Friday, December 09, 2016

2016 book 195

L.M. Montgomery's The Blue Castle
Nicole Cliffe was tweeting about this book a couple months ago, so of course I immediately wanted to reread it--it's one of my childhood favorites--but Christina suggested we read it in our book club, so I held off. I am interested to see how our book club likes it--three of us are like serious stans for it, and the others are totally unfamiliar. One friend actually texted me recently to say "Valancy is a major downer, I am 20 percent in, should I keep going?" and I was like . . . yeah . . . but on this reread I see that Valancy doesn't get more awesome till right after that! So I hope she read on. Anyway, I have read this many many times and still love it--though I always wonder what made Valancy the L.M. Montgomery character I related to most, even when I was a kid. Like . . . hm. But anyway, I love this story and I love the little funny bits. It makes me want to go hang out in the woods in Canada and look at nature. Valancy 4-eva!

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

2016 book 194

Kendare Blake's Three Dark Crowns
Blake's latest has a premise that feels like a lot of other books I've read recently (particularly Sarah Beth Durst's Queen of Blood): it's a fantasy world where the queen always gives birth to triplet daughters, each with a magical gift, and when they are sixteen, one becomes the new queen and kills her sisters. But when you are reading library e-books, sometimes you end up reading something you might not otherwise choose. Anyway, I found parts of this fairly gripping and parts super cheesy--I was entirely uninterested in the love triangle presented here, but liked the two underdog sisters and their friends pretty well. The end was mostly very frustrating, but I guess I am intrigued enough to read the followup when it comes out. B/B+.

2016 book 193

Jordan Stratford's The Case of the Missing Moonstone
I borrowed this first book in the Wollstonecraft Detective Agency series (which features young Ada Lovelace and young Mary Shelley solving crimes together--an author's note does explain how this is historically inaccurate in every way, but sure) from a local almost-nine-year-old. She told me, "I solved the mystery pretty early on, so I bet you will too, but it's a good story anyway." Thank you for your confidence in my detective skills, local child! Anyway, she was right--the mystery is not at all hard to figure out, but this is a fairly enjoyable story--perhaps more for almost-nine-year-olds than thirtysomethings, though. Like as an adult, I thought it was creepy that Percy Shelley is the tutor of the girls here (Mary has been aged down, but he has not)--although their future marriage isn't mentioned, an adult obviously knows about it and can't help but be weirded out. I guess in the end (and because of the end!) I was more annoyed by the (many) historical inaccuracies than charmed by a pair of girl detectives. B.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

2016 book 192

Rachel Aaron's No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished
The third Heartstrikers book has more complicated dragon/family/magical politics, and then brings governmental politics in to boot. I think it suffers a little from having the two main characters largely apart for the majority of the book, though appreciated getting to see more from various lady dragons as a result (I enjoy all the dragon sibling relationships). This does also have a little more speechifying than I might usually want in a fantasy series (like, shut up and get on with the plot), but it's still good fun. And as usual, Aaron sticks the landing, leaving me eager to read the fourth one whenever it's released. B/B+.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

2016 book 191

Rachel Aaron's One Good Dragon Deserves Another
The second book in Aaron's Heartstrikers series (after Nice Dragons Finish Last) is more of the entertaining same: lots of dragon politics (and family politics), magic, action, adventure, etc. It felt a bit overstuffed at one point but Aaron does a good job tying all the threads together for a pretty great ending. I am looking forward to the third. B/B+.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

2016 book 190

E.K. Johnston's Spindle
Johnston's latest is a companion/sequel to her book A Thousand Nights, but it's just not as compelling as its predecessor. It's a Middle Eastern-tinged version of Sleeping Beauty set in the same world a couple hundred years later, focusing on the children of the spinners who were exiled when the princess was cursed by a demon. The characters are all interesting enough, but the plot is fairly weak--the story moves pretty slowly and not that much happens. It just didn't have the magic as the first one--and I kind of mean that both ways. B.

__
A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book will be released on Tuesday.

Monday, November 28, 2016

2016 book 189

Mindy McGinnis' The Female of the Species
This book is CRAZY, y'all, and I don't know what to say about it, really. My emotions really ran the gamut while reading it.  It centers on a teenage girl whose sister was brutally murdered, and when the murderer couldn't be convicted, she killed him herself as revenge. Because she has ANGER and FEELINGS. But the local teen boy who is great at everything is falling for her, and the preacher's daughter is becoming a friend, so she's slowly being drawn into the world (those two are also POV characters). First I thought all three kids were super cliched, then I found them really compelling, and then I sort of thought they were all a cliche again (the boy is particularly unbelievable as a character, but I loved the preacher's daughter). McGinnis sort of is saying some interesting things about rape culture here, while also having several characters go through various sexual assaults that are not fun or easy to read. I think I would have liked this more if the end didn't feel like a major cop-out? But also, I like the female solidarity? How did this get so many good reviews, this book is honestly kind of insane. B.

Friday, November 25, 2016

2016 book 188

Kayla Rae Whitaker's The Animators
Was I predisposed to love this book, or was it really just that mind-blowingly good? Either way, I for sure loved it. It's the story of two young women, best friends, both with troubled childhoods, and the partnership they create as they make indie animated movies. It tracks their ups and downs and it just is really beautifully written--I cared so much about both these women and their journey(s). It covers so many aspects of life--friendship and love, families of all kinds, womanhood and girlhood. Really, really great. A.


__
A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book will be released in January.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

2016 book 187

Shannon Hale and Dean Hale's The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets World
I am being one hundred percent sincere when I say that this may be the best book I have ever read. It was completely adorable and hilarious--I was giggling out loud all evening--and it honestly restored my faith in humanity during a dark time. This Squirrel Girl origin novel--focusing on a 14 year old Doreen starting a new high school in New Jersey--totally channels the humor and personality of the comics and kicks it up a notch. Plus it is effortlessly diverse and effortlessly charming. I love all of Hale's writing, but Hale doing Squirrel Girl is a complete dream team. Seriously. GREAT. A.


__
A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book will be released in February.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

2016 book 186

Una LaMarche's You In Five Acts
I only feel a little bit bad admitting that I only wanted to read this because Lin-Manuel Miranda mentioned it on Twitter (apparently he and the author are friends from college) and thus it became this year's selection for Thanksgiving Sister Book Club. It was a pretty solid read--it's about five teens at a performing arts high school, told from each POV, leading up to some terrible act. The foreshadowing, especially early on, is way too heavy handed, and the nature of the act is not super hard to guess--but otherwise the writing is actually really good, and I found Joy in particular to be a compelling character. The end was a bit too cheesy/melodramatic for me but I can see how it would appeal to an actual teen. B/B+.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

2016 book 185

Zadie Smith's Swing Time
I've been reading this off and on for a couple of weeks now--unusual, because usually I read a book in as close to one sitting as possible, or give up on it.  I think it's that I really WANT to like this book--it's ZADIE SMITH--and some of the writing is really beautiful, but I don't really care that much about the plot or the characters. The story centers on a young biracial woman who, at the start of the book, seems to have been disgraced and fired from her job as a pop star's assistant--but it also flashes back to her childhood best friend and their relationship. The thing is, it's just not that compelling--I was WAY more interested in the protagonist's mother!--and things really bog down once the pop star decides to build a school in Africa. Like I think I can see what story Smith wants to tell here, it just doesn't come together for me. It is an interesting meditation on race and dance and friendship and human relationships, but it just felt like something important was missing to tie it all together. B/B+.


__
A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book is available now.

Monday, November 14, 2016

2016 book 184

Zoraida Cordova's Labyrinth Lost
So this started off super promisingly--a girl in Brooklyn, from a family of brujas, is about to come into her magical power, but she doesn't want it. I loved the way Cordova depicted the family and the magic here, and especially enjoyed seeing the three sisters interacting. Then of course things go wrong b/c the protagonist is dumb, and it quickly turns into a dangerous magical journey story (very later and lesser Rick Riordan). Like, just constant bickering and serious stupidity. It was so frustrating! I also just was not feeling the male love interest (the female love interest was super cute though). Oh well. B.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

2016 book 183

Jaclyn Moriarty's A Tangle of Gold
I don't know what it is about Jaclyn Moriarty, but her books are the ultimate comfort reads when times are tough. And the third Colors of Madeleine book is such a nice wrap up--lots more characters and action and intrigue and a little romance, but Moriarty weaves all the crazy story threads together and makes it work. I did wish for a little more from the sister relationship this go-round, or maybe it's just that I wanted more of the story because I loved these girls so much (and all the other characters too). And I also loved forgetting about the real world for a while and being so engaged with this one. Sigh.

2016 book 182

Jaclyn Moriarty's The Cracks in the Kingdom
Totally solid second outing in a trilogy--this one ramps up the intrigue and adds a little romance, and keeps things interesting and engaging, even if you've read it before. I love these characters and they are making me feel better today.

Friday, November 11, 2016

2016 book 181

Jaclyn Moriarty's A Corner of White
When the world is a terrible place, the only thing to do is to get caught up in an entirely different world--so I am rereading the Colors of Madeleine trilogy. And to this book's credit, I got so engrossed that I really did forget the world's terribleness while reading. I love this story--two teens in different worlds (one, our Cambridge, the other, a place with weird magical happenings) communicating through a crack between said worlds (located in a parking meter and a broken tv, respectively). Really compelling characters and great plotting, even on a reread. Plus the occasional really lovely turn of phrase. Moriarty is such a great writer!

Saturday, November 05, 2016

2016 book 180

Elizabeth Wein's Code Name Verity
I guess I've been a little more quiet on this blog than I usually am, but I've been going back and forth between two e-books and the audiobook of this all week--my heart just wasn't into the other two books, because I was so caught up in this story (as usual), so finally I decided to just switch to the e-book, which is so much faster! (Can I say, I love the syncing between audio and e-book feature--so useful!) Anyway, this is one of my top five books, amazing story of female friendship and also a major WWII adventure story, etc etc. I only sobbed like six times on this re-read! I am forcing yet another book club to read this and look forward to seeing what they all thought.

Monday, October 31, 2016

2016 book 179

Patricia MacLachlan's The Poet's Dog
Newbery winner (for Sarah, Plain and Tall, etc) Maclachlan's latest centers on a dog who has learned how to speak--but only poets and children can understand him--and what happens when he rescues two children from a snowstorm. Delightful and bittersweet. Teddy is one of the great dogs of literature. A/A-.


__
A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book is available now.