps from one episode in Abby's life to another, sometimes with as much as a year between events. The characters felt more like sketches than actual people to me, and I think a little more time filling things in would have helped make them more real. I also found the ending of the story abrupt and completely unsatisfying. Perhaps this is intended as a cliffhanger, to encourage readers to pick up the next book, but my understanding was that each book would follow a different generation, which means that my questions would only be answered obliquely in the next volume, if at all. This is one I don't see myself recommending, though some readers who like this sort of quiet historical fiction may find the series more enjoyable than I did.
Jepp, Who Defied the Stars by Katherine Marsh is a fascinating work of historical fiction.
Jepp, a boy with dwarfism, has always been secure in his mother's love. Though he meets a wide variety of travelers who pass through his mother's tavern, he has always been cherished and protected. That changes one day in Jepp's fifteenth year, when a stranger named Don Diego arrives at the tavern. He offers to introduce Jepp to the court of the Spanish Infanta at Brussels, where there are others like Jepp who live a life of luxury. Jepp is torn between the comfort of life at the tavern, and the excitement of life at court, but in the end he decides to travel to the court. Life there is both good and bad -- the Infanta has caused a special wing of the palace to be built for the "court dwarfs," with specially proportioned furniture and fittings. However, the dwarfs are expected to perform to the Infanta and her court in ways that are often humiliating -- for instance, Jepp's first appearance involves jumping out of a pie. Jepp soon makes friends with the other dwarfs, particularly Lia, a lovely young woman near his own age. But Jepp is naive in many ways, and life at court is full of intrigue and danger for those without the power to protect themselves. Jepp will have many adventures over the course of the story, and will often wonder if the course of his life is determined by the stars, or whether he can have a hand in creating his own fate.
I found this story completely absorbing as I listened to the audiobook over the course of a long car trip. It's not a fast-paced read, but instead draws the reader into the richly detailed and carefully researched world of the Spanish Netherlands, circa 1590. I was favorably impressed with the audio production, and I'm sure I'd be mispronouncing the main character's name if I had only read the print version (the "J" is pronounced as "Y," English speakers)! Jepp is a faceted and realistic character, very believable as a teenage boy going from a small, familiar place to a complicated court in a large city, and he definitely matures over the course of the book as he faces a variety of experiences and finds his place in the world. There are all sorts of interesting tidbits about life in the Renaissance as well. If you enjoy historical fiction, I highly recommend this book!
Curtsies & Conspiracies by Gail Carriger is the second book in the Finishing School series, and just as much fun as the first!
In this book, Sophronia continues to learn the fine points of etiquette and espionage at Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality, but many exciting things are afoot. The airship housing the school is traveling to London, and a select group of boys from Bunsen's, their brother school, has come aboard as well. All of the girls are eager for a trip to town (and a chance to flirt with some boys along the way), but Sophronia believes that there is more going on than meets the eye, and she is determined to use her skills to discover exactly what's going on. . . .
This series continues to be highly enjoyable, with steampunk goodness, vampires, werewolves, and espionage. Certainly start with Etiquette & Espionage if you are unfamiliar with the series, but readers who have already read and enjoyed that first book will find this one just as engaging.
Young Fredle by Cynthia Voigt is the story of a young mouse's unexpected journey.
Fredle is a kitchen mouse. He lives in the nest behind the wall with his extended family, and together they forage in the kitchen and pantry for food every night. The mice live by rules and routines, and any mouse too old or too sick to forage is pushed out of the nest. Fredle expects to live his entire life in the nest, and so he would have, had it not been for an unfortunate encounter with a peppermint patty. The candy is the best thing Fredle has ever tasted, but the chocolate makes him sick -- not sick enough to die, but sick enough that the other mice push him out of the nest onto the pantry floor, where the lady of the house discovers him. Too tenderhearted to just put the cat in to deal with him, she puts Fredle outside -- and thus begins an adventure with field mice and raccoons, snakes and hawks, dogs and chickens, as Fredle tries to get back inside to his home and family. The journey is an eye-opening one for Fredle as he learns about different ways of living and discovers that some of the things he has always been taught are not true at all. Will Fredle find a way home again . . . or will he choose to make a new home for himself?
In reading (or rather, listening to) this story, I was struck by how Fredle's voyage resembles Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey in many ways. Though he doesn't precisely choose to leave the nest, Fredle does choose to follow the enticing scent of the candy that causes his eventual expulsion, and from there he does meet helpers and face challenges as he attempts to return home. The writing in the story is fairly strong, and Fredle's character, with its defining trait of curiosity, is well-developed. Many of the secondary characters are also strong and interesting in their own right. I listened to the audiobook narrated by Wendy Carter, who does a very nice job of voicing the wide variety of characters Fredle meets.
I'm always bemused at the number of juvenile chapter books that feature mice, but this is a worthy addition to their ranks, one that I will recommend to fans of Beverly Cleary's Ralph and Avi's Poppy.
The Wolf Princess by Cathryn Constable is a wintery fantasy with the ethereal melancholy of a Russian fairy tale.
Sophie Smith is an orphan, a charity student at a dismal boarding school. Sandwiched between her roommates, the fashionable Delphine and intellectual Marianne, Sophie is almost invisible -- until the day she catches the eye of a visiting Russian woman. Sophie has an inexplicable longing for Russia, and hopes to go there for the school's spring trip, but she knows her absentee guardian will never approve such an expense. When circumstances conspire to allow Sophie and her friends to make the trip, she is pleased (even though the others would rather go someplace warmer than Saint Petersburg). In Russia, Sophie, Delphine, and Marianne are whisked away, not to stay with a host family as expected, but on a train ride through a blizzard to an exquisite but neglected palace deep in the Russian countryside. There, they meet a princess and learn of the tragic past of the Volkonsky family who used to live in the palace. The princess claims to be delighted to have company, and fetes the girls with picnics and skating parties and sleigh rides in the snow, despite the legendary white wolves that haunt the area around the palace. But why have Sophie and her friends been brought there? Is is by chance, or the whim of the princess . . . or is there some darker reason?
I'm a sucker for anything with a Russian feel, so this fantasy is right up my alley. It's not a perfect book -- the characterization is a little flat, and seasoned readers will find the plot twists fairly predictable -- but it does really well with describing the setting and creating atmosphere, well enough in my mind to make up for its other defects. If you're a fan of juvenile fantasy and are looking for a lovely winter read, you should certainly consider this modern fairy tale.
Just One Year by Gayle Forman is the companion book to her earlier novel, Just One Day, which I reviewed earlier this year.
Willem spent one day in Paris with a girl, and it's messing with his head. Willem has spent a lot of time with a lot of girls, but this one girl, Lulu, is the one he can't forget. The problem is that he went out to get breakfast after their one night together, and got beaten up and hospitalized and just generally delayed, and he lost her. He doesn't know where she went, or even who she is -- "Lulu" is just a nickname he gave her. Over the course of a year, Willem spends a lot of time alternately trying to find Lulu and trying to forget her. Along the way he reconnects with the family he's tried to put behind him and the friends who have supported him all along, rediscovers a passion for acting, and starts to find his way in life. But will he ever reconnect with his Lulu?
As with the last book, I found this one just okay. In the last book, I couldn't get a real sense of Willem's character, so I had a hard time understanding Allyson's fixation on him. Now that I have read this book, I actively dislike him, so it makes it even more difficult for me to root for him to get back together with Lulu/Allyson, a character that I actually did like. Because, let's face it: Willem is kind of a jerk where women are concerned. A charming and apparently handsome one, but a jerk, nonetheless. On the other hand, stepping back from my opinion of the character, this does mean that the writing in this book is good enough to make me care about the characters, and I did find it a quick and fairly engaging read. Fans of realistic YA fiction will probably enjoy these two books, and readers who liked the first book will want to read this one in order to get the other side of the story.
The Truth of Me by Patricia MacLachlan is a short but deep book about a boy, his dog, and his grandmother.
While Robert's musician parents are on tour, Robert is pleased to stay with Maddy, his eccentric grandmother. Robert's parents are impatient with Maddy's stories, and even her friend and doctor Henry is skeptical, but Robert believes wholeheartedly in Maddy's tales of her adventures with the animals that live in the forest next to her house. Robert has many anxieties, though: will his dog Ellie be good with the animals? Will he ever feel as close to his parents as he does to Maddy? Does his mother love her violin more than she loves Robert?
As with all of MacLachlan's books, this is a quick read written in simple language. The author does an excellent job of providing, with just a few descriptive phrases, reams of information about the characters and the setting, so that readers can easily picture Maddy's cottage and garden, Ellie's hound-dog soulfulness, the campsite in the woods where Robert meets Maddy's wild friends. I know fans of this author will be looking for this book, and it might earn her some new fans, as well.
I personally consider myself an excuse-making machine, and well-practiced and have become exceptionally good at it. So I'm sure I can come up with a perfectly good one for you. Hmmmm, okay, well, you DID meet me earlier this year, right? So obviously you spent at LEAST 2 months in distraction, be it from frightened paranoia or dreamy aloofness. That lack of concentration should accounts for 35-40 books, at least!
This book may just be the worst book I have ever read. I'm reviewing it elsewhere (the only reason I read the whole thing, or more than a page or two really), so I won't summarize it here, but it is truly ghastly.
My Nights at the Improv by Jan Siebold is a simple story about an observer of an improv group.
Eighth-grader Lizzie and her mother have recently moved to a new town, and Lizzie is having a little trouble settling in. While her mother teaches a community education class, Lizzie is allowed to wait in the projector room overlooking the auditorium and do her homework. As she waits, she overhears an improv class, part of the same community education program, rehearsing. She is drawn to the activities of the small group, despite the fact that a mean girl from school is part of the improv class. Each week, Lizzie looks forward to seeing what the class will learn . . . and she is able to take those lessons and apply them to her own life.
This was a nice enough story, but a little pat. Lizzie was always able to immediately apply the things she learned in her eavesdropping sessions, and she neither got caught nor decided to ask to join the class. I picked it up at a library book sale because I like reading about theatre and improv, but I found this book just all right, and will probably pass my copy along now that I have read it.
I always finish packing half an hour after we should have left for the airport, and pulling on my clothes and grabbing that last minute thing that didn't get into the suitcase when everyone else and all the suitcases are in the car with the engine running.
Safe travels. :0)
#94: Visiting family.
Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson is the first collection of the classic comic strip.
Anybody here not heard of Calvin and Hobbes? Right, then -- no need to summarize! Seriously, this comic strip about the adventures of a boy and his tiger is my favorite ever. I was planning on rereading all of the books, but I'm not sure I will get to the rest of them before the end of the year, so I'm going to go ahead and include this one in my count here. This first collection is good, though Watterson does get more creative with the format in the later years of the strip.
The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes is a pleasant book about a second-grade boy.
Billy Miller is not sure if he is ready for second grade. What if he doesn't like his teacher? What if she doesn't like him? What if the bump he got on his head on a family vacation makes it so he can't learn the things he needs to know? Billy has other worries, too: will his artist father ever get his "breakthrough?" Will his little sister always be so annoying? And he has big plans, like the one to say up all night long, and the one to memorize the poem he has to say for Family Day at school. Don't worry, Billy Miller -- you're going to have a great school year!
Kevin Henkes' real strength as a writer lies in creating child characters that are entirely believable and sympathetic. Every time I read one of his books, I think, "Here is a man who remembers exactly what it's like to be a kid." Billy's worries and feelings and plans are so authentic to kids of his age that I'm sure readers will enjoy his story, even though there are no big, exciting events in the plot -- just a string of normal school-year adventures. In that regard, this book reminded me of Beverly Cleary's Ramona books, so readers who enjoy that sort of story will probably like this one, as well.
Eruption! by Elizabeth Rusch is a high-quality juvenile nonfiction book about volcanoes and the scientists who monitor them.
This book tells the story of the Volcano Disaster Assistance Program, an agency formed by the United States Geological Survey and the U.S. Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance. In 1985, the Nevado del Ruiz eruption in Columbia devastated a large area and killed thousands in the nearby town of Armero. While nobody can prevent a volcano from erupting, scientists devoted their efforts to monitoring volcanoes and predicting eruptions, in the hope of minimizing loss of life in the future. This book looks at two eruptions to which the VDAP responded: the 1991 eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines, and the 2006 eruption of Mt. Merapi in Indonesia. The book focuses on the collaborative work of the scientists as they coordinate with local scientists and government officials in each region. The VDAP also offers training and support for volcanologists around the globe.
Whenever I read a book from the Scientists in the Field series, I am always favorably impressed at the writing and research in each book. Rusch does a great job of creating tension and narrative flow in an informational text, without compromising the facts contained therein. I learned a lot about volcanoes from this book, and I am sure that readers fascinated by this topic will be completely enthralled.
Wishing you for the festive season. Best wishes for 2014; I'm expecting more book bullets!
The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis is the final book in The Chronicles of Narnia. I've been reading through the series with my young cousin, and we finally finished it over Christmas vacation. I'm not writing proper reviews of these, just adding them to my total.
The Abominables by Eva Ibbotson is a posthumously-published work, probably the last from one of my favorite authors.
When Lady Agatha Farlingham is kidnapped by a fearsome creature in the Himalayas, she expects the worst . . . but soon discovers that the yeti family who abducted her are in fact extremely sweet and kind (and strict vegetarians), and just need someone to care for the babies because the mother yeti has died. For nearly a century, Lady Agatha cares for the yetis, teaching them English and proper etiquette. But when resort hotels and ski lodges start encroaching on the secluded valley that the yetis call home, Lady Agatha requests the help of a young boy named Con to remove the yetis to her ancestral home in England. On the overland journey through Asia and Europe, the Abominables have many adventures -- but the one that awaits them in England will be their most challenging yet. . . .
This is a cute and whimsical story, like much of Ibbotson's juvenile fantasy. I prefer her historical romances, but I was glad to read this last light story, and can see myself recommending it to children who are looking for a light and funny fantasy.
The Flame in the Mist by Kit Grindstaff is a rather dark juvenile fantasy.
Jemma grew up as part of the Agromond family, but just hours before her thirteenth birthday, she discovers that she was raised by them for a dark and deadly purpose. Jemma has magical powers, more than she ever realized, and the Agromonds intend to steal them in order to help bolster their own strength, which they use to cloak the land in mist and exert their influence over all of the land's inhabitants. Unless Jemma wants to be part of their dark sorcery, she must flee the castle and seek out her true family. Of course, the Agromonds will not let her go so easily. Can Jemma escape the castle, find her family, and awaken her powers in time to save the kingdom?
I wanted this to be a better story than it was. The cover is eye-catching and the premise is sound, but the writing and characterization don't live up to the book's potential. Jemma makes her way through the story mostly by chance, overhearing key conversations and being rescued multiple times by the few people and creatures in the land who oppose the Agromonds' rule. And she has a magical book that will give her any information she might need, though she is oddly hesitant to use it. The author also over-used anagrams as a puzzle element, in my opinion. Jemma's adventures are unrelentingly dark and gristly; I was exhausted (and often repulsed) just reading about them, but despite the constant adventure and danger, the book dragged along for me. There are probably readers out there who will enjoy this mixture of fantasy and horror, but I don't particularly recommend it unless you are willing to overlook the mediocre writing.
A Tinfoil Sky by Cyndi Sand-Everland was sent to me as an Early Reviewer book several months ago. In the New Year, I will resolve to do a better job with reviewing books in a timely manner, but for now, publishers will have to accept my apologies. Better late than never, right?
Twelve-year-old Mel and her mother Cecily have bounced around from one place to another since Mel was very young, and the place they've been living for the past two months is the worst Mel remembers. So, when Cecily wakes her up at 3:39 in the morning, shoves a pile of clothes and bedding into Mel's arms, and hustles her out to the car, Mel is glad to leave. Cecily announces that they are going home, back to the town where Cecily grew up and where Cecily's mother Gladys still lives. Mel envisions a warm and welcoming grandma who will bake cookies and wrap her in a loving embrace, but the reality is much different. When Mel and Cecily arrive at Gladys' apartment, Gladys refuses to open the door. Cecily and Mel live for a while in their broken-down car, parked near the river off the side of the highway, and Mel stands on the corner and sings to earn a little spare cash. But one day, Cecily doesn't return to the campsite. What will become of Mel on her own?
This was a fairly good book, though I had a few issues with some plot points. While the characterization was strong, I did find Mel a little too good to be true at times. Also, while I can't help but like the fact that Mel retreats to the library for peace and safety because she loves to read, I had a hard time buying the idea that they would hire her, even for just a few hours a week, particularly to do preschool story time. Researching Canadian minimum age laws (I believe the story is set in Canada, though that's never overtly stated), I see that it is legal in some provinces to hire 12-year-olds, but it's such a strange thing to do that it just threw me out of the story. Those plot quibbles weren't enough to keep me from enjoying the book and finishing it off in one evening, though. If you enjoy stories about plucky children overcoming bleak circumstances like poverty and homelessness, this book is for you.
>111 foggidawn: Hahahahahaha. I don't care how small the library is in Canada. There's not a chance they'd hire a 12 year old to do storytime. That would throw me out of the story too, Foggi.
P.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams-Garcia (again). This is another case where I read and reviewed the book earlier this year, but did a reread via audiobook. The audiobook narration was okay, but not great to my picky ears. While I like the way Sisi Aisha Johnson does the girls' voices, I'm less enamored of her adult voices, and there are times where she does a full stop, rather than a pause, at a comma. It breaks up the sentence in a way that seems odd to me. But I think I might be one of the pickiest audiobook listeners in the world, so don't let my opinion put you off, especially if you have listened to and enjoyed Johnson's narration of One Crazy Summer. (I didn't have any issues with her interpretation of that book, so maybe I'm just in an extremely critical mood.) Listening to the audiobook, I also noticed even more than on my first read-through how abrupt some plot points are, but that may have been intentional on the part of the author. All in all, a good book, but not (in my opinion) a great one. It's been talked up on some unofficial Newbery discussion blogs, so it will be interesting to see how it fares, both in the discussion that will take place in the seminar I'm attending in late January, and the official awards announcements a few days after that.
Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys is another Early Reviewer book that I'm belatedly reviewing.
Josie Moraine is sharp, independent, and well-read. She's also the daughter of a French Quarter prostitute, and she feels that, as long as she lives in New Orleans, that's all that people will see. Josie's fondest wish is to go to college, preferably somewhere far away from the Big Easy, but it's not so easy to leave. Josie is saving every penny she can while working two jobs, but it will take years to earn enough to pay tuition to Smith, her dream school. And she can't ask her mother for help, considering that her mother is more likely to steal Josie's savings than to chip in money for college. Josie doesn't know who her father was, but she likes to imagine that he was someone good and kind, someone like Forrest Hearne, a gentleman from out of state who stops by the bookstore on New Years Eve, 1949, and speaks kindly to Josie about Dickens and Keats. Even in a brief exchange, Hearne makes Josie feel interesting, as if he sees her as someone with potential. But a few hours later, Hearne is dead -- and the next morning, while cleaning the brothel where her mother works, Josie discovers Forrest Hearne's watch under her mother's bed. Josie finds herself caught up in the murder investigation, first through her own curiosity, and later through her mother's involvement. She's also caught up in the drama of applying to Smith, fighting for a space among a crowd of applicants with more extracurricular activities and better references. To top it off, she's caught between two potential suitors, one who holds the comfort of long friendship, while the other is exciting and charming. Will she choose the former, the latter, or neither? After all, what she wants most isn't a man, but a ticket out of the Easy.
This is one of those books I can't believe I waited this long to read. The characters are layered and complex, and Josie is likeable, but also believable -- sharp, salty, and strong. She's the sort of character that you root for, but she's also a little unpredictable, so you never quite know how the story will turn out. The secondary characters are likewise well-written. I wanted a bit more from the mystery aspect of the plot, and the New Orleans atmosphere was a little diluted, but those are small criticisms when stacked against all of the goodness of the characters and writing. I definitely recommend this one.
Describe yourself: Fangirl
Describe how you feel: A Tangle of Knots
Describe where you currently live: City of Lies (It's not that bad, but other options were worse. I mean, Republic of Thieves? House of Hades? Apparently I don't read about any pleasant places.)
If you could go anywhere, where would you go: Homecoming
Your favorite form of transportation: Will Sparrow's Road
Your best friend is: Far Far Away
You and your friends are: The Peculiars
What’s the weather like: A Tinfoil Sky
You fear: Eruption! (alternately, if I finish it today, Something Under the Bed is Drooling)
What is the best advice you have to give: Walk Two Moons
Thought for the day: Mistakes Were Made
How I would like to die: Die for Love
My soul’s present condition: A Solitary Blue
Screen Time by Lisa Guernsey is a professional development book I've been working on for a few months, reading snatches of it in spare moments at work. I was down to about half a chapter and the epilogue, so I decided to bring it home and finish it.
This is an updated and re-titled version of Into the Minds of Babes which was published in 2007. The author has carefully researched her topic, performing some interviews herself and citing a wide range of studies on the topic of media usage with young children -- everything from TV to tablets. It's a thorough and balanced approach, and the author's conclusion is that parents and caregivers should consider the content, context, and needs of the individual child when considering how much screen time, and of what sort, is appropriate. I found it valuable, and recommend it to parents of toddlers, as well as those who work with toddlers and technology on a regular basis.
Something Under the Bed is Drooling by Bill Watterson -- another Calvin & Hobbes collection that I started earlier this month. I thought I'd go ahead and finish it up, so I'm not going into the New Year with a lot of half-finished books. This will be my last book of the year -- I briefly considered doing a Calvin & Hobbes marathon read this evening, but decided it would be too much of a good thing. Still, 195 books is not bad! Here's to an even better year in 2014.
Happy New Year, everyone! I will post a link to my 2014 thread here soon.