There are quite a few stylistic elements here that tend to annoy me a great deal, the episodic nature of the plot, how it just sort of ends with no re...moreThere are quite a few stylistic elements here that tend to annoy me a great deal, the episodic nature of the plot, how it just sort of ends with no real closure, and the tropes that are often overused in MG realistic fiction. The fact that I liked it as much as I did despite these things says a lot about the quality of the writing and character development in the book. Albie is an excellent every-kid narrator. The whole concept of being an "almost" is one so many can relate to and his voice is absolutely perfect. He tells his story exactly the way a child in his situation would (which is why the episodic plot makes sense even if it's not my favorite thing to read) and his observations are spot on and conveyed exactly like a fifth grader would do it. One of my favorite parts after a classmate calls Albie a "retard" and the principal makes an announcement that the word is "outlawed" at the school: But Darren Ackleman doesn't call me "retard" anymore. Moron. That's what he called me on Thursday. Moron. Numbskull. Bozo. Idiot. Stupid little rat. Marblehead. Freak. Dum-dum. Hopeless. Lamebrain. Crybaby. F-minus. Dummy That's what he called me on Friday, and every day since. Dummy. Dummy. Dummy. Darren Aclkleman doesn't cal me "retard" anymore. But I think maybe it's not words that need to be outlawed.
Last week was the week for reading books I hadn't read yet by my favorite authors. Frances Hardinge is definitely one of my favorites. While I don't always love each individual book, I always appreciate them for the works of art they are. The Lost Conspiracy (Gullstruck Island-UK) is one of those books that swept me away on a tide of beautiful imagery and left me clinging to each page ready to know what happened next.
The Lost Conspiracy is a book that does so much right it is hard to no where to begin. The setting is beautifully treacherous, an island with jungles, volcanoes, dangerous aquatic animals, and cut off from any other part of the world. Harginge brings the island to life in vivid colors, sounds, and feelings. As Hathin and Arilou journey throughout, the reader goes with them and experiences it with them.
Hathin is an amazing heroine. Her entire existence is based on serving her sister. It is what her entire life has always been for. She is Arilou's quiet unobtrusive shadow. People barely even realize she is there most of the time, which works out well for her because it allows her to observe and then manipulate the situation to go where she needs it to go. This life has developed her mind into a strategic, sharp instrument for getting what her sister and her people need. These skills serve her well as her world is blown apart by a conspiracy, and it is up to her to save her sister, herself, and all the Lace people of the island. There is a strong cast of supporting characters that surround Hathin from beginning to end, changing and multiplying as the story goes on. Each of these are intriguing in their own right and fully realized (I don't think Hardinge knows how to write characters any other way), but this story is Hathin's story. She deserves all the credit and glory due her for every hardship and triumph.
The plot is complicated and twisty involving centuries of myth, misunderstanding, and miscommunication. Hardinge has created a razor sharp look at colonialism and its affects with this story. The Lace are one group of the island's indigenous people. It has been a couple hundred years since the settlers came and while they intermarried with many of the other tribes, the Lace remained separate. This is mostly due to an unfortunate incident that involved kidnapping and sacrificing settlers to the volcanoes. Through the history of the island and the current politics tearing it apart, Hardinge depicts perfectly how a clash of cultures, a misunderstanding of tradition, and the easy way prejudices can be used to ignite hate, fear, and violence can cause a ripple affect that is felt and used for generations. I like that while there is clearly a villain, there is also a lot of horror that occurs because ordinary people allow themselves to be manipulated, carried away by a mob mentality, or simply don't stand up and do what's right. I like the shades of gray in that, something else Hardinge is typically good at depicting.
Some favorite quotes that show Hardinge's command of language and her themes: There was a shout of laughter at the idea of the little Lace girl kidnapping the burly towner and taking him away to sacrifice. It was a joke, but centuries of distrust and fear lay behind it. Soon somebody would say something that was sharper and harder, but it would still be a joke. And then there would be remark like a punch in the gut but made as a joke. And then they would detain her if she tried to leave and body would stop them because it was all only a joke...
And so ended the conference of the invisible, in the cavern of blood and secrets, on the night of the mist.
"You see," Therrot added in what was probably meant to be a comforting tone, "revenge doesn't need to be face-to-face. Maybe you're not made for sticking a knife in someone...but would you feel the same way about planting a little fistful of leaves and roots?" Hathin tried to imagine herself using her sickle to dig root space for a sly, slow killer. The idea did feel different, but she was not at all sure it felt better.
My one complaint is that it is a little long. Hardinge's books often are yet usually I can't think what would be cut out. Here I did feel there was a lot of detail in the middl portion that could have been pared down or combined to make the pacing better. This is one small detractor for me in a book that is full of amazing elements. Hardinge is a fantastic storyteller and if you haven't read this or her other books, you definitely need to pick one up. (less)
This is excellent and has all of the elements about Kantra's Carolina series that I love. Patrick is an amazing father and that is always a sexy chara...moreThis is excellent and has all of the elements about Kantra's Carolina series that I love. Patrick is an amazing father and that is always a sexy characteristic for me. Katie is driven and insecure, but also knows how to speak her mind and has a lot of courage. I really enjoyed how the two of them learned to compromise and fit their worlds together. My only quibble is that he though the phrase "lady doctor" in his head a little too much.
And then there is Jack, Patrick's son. Kantra writes kids so darn well. I am always super excited to find adult authors who can do this because an alarming number of them can't. It is like they have never been around a child or something. But Kantra manages to do it well no matter what age she is writing (4, 10, 16=they all ring true).
So now I have another series to read. Well played, making this one free for a while. The next one will be mine soon....(less)
The Thickety is an interesting fantasy world with a fast-paced and engaging plot. Kara is a strong sympathetic main character and the life she lives i...moreThe Thickety is an interesting fantasy world with a fast-paced and engaging plot. Kara is a strong sympathetic main character and the life she lives is not easy. I can't really love this book for reasons that are such a personal bias that I don't even feel it is important to share them, but I can see how it would appeal to a lot of young readers. (less)
Zane and the Hurricane is an interesting look at the events of Hurricane Katrina from a boy not from New Orleans but who was visiting his great grandm...moreZane and the Hurricane is an interesting look at the events of Hurricane Katrina from a boy not from New Orleans but who was visiting his great grandmother who lived in the Ninth Ward. It covers all the main points that need to be covered: the evacuation notice, the levees breaking, the chaos at the Dome, and the lawlessness. For some reason I felt emotionally detached from it all though. The story did not impact me in the same way Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere , the other Hurricane Katriana MG novel that came out this year, did. This is a great pick for more reluctant readers as it is shorter though. (less)
After reading The Floating Islands a couple of years ago, I immediately put The City in the Lake on my TBR. There it sat despite the fact that I adored The Floating Islands, House of Shadows, and just really like Rachel Neumeier as a person too. After reading and loving Black Dog earlier this year I decided I needed to read this sooner rather than later and the Shelf-Sweeper challenge gave me the perfect opportunity for that. And I loved it so much.
I would really love to know what it is like to live inside Rachel's head, because all of her books are distinctly different, wildly inventive, and not what I think I'm getting when I start reading. You would think by now I would stop being surprised by that, but I continue to be amazed at her creativity and how her writing style alters to fit each world she has created. In The City in the Lake we get a quest story set in a fantasy world. If you think you know what that looks like and you've seen it before, you are wrong. You haven't seen this one. I loved the world here and how vast it is, yet contained in a rather small setting for the story. It is impressive how Neumeier is able to convey that vastness with few words. (Those who read this blog regularly know that is a trait my favorite authors all tend to share.) I loved the idea of the two cities, one in the lake and one on it, that reflect each other. The Forest in all its mysterious darkness is brought to full intimidating life and Timou's small village is rendered in just the right way. Reading this book, I actually felt like I was in all of these places and experiencing them in the same way as the characters.
The book's action centers around the royal family and Timou, a Mage's daughter, who never knew her mother. When the prince and then the King go missing, the King's older bastard son is left in charge and Timou's father has disappeared into the city to try and help. Timou follows when he doesn't return and discovers twisted secrets and a whole lot of family drama. There are a lot of characters involved and they are all well developed despite the shortness of the novel. I loved how Timou is a character of quiet strength. She has incredibly powerful magic and yet is not at all tempted by power. She is patient, stubborn, and hardworking. Her feelings are always kept under tight control, a trick she learned from her father, but one that has her confused when she begins to have feelings for Jonah, one of the men in her village. Jonah also has a quiet strength. He is not a sword wielding, run-into-danger type of hero, but his heroism and what he chooses to do with it are even more impressive as a result. I also really loved both of the princes, who are very different in all the ways brothers are. Neill, the bastard, is a fascinating character. He is the one who caught my imagination the most due to the choices he makes-and the ones he didn't but could have. Cassiel, the heir to the throne, is young and has many traits you would expect from being the younger, favored son, but he also has a core of steel and courage that is impressive. His charm and humor only make this more appealing (even if I was choosing between them, I would choose to like his brother more.) In dress, attitude, and actions, the villain is one of the creepiest I've read in some time. The symbolism Neumeier uses to introduce the concept of the villain into the story does an excellent job of adding to this terrifying calmness of evil the villain presents.
The City in the Lake is exactly the sort of fantasy I love and now I'm kicking myself for not having read it sooner. The world, characters, and story all combine to make an enthralling read and Neumeier's evocative prose put me right in the story. Woven in to the magic and intense political drama is also a great tale of siblings. All of my favorite things in a fantasy plus stuff I never knew to ask for. READ IT NOW. (less)
I'm really glad this wasn't the first James book I read because I like the others so much more, but this one is still a cute fun story. The character...moreI'm really glad this wasn't the first James book I read because I like the others so much more, but this one is still a cute fun story. The character development is not as good as her later works, and I still don't know why Taylor was so convinced Jason wouldn't do exactly what her fiancee did to her. (less)
The Kiss of Deception by Mary Pearson is a book I looked forward to with much anticipation. I will always read a political intrigue fantasy story, even if many times they leave me dissatisfied. As I began to read, I thought this might be one of those. I almost DNFed it. In the end I'm glad I didn't because once stuff started happening, it got really good.
I loved the opening chapters of the book. I was entranced by the cadence of the words, the world-building, and Lia herself. I thought the build-up to Lia's flight and the carefully given glimpses into her life to explain it were truly well done. Then the narrator introduces the prince and the assassin in two chapters each form their point of view. And then a great deal doesn't happen but romantic angst for about 150 pages. This is where the author almost lost me. There isn't so much political intrigue as romantic intrigue. It is possible to do this well, but it felt a little forced here, like the author was trying so hard to be coy, she lost what could have been a lot of great character and plot development as a result. It didn't help that Lia mentions that there is a lot banter exchanged between her and Rafe (and she enjoys this), but we as readers are not privy to this banter. Hello! I love good banter. I crave good banter. If you are going to spend so much time developing a romance, DEVELOP IT. Don't just tell me about it. I feel like this middle part could be much shorter and it would do the book a world of good. Eventually something happens that moves the plot forward and things get amazing from then on.
The latter third of the book is where Lia's character begins to turn into a person I will follow and cheer from now until the end of the trilogy. She comes across as spoiled (or at least she did to me at first). Not because she wants fine things and is unwilling to work, but because she abandoned her family and her people at a time they truly needed her. Running away from your father the king may seem brave but when it risks a war that will costs innocent lives, you are the one that is in the wrong. Lia's naiveté about the world and the way it works starts to melt away as she is forced to confront some harsh realities. The Lia that is present at the end of the book is very different from the one at the beginning and I like her so much better, but it was interesting to watch her get there. That change happening as it did was what was needed to make her the hero she will need to be for what is coming next.
Speaking of....this book has what could be called a cliffhanger ending except it really kind of just ends. It's not like we got to the climax and were left hanging. There is no climax. This feels like all rising action, which, I suppose, one could argue is fine in the first part of a trilogy. I personally just like each of my installments in a series or trilogy to have its own distinct plot arc. The writing is engaging though, and now I'm hooked. There is no way I'm going to let this trilogy go unfinished. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens in book two.
One other concern I had going in was that there was going to be a love triangle, and while what manifested here vaguely resembles one, I feel like Pearson dealt with that well. I can only hope that continues because I will be unhappy if Lia actually waffles at all between these two. I don't want to spoil anyone so I will just say this about the boys: one of them is amazing, one of them is so not. (Like getting drunk and assaulting her so not.)
Overall this one is enjoyable, though I think the pacing could have been much better. The end really saved it for me and I'm glad I kept reading.
I read an e-galley provided by the publisher, Henry Holt, via NetGalley. The Kiss of Deception goes on sale July 8. (less)
After reading and throughly enjoying The Burning Sky, I wanted to read some of Thomas's adult novels. I liked this in a lot of ways, but thought the h...moreAfter reading and throughly enjoying The Burning Sky, I wanted to read some of Thomas's adult novels. I liked this in a lot of ways, but thought the hero was too much of a jerk for too long. After seeing what her uncle was capable of he totally should have mellowed a bit. Could not figure out why Ellie was in love with him based on his behavior toward her. As the reader seeing into his head, I liked him more than she should have, but still thought he was a jerk. I'm thinking based on some of my friends reviews there are better Thomas books out there so I will try one more of her adult novels before deciding to just stick with her YA.(less)
When I discovered what Don't Call Me Baby by Gwendolyn Heasley was about, I immediately wanted to read it because I like books that explore online dynamics and family dynamics. A book with both seemed a perfect fit for me and this one does both fairly well.
I have never understood the world of mommy-blogs. To be perfectly honest, they creep me out. I'm sure there are plenty of people out there who don't get why people blog about books either, but at least I don't have to talk about MY KIDS on the book blog. (I know I do occasionally but only briefly and I always ask permission first.) I was perfectly prepared going in to completely side with Imogene and not her mom. No surprises there, that is what happened. Meg is absorbed with her blog (the entries she writes are super obnoxious). It has taken over her life. She has lost sight of who her daughter is and what she wants. Every little thing they do revolves around the blog in some way. Imogene does not respond in the most mature manner to her mother's blogging. She is young and her voice definitely reflects that. At her school the 9th graders are still in junior high and not at the high school yet. She has had a fairly sheltered life which causes her to sound even younger. Her best friend Sage is the daughter of a blogger too. Her mom runs a vegan/organic eating blog. Sage rebels by gorging herself on junk food from the mall food court on a regular basis and eating sugar from any source she can get it. Together the girls launch their own blog to counteract their moms. Imogen grows a lot over the course of the book and discovers things about herself, her mom, and the complications of life. While Meg is an example of how not to deal with a teenage daughter, she really does love Imogen and they don't have a terrible relationship. The way their situation was resolved is believable and makes sense. My favorite character is Imogene's grandmother (Meg's mom) who lives with them. I really enjoyed the inter-generational interactions and conversations from this.
The book is an interesting inspection of online versus offline life, the motives people may have for sharing what they do online, and the benefits of unplugging it all for a little bit. There is also an interesting look at who is really more obsessed with social media, teens or their parents. All of this is good stuff even if it is not as well executed in places as it might have been. Mostly though it is a book about family and relationships. What I enjoyed the most were watching the interactions between the three generations of women in this family and how they loved each other despite their differences. It is certainly worth a read if these are things that interest you and I am now interested in picking up Heasley's other novels.(less)
I am still making my way through Diana Wynne Jones's backlist. I probably wouldn't have read The Homeward Bounders for a long time to come as it's currently out of print in the the US (except as an e-book) if it weren't for a conversation on Twitter I had with Sage Blackwood in which she said she heard some consider it to be a metaphor for life as a military kid. My interest level rose exponentially and she was kind enough to send me an old used library copy to read. (Much thanks for that.)
This book, like all of Jones's books, has had many covers. I'm using the latest UK cover because I really like these covers for her books.
The Homeward Bounders unfolds slowly. For the first part of the novel Jamie is all alone simply telling his story about how he came to be a Homeward Bounder and the way the worlds work. As he tells his tale little things about Them (the players) are revealed, and what is revealed is rather chilling. They have no regard for lives. They are ruthless in pursuit of the game they are playing. The game they are playing is us and our lives. And the lives of countless other beings in countless other worlds. We are all pieces on a giant board game helped along by computers and players (the identity of who is a brilliant reveal). Who hasn't wondered about that at some point in their life? This is the sheer genius of Diana Wynne Jones, taking the things everyone ponders and expanding on them and turning them into a brilliant story. Jamie is thrust out of his world after discovering the game. A "discard", he is forced to wander the worlds in search of home. He is alone for a great deal of his search and that loneliness comes off the page and affects the reader. Finally Jamie is able to find some companions. Helen is special in her world, but has been exiled because she also discovered too much. Joris is a demon hunter apprentice, a slave with so much devotion he was dragged into life as a Homeard Bounder by a demon he refused to let go. These three are misfits and they form a strong if somewhat squabble team. A team that doubles when they are able to convince some actual non-Bounders of what is going on. But of course, this can't last forever. They are not going to allow them to remain together without a fight. I really enjoyed Jamie as a character all alone, a wander traveling the worlds. And I loved his interactions with the family he cobbles together from the people he meets. Helen and Adam are particularly fun to watch him with.
The Homeward Bounders is tragic, far more so than a lot of Jones's books are. It is a sort of tragic that is full of purpose though. The trials are not for nothing and the people suffering them learn to adjust, though it leaves scars and yearnings they will never shake. Yes, I can see why some people have likened it to life as a military brat. There were some sentences that made me cry because, yes, they do describe the feelings you have, the feeling that home is a place out there somewhere if you could only just find it, but deep down you know you never will because you missed that chance. That your life is out of your control. That you form attachments only to have them ripped away from you so why bother forming them at all anymore. There is something utterly profound in the conclusion of the book that relates as well. The lack of choice the Bounders have about how long they stay in one place (but they do know approximately how long it will be) and their lack of choice in where they end up next speaks to it as well. Whether Jones did this intentionally or not, I can't help but wish I had this book growing up.
The Homeward Bounders is not a book everyone is going to like, but it is perfect for me. I think it is one of Jones's best actually. It doesn't have the charm and quirk of Chrestomanci, Howl, or Derkholm, but it still has a sly and ironic humor that keeps it from being too tragic. And in the end it really is a beautiful story that is brilliantly crafted.(less)
I received a copy of A Matter of Souls by Denise Lewis Patrick at ALA Midwinter, a signed copy after I met the author. I'm going to confess that I shelved it and forgot about it after returning until I unpacked it this past week after moving. I was reminded of the #weneeddiversebook campaign and decided the weekend of the 48 Hour Book Challenge was the perfect time to read it. I feel so bad for having neglected it for this long, but I feel even worse that I didn't see much buzz about it to remind me. WHY are more people not talking about this book????
A Matter of Souls is a collection of short stories. This is a format we don't see enough of in YA and these stories are so well written. Patrick has a way with words, pulling the reader into the story in just a few and holding them with the characters she has created. Each setting unique and yet not as they all center around the same basic theme and struggle. Each character is unique and their struggle, while familiar in general is unique to that person. Patrick gives each story equal glory. There is sadness in these pages. Heaps and heaps of it. There is death and darkness and the worst humanity as to offer. There is also life and hope and the struggle for more and better. There are glimpses of the better humanity sometimes attempts to strive for as well.
I really appreciate how the title and the final story ties the whole together. Every story anywhere is really a matter of souls and Patrick does an excellent job of illustrating that and the interconnectedness of all. The book makes an excellent resource for anyone teaching US History or creative writing, but needs to be talked of more simply because it is an amazingly good and powerful book. Read it. (less)
Adam Rex has a great sense of humor and he is able to wrap up a lot of wonderful social commentary into it. This book is a prime example of how well h...moreAdam Rex has a great sense of humor and he is able to wrap up a lot of wonderful social commentary into it. This book is a prime example of how well he does that. It is funny, heartwarming, and full of adventure. I loved the interactions between all the groups of people and the main characters, Gartuity and J. Lo, are fantastic. I did feel it was a little too long, but that is a typical complaint of mine with Rex's novels and one my students never seem to share. (less)
A novella that takes place during the Tang Dynasty and involves a relationship between a singer and a scholar, this is different from most any other r...moreA novella that takes place during the Tang Dynasty and involves a relationship between a singer and a scholar, this is different from most any other romance I've read. I liked it. The relationship moved a bit fast for me from, "hey we just met" to "I love you forever". That's pretty typical of a romance novella but this seemed more abrupt than usual. I am interested in reading Jeannie Lin's full length novels now though. I really enjoyed the setting. (less)
I read John David Anderson's Sidekicked last year and throughly enjoyed it. I was on the committee that shortlisted it for the Cybil's. I liked the shades of gray in the story and the attempt to look at the good and evil combined in each person. The companion novel, Minion, has all of this and I liked it even more.
This is a review of an ARC received from the publisher in exchange for a fair review.
There are those moments in your life, you know, when the last screw is tightened and the green light flashes and you realize that your whole worldview is a loose thread dangling from the blanket you've wrapped so tight around you. And somebody's gotten ahold of that one thread and is starting to pull. And most of you wants to tug back. To stay warm. To stay safe. To keep things as they were.
And then part of you wants to watch it unravel. Just to see how far it will go.
You will find this on the first page of Minion. I knew I would love this book from the moment I read this because it just nails it perfectly. Who hasn't felt this way at least once in their life? And who amongst us didn't experience this or something very similar to it in our early teens. It perfectly sums up that whole time of your life. It makes this book, and its main character, Michael, relatable. The book is all about Michael. Minion doesn't have as much action sequences as Sidekicked did, though they are still there. This is more about Michael figuring out who he is and where he stands in the world. He has been involved in many criminal activities. His best friend is a henchman for a crime boss. His father supplies questionable inventions to the same crime boss. Michael assists both of them. But Michael has some very strong opinions on the world and how he wants to live his life in it, and when confronted with hard choices and obstacles, he proceeds with a determination and bravery that is commendable if not always perfectly right.
Like Sidekicked, Minion is not a typical super-hero tale. It is even less of one really. The super-hero and his sidekick make very few appearances in this. Anderson has highlighted an interesting concept in doing that. What makes a true hero? Who are the everyday heroes in life? The ones that try to do what is right even when it is hard? These questions are all explored and Anderson does it in an interesting and fun way.
You do not have to read Sidekicked to read Minion. They are set in the same world but are two entirely separate stories with different characters. Both are good, but they are different. I do think most readers who enjoy fantasy and super-hero stories will be happy to read either one.
I read an e-galley provided by the publisher, Walden Pond Press, via Edelweiss. Minion will be on sale June 24th.(less)
I didn't like this one as much as the others in the series. The plot felt pieced together with no real cohesive whole and I didn't connect well with e...moreI didn't like this one as much as the others in the series. The plot felt pieced together with no real cohesive whole and I didn't connect well with either of the characters. I also though it was lacking in the banter/dialogue area which was the strength of the other books. (less)
I've liked the plot of this one the most so far. I loved how it was a simple story about balancing life, love, and ambition. I adored Cade (he's my fa...moreI've liked the plot of this one the most so far. I loved how it was a simple story about balancing life, love, and ambition. I adored Cade (he's my favorite hero thus far too). Some of my favorite parts of this book were the ones between him and Zach. Overall this is just really well done. Reading all these back to back so quickly, makes one pick up on the things James likes to reuse. Well then. (I'm not ever saying those two words together again.)(less)
I liked that this one didn't have the drama of danger and a villain with too much page time. On the other hand, this one felt like it had a...more3.5 stars
I liked that this one didn't have the drama of danger and a villain with too much page time. On the other hand, this one felt like it had a lot more backstory for both characters that needed filling in. It does have all the things I like about James's other novels: smart, hard-working, sensible people falling in love with lots of great banter and sexual tension. (less)
I really enjoyed this. I'm all about these light fun contemporary YA reads right now. I liked how Lainey acts like a typical teenage girl. Her post br...moreI really enjoyed this. I'm all about these light fun contemporary YA reads right now. I liked how Lainey acts like a typical teenage girl. Her post break-up self is full of drama and overreactions and a little bit selfish. All of us who have been there and lived that can relate and know how it feels. I like when books for teens have real teens in them, and not adults masquerading as teens. This book does a good job of that. I thoroughly enjoyed the banter between the romantic leads in it too. I loved the best-friendship between Lainey and Bianca as well. (less)
I have a thing for best friend turned lovers stories and this one is so good. I also really enjoyed that it was about an older couple also dealing wit...moreI have a thing for best friend turned lovers stories and this one is so good. I also really enjoyed that it was about an older couple also dealing with things like their children getting married and moving on with their lives. I'm nowhere near that phase of life yet, but I can imagine it isn't going to be easy. I enjoyed how Mack and Anne balanced and smoothed each other out. I have always liked the character of Mack in the other chocolate books. He's such a great dad and it was fun to get to see more of his personality than just the father role. It was also fun to see all the other couples playing and having fun together at the wedding. And Sylvain! The Chocolate Thief is my least favorite of all Florand's books and I didn't fall for him as a hero as much as the other chocolatier, BUT I have fallen for him more and more in each novel he has shown up in. Man does he know how to snark at and discombobulate the other heroes in the best way. Loved what he did with Mack and the chocolate. :) (less)
I read Something About You a while ago and enjoyed it but didn't love it. I recently reread it to remind myself of why I didn't seem to like James's n...moreI read Something About You a while ago and enjoyed it but didn't love it. I recently reread it to remind myself of why I didn't seem to like James's novels as much as everyone else I know. In doing this I also remembered how much I liked the good stuff: the banter, intelligent, successful characters who behave like the adults they are, and how the romantic and sexual tension builds. I decided I needed to read A Lot Like Love sooner rather than later. I ended up liking this one more. I appreciate Jordan's character especially in this. Man this girl is the queen of snark. And Nick is the perfect match for her. I'm also a huge sucker for the pretend relationship that turns real trope so this was probably a guaranteed win for me. The same thing that bothered me about the first book in the series (the amount of time spent following the villain around as he plots) bothered about this one too. It isn't enough to turn me away from these though. I'm well and truly hooked now and sense a binge read coming on. I'm already thinking longingly of the next installment. (less)
The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson is one of those books that had a lot of excitement and promotion leading up to its release. Those books always make me wary. While I really wanted to read it, I worried about it not living up to my expectations. Well, that was a groundless worry. I LOVED this book and my only regret is I'm not teaching in the fall and won't have a roomful of MG kids to book-talk it to.
This is a realistic fiction book that has absolutely no grounding in reality, which is not at all a bad thing, because readers love those books. I was going to say kid readers but decided that was condescending and untrue. I love those sort of books too (and not just ones written for kids) as do a number of other adults. The romance and mystery genres make the money they do because people love this type of book so much. I don't think the MG category has nearly enough of them that are as well written as this one is.
The concept is basically Ocean's Eleven for kids and it is all kinds of fun. There is a corrupt principal and cocky popular kid to take down and the school's clubs to save. It will take a crack team of super-smart friends to save the school's election from being stolen from the students. Does this middle school actually exist anywhere? One that has this many actively participated in funded extracurriculars and a student government with actual power? No. No it doesn't, not in the realm of public schools anyway. HOWEVER, it is the middle school every kid fantasizes about going to. One where there will be a place for them somewhere and they will be able to practice agency over their own lives. And what kid doesn't love a story where the kids get to outsmart the principal? Johnson clearly gets his audience.
The cast is diverse, which is obvious from the cover, but I don't just mean that it is racially diverse. These kids all have distinct interests and personalities. Leading them all is Jackson Greene, president of the Botany club, basketball super-star, and Earl Grey tea drinker. His grandfather was an excellent con-man, and armed with his wits and his grandfather's rules for staging a con, Jackson has perpetrated some schemes that the entire school population still talks about despite his new course on the straight and narrow. After his last job resulted in losing one of his best friend's, the girl he also happened to have a crush on, he is staying out of it. But Gaby is the one who will lose if he doesn't intervene, and for her he is willing to take on a new job. Even if she doesn't want him to. Gaby is a brilliant leader and amazing basketball player. I really liked how she balanced out Jackson and how she handled the many tricky situations she found herself in from confronting jerks to being honest with a boy about her feelings, to telling her friends what she thinks. Gaby never betrays or backs down from who she is. Each member of the team Jackson assembles to run the heist are equally distinct and rounded. Charlie is Gaby's brother, Jackson's best friend, and the editor of the school paper. Bradley is the eager, excited, office helper who is the inside man. Hash is a tech geek, Star Trek fan, and highly nervous around girls. Megan, the pretty cheerleader, is also a tech genius who is a passionate gamer and also speaks fluent Klingon. I appreciated what the author did with all these characters. While Hash is fairly stereotypical for a tech geek he still has a distinct personality and is foiled by Megan, who is not a stereotypical tech geek or cheerleader. The subtle message that comes across is that each person is not one thing, but total of all things that make them who they are. Each character highlights this in their own way but never in a manner that makes it THE MESSAGE.
Interspersed through the book are also some clever commentaries on society. Some of these kids will get and some will go over their heads, but the way Johnson wove them in to the narrative was smart. From how easy it is to corrupt an election process, to the school secretary who can't tell students in any non-white race apart, to the power brokering of the kids with money in the school, Johnson has brought out some interesting issues. The truly miraculous thing? He does all this character development, plotting, and theme building in 226 engaging pages. How? He has pretty much mastered the art of showing and not telling.
The Great Greene Heist is a perfect read for anyone who loves con stories, school stories, friendship stories, or just stories in general. (less)
I really had fun reading Clark's former duology, The Assassin's Curse and The Pirate's Wish, so was excited when I discovered another book was coming...moreI really had fun reading Clark's former duology, The Assassin's Curse and The Pirate's Wish, so was excited when I discovered another book was coming out set in the same world. While still a fun and intriguing story, I didn't enjoy this one as much as the previous two. Hanna has an interesting past and eventually does some interesting things, but for a large portion of the novel she complains and flounces a lot. The story takes so long to go anywhere truly interesting. The majority of it is spent on the boat, and I don't love stories that take place on boats. Also, enough people I trust have called in to question Clark's research and knowledge of how boating works that I find myself distrustful now whenever her characters on a boat. This felt a bit repetitive too. The Mists need to be defeated by a girl on a boat with a boy who has a mysterious origin. AGAIN??? All of that combined to make it harder for me to get into. But I love the magic and world-building still.(less)
2.5 stars-I'm truly split right in the middle on this one.
I really wanted to love this. Big city setting, knitting, and romance. All things I love.
Th...more2.5 stars-I'm truly split right in the middle on this one.
I really wanted to love this. Big city setting, knitting, and romance. All things I love.
The heroine here, Janie, is really interesting as is her voice. She is clearly a genius and possibly has Asperger's. The way her mind works is fascinating and it was well done on the part of the author getting the reader into her mind and its convoluted workings. After losing her job and boyfriend on the same day, she picks herself up and moves on surprisingly quickly from both. She's more devastated by the job loss than the cheating boyfriend. The hero, Quinn, is of the silent brooding variety. The sort who orders for you in restaurants. (He does this for her more than once before she decided to maybe think about taking issue with it in her own head.) I liked how their relationship was a slow burn. Those are my favorite type and these two spend a lot of time circling each other and bantering. Always good times.
However, there were so many things that bothered me. There is a lot of melodrama for one. Evil sister who is practically a doppleganger for the heroine! Knife and gun fight with evil skinhead mafia henchman! Crazy shenanigans of former boyfriend! All together it was a little too much for my tastes. Also, this book does not pass the Bechdel test at all. I don't really expect romance novels to pass that test, but there is a group of fun friends who meet together to drink wine and knit. That's awesome! Except they only ever talk about boys. In this particular case, they only ever talk about Quinn and the loser ex. Every conversation Janie has with her best friend is a about her boy troubles. There was potential for more there, and I'm sad that it wasn't developed. This is not the author's fault, just my expectations not matching that of the book.
My biggest problem though is that the book should have been edited better. There are several grammatical errors (misuse of then/than happened more than once). Someone should have pointed out that maybe the phrase "I looked at him through my lashes" is not worth repeating a couple dozen times. I've seen this phrase in books before, but always from the third person perspective where it makes more sense. I think the expression that is on one's face when described as "she looked through her lashes" is not one that can be intentionally tried without the person looking like a half-blind idiot. Stating you are doing it in the first person is just ridiculous. One time. Repeat it over and over and it just becomes a drinking game. Then there was this gem: "He let out a breath I didn't know he was holding." An unintentionally hilarious remake of "the evil sentence". Why would you know he was holding his breath? Who keeps track of the breaths of the people around them?
In the end I'm not opposed to reading things by this author in the future, but I would want some assurance that the book went through a more thorough editing process first. (less)
Knightley & Son by Rohan Gavin is a perfect read for budding mystery enthusiasts who may not be quite ready for Sherlock Holmes. I was drawn to this book not only because of the mystery, but also because of the father/son dynamic that the synopsis promised.
This is a review of an ARC received from the publisher in exchange for a fair review.
Darkus and Alan both bear a strong resemblance to iconic detective Sherlock Holmes. Darkus is socially awkward, but mature and super polite. Both he and his father have a strong observation skills, and Darkus is particularly good at deducing through rational thought. Alan is a bit off his game having been asleep for four years. This gives Darkus an advantage over his father making him the hero. Kids love it when this device is used in their books, and Gavin does a good job with it. At the same time Darkus and his father have a continuously developing relationship that is interesting in itself. Alan was an absent workaholic prior to falling into his long sleep, and he firmly believes that keeping his distance from his son is the best thing for him. In the years his father has been asleep, Darkus decided to become as much like him as possible in order to impress him when he woke up. Alan is impressed, but also chagrined, chastened, and a bit incredulous. Alan is not at all a likeable character. At one point he even says, "She was distracting, Doc. As female counterparts often are." This is an attitude that shines through his entire life, including his dealings with his ex-wife. Darkus fortunately doesn't seem swallow his father's anti-women in the business sentiments. The girl in question here is Darkus's stepsister, Tilly, who is a marvelous character. She needed to be in the book more, and will hopefully be featured more prominently as the series continues.
The mystery is a fun one featuring a mysterious book that is causing people to commit heinous crimes. Alan believes a sinister organization is behind it all. As the case continues, it becomes clear that something with a lot of muscle and little conscience is behind it all. It is one of those mysteries that is a race agains time. It is an engaging read. I know several of my students will be highly interested in it.
One thing I really liked was that the Britishisms were not Americanized. THANK YOU!
I read an ARC received from the publisher, Bloomsbury USA Children's, at ALA Midwinter. Knightley & Son is available for purchase now. (less)
I seem to be in the minority here, but this really didn't work for me. I just could not like Simon. At all. I was worried about that going in, because...moreI seem to be in the minority here, but this really didn't work for me. I just could not like Simon. At all. I was worried about that going in, because he wasn't exactly likeable in the previous two books either, but I hoped that having him as the hero might change my mind. Nope. For most of the book he's the world's biggest jerk and then I ended up not liking Juliana for wasting her time pining over him. I couldn't figure out why she was so determined to care. His big "turn around" just didn't work for me either. (less)
This was a fun night's read but I didn't like it as much as Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake. I liked Minerva House and all the women who liv...moreThis was a fun night's read but I didn't like it as much as Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake. I liked Minerva House and all the women who lived there. I also liked getting Nicholas's story as I enjoyed his character very much in the first book. I am not a big fan of the lack-of-communication-leading-to-misunderstanding device though and this book beat that trope to death. It is particularly bothersome when both characters think about how they should be talking about the problems and THEN DON"T. (less)