This was recommended by a friend, for whom the Betsy-Tacey books are longtime favorites; I probably wouldn't have picked it up on my own. That said, I...moreThis was recommended by a friend, for whom the Betsy-Tacey books are longtime favorites; I probably wouldn't have picked it up on my own. That said, I did enjoy this--it's a sweet, cozy book with a very relatable main character, and I can easily see how it could become a beloved comfort read for many people. It fits somewhere on the continuum that contains Little Women and Anne of Green Gables (or Laura Ingalls Wilder's books--my own childhood favorites--minus the poverty and the wilderness). While there's a layer of cheery all-American moral girl's story that's not really to my taste, I was surprised by how much I found myself identifying with Emily--bookish, bright, struggling to conquer her despair at being stuck in her small town caring for her dear but frail grandfather as her friends go off to college. Her emotions ring true, and that's what makes this a book that's still worth reading, in its small, old-fashioned way.(less)
An essential book for young girl readers; I'm glad that I was born late enough to read this growing up. Catherine is sharp, witty, and one of the more...moreAn essential book for young girl readers; I'm glad that I was born late enough to read this growing up. Catherine is sharp, witty, and one of the more engaging heroines in children's literature. The Middle Ages come vibrantly to life--unpleasant aspects included, but we see them through warm and human eyes. And the book is utterly hilarious.(less)
I read a lot of Dear America books during my childhood, so I was excited to learn that they were being brought back in print, and even more excited wh...moreI read a lot of Dear America books during my childhood, so I was excited to learn that they were being brought back in print, and even more excited when the first new volume turned out to be about the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII. So when my bookstore got an ARC of this, I snagged it. And it's pretty good: It does the trick that made the Dear America series so absorbing when I was ten, of inserting the reader into the time of its setting and making one feel the past living and breathing. On the other hand, though: did this story have to be from the perspective of a white girl?
I can see the arguments for choosing to tell this particular story: it's a different perspective (we already have Farewell to Manzanar, right?), and viewing the internment through the eyes of an outsider brings home the role of other Americans in letting the internment happen, the danger of group-think, etc. But given that this is likely to be the only volume in the series with this setting, and that there really aren't many books for children--or for anyone--about this topic, I can't help but wish that the choice had been made to give a Japanese American girl a voice.(less)
Quite good YA tale of the kind I never read as a teenager. I liked for the most part, although with some caveats, and I didn't love it. Mainly, I was...moreQuite good YA tale of the kind I never read as a teenager. I liked for the most part, although with some caveats, and I didn't love it. Mainly, I was disappointed by how the story backs away from the problem of Naomi's amnesia and instead focuses on her relationships with a few other (male) characters: her former best friend and a mysterious/troubled newcomer. Though the latter plot was well-done, it seemed like the book ended with a different story than the one it started with. The hints that are dropped toward the beginning of the book to suggest that Naomi is going to have to confront the person she was before her amnesia (and may not like what she finds) aren't really followed up. For instance, that food diary she finds right at the beginning: last I checked, consuming 600 calories per day is anorexic-level eating, especially for someone who's tall and plays sports, as Naomi is described. But after she throws the diary away in disgust, it vanishes from the plot. Likewise the hints that she was something of a mean-girl melt away, and she's able to reconcile her past and present pretty easily in the end.
Other, less picky, readers might argue that the turning of focus away from the amnesia and toward other stuff is a mature move, and that the narrative has to develop away from the loss. I can see that, but personally, I read a book about a girl who loses her memory, I want it to deal with what it means for her to have lost her memory. This story only does that halfway. Still an enjoyable read, though.(less)
I read this partly out of a sense of duty--I sell children's books, and want to be able to give useful feedback when someone asks me about this series...moreI read this partly out of a sense of duty--I sell children's books, and want to be able to give useful feedback when someone asks me about this series--and partly because I was suffering from an unusually bad cold that left my sodden brain unable to deal with any more strenuous reading. As it turns out, Artemis Fowl is quite well-suited to being read with a head cold. It is crisp, energetic, and unoriginal, with the pacing and dialogue of a caper or spy flick and a faux-sophisticate narration. The description 'James Bond, for kids, with fairies,' fits Artemis Fowl just as much after having read it as before.
Much like The Lightning Thief, this is a book that is quite derivative in its plot, and not particularly well-written, yet put together well enough and with enough energy that it's easy to see how children (who put less of a premium on originality and style than tiresome adults) could find its world vividly enthralling. The story runs like clockwork, both in the sense that it is artificial and that it hits all its marks. Its most striking element is probably Artemis himself, who, at least in this installment, is more anti-hero than hero.
Thus, I'm giving this two stars for my personal opinion of its quality, but not of the potential enjoyment it could give to others. My main objection to Artemis Fowl is that, despite all the splashy action-movie jabbering and gadgetry, fairies who are just like humans are much less interesting than fairies who are weird and alien. And Artemis, as a twelve-year-old who behaves like an adult--while satisfactorily exotic from a child's point of view--seems mostly grim and joyless to me.
Really, though, I am just too old for this book. It is made to entertain 10-year-olds, not 20-somethings, and that is perfectly fine.(less)
I liked this a lot; the world is rich and creative and the tale exciting. But I didn't quite love it. In all of Hardinge's books so far there's been s...moreI liked this a lot; the world is rich and creative and the tale exciting. But I didn't quite love it. In all of Hardinge's books so far there's been some tension between the darker and deeper elements of the story--the underlying mythos with its weight and heft--and the lighter, more broadly drawn comic/melodramatic elements, which make her stories sprightly and buoyant. The balance here felt a little off to me; at times the story sets up a complex situation but then rubs out the complexity. For instance, I felt that the evils perpetrated by one (sympathetic but misguided) character were let off too easily, while the motivation behind one fascinating, unremittingly bad, villain's behavior wasn't fleshed out enough, leaving her cartoonish. Nevertheless, this is a page-turner, imaginative and easy to become immersed in.(less)
Interesting, well-drawn characters; and while the set-up sounds like it won't have much plot, the story doesn't drag. My main problem with this book w...moreInteresting, well-drawn characters; and while the set-up sounds like it won't have much plot, the story doesn't drag. My main problem with this book was the writing--not really terrible or clunky, just very flat, to the point that it became a bit of a stumbling block for me: despite the story being told in first person, it has very little voice. However, I probably place a higher premium on literary style than most people and particularly than most teens; the shortcomings of the writing don't prevent this book from being heartbreaking, in an authentic, not melodramatic, way.(less)
Very well-written--I was deeply impressed by Dowd's Bog Child, and the writing in this one holds up to that--but I found the book's structure frustrat...moreVery well-written--I was deeply impressed by Dowd's Bog Child, and the writing in this one holds up to that--but I found the book's structure frustrating. What happens to the main character is awful--but the climax of the book, when the awfulness breaks forth, doesn't come out of what has come before, but rather takes both the characters and the reader by surprise. Where up to that point we've been inside of the protagonist's skin, we become distanced from her at that point.
But perhaps it's just that this kind of story isn't my thing.(less)