Monday, January 15, 2018

2018 book 6

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Sometimes I have less patience for Teen Angst Harry Potter, but this time around I was like YEAH! YELL about injustice! LEAD revolutionary groups (with the inspiration and help of Hermione, of course)! Of course one does wish that Harry was occasionally more sensible, but then there would be much less to the story. I mean, it is slightly unwieldy, but Rowling does pull most of the threads together in the end. I do sometimes wish we saw more of Hermione's parents ans their home life—the fleeting glimpses here and there are so interesting.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

2018 book 5

Kathleen Barber's Are You Sleeping
I heard of this book recently when it was optioned for a tv show (an Apple digital one) set to star Octavia Spencer. It centers on a true-crime podcast, looking into the murder of a popular college professor and the teenager convicted of the crime--and on the murder victim's now-adult daughter, who has been keeping her past secret from her long-term boyfriend. There is also an estranged identical twin sister! So basically, it was right up my alley. The novel is peppered with tweets, Slate articles, and Reddit comments, which totally adds to the verisimilitude. I will say the writing is overly dramatic a lot of the time, and the climax was something of a letdown, but this was still a very entertaining read. B.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

2018 book 4

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Finishing rereading this is the perfect way to wrap up my Harry Potter vacation! I had been alternating the HP books with other ones, but from here on out, I just want to plow through the rest of the story. This book is so well plotted and the characterization is just excellent—really a high point in the series.

Thursday, January 04, 2018

2018 book 3

Elizabeth Wein's Star Wars: The Last Jedi: Cobalt Squadron
Are you FREAKING KIDDING ME?!? How did I not know that Elizabeth Wein, author of my beloved Code Name Verity, wrote one of the STAR WARS TIE IN NOVELS?? Just imagine  a chorus of angels singing right now to fully understand my feelings on this matter. Anyway, this focuses on awesome sisters Paige and Rose Tico, flying spaceships and jerry-rigging equipment and doing reconnaissance missions for the Resistance. (And yes it does talk about their necklaces and yes Disney really need to get some officially licensed jewelry to market.) I also loved that all of the leadership figures we see are middle aged women! If there is one thing Wein is an expert in, it is telling stories about ladies who love each other and also fly airplanes, so this is a gimme. Love it. A-.

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

2018 book 2

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Besides being generally one of the strongest books in the HP series, this one in particular is the PERFECT book to reread before visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, since it lovingly describes so many details of both Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. The more I reread these, though, the more it becomes obvious that Snape's character cannot be redeemed. Does the wizarding world not have therapists? That guy needs to work on his anger issues.

Monday, January 01, 2018

2018 book 1

Jaclyn Moriarty's The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone
Starting the year off with a super charming middle grade fantasy adventure by one of my favorite authors seemed like the way to go! In this very funny and sweet story, the titular ten year old finds out her parents—who left her with an aunt as a baby to go off and have adventures—have been killed by pirates, and their magical will has very specific instructions sending her off on adventures to see her ten aunts and deliver them gifts. There are also lots of delightful cousins, a helpful loud librarian, good and bad magical types, and a very awesome and clever heroine. I liked this very much and am psyched it looks like Moriarty is writing another book set in this world. A.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017 book 217

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
I maintain that this is the weakest of the HP books, but the creation of Gilderoy Lockhart is an all-time winner. A champion example of a hilarible mansplainer. I will also submit a hot take at this time: I do NOT understand y’all who are into Draco Malfoy. In the first book he is a snobbish asshole; in this one, he is straight up racist and relishes the thought of Muggle-borns dying. So like, what is the appeal there? Anyway, Hermione manages to save the day while basically in a coma, so yay for that.

It looks like this is the last book of the year for me—here’s to more good reading in 2018!

Saturday, December 30, 2017

2017 book 216

Kim Fu's The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore 
This book has been getting a TON of buzz and let me tell you, it lives up to the hype. It’s centered on a group of young girls at a summer camp in Vancouver, and a kayaking trip that goes awry, flashing back and forth between that event and the girls' young adulthoods. It’s compelling and evocative stuff. Just really outstanding. A.

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

Thursday, December 28, 2017

2017 book 215

J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
I will very soon be going to THE WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER, fulfilling what feels like a lifelong dream—even though I know that is not logically possible—so of course I had to immerse myself in some HP to prepare. This is such a good intro to the world and sets up so much of the later stuff, though I do think Dumbledore is way more problematic than intended. This is balanced out by NEVILLE. I LOVE YOU, NEVILLE.

Monday, December 25, 2017

2017 book 214

Thisbe Nissen's Our Lady of the Prairie 
Literary novels about middle aged academics having affairs have never been something I was particularly interested in, but this one grabbed me—at first—with its strong narrative voice. The fact that the narrator is a middle aged Jewish woman theater professor also made this feel a bit fresher, plus the first half of the novel turns on her mentally ill daughter's marriage to an Amish man—so a lot of balls are being juggled, but I found it compelling enough. Things start to drag as the narrator becomes mired in indecision and self pity, and I could have done without a lengthy dream sequence about WWII French collaborators as well as the lengthy retreads of the Bush-Kerry election (the novel is set in 2004 for some reason). I just found this all to be more insufferable the longer it went on. B-.

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book will be released on January 23.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

2017 book 213

Melissa Albert's The Hazel Wood
Protagonist Alice is a teenage girl whose single mother has moved her from place to place, trying to outrun their bad luck. She is also the granddaughter of a reclusive author of creepy fairy tales who has a cult following. When they hear said grandmother has died, they think they are finally free, but that is when things really start to go wrong. This story was weird, and creepy, and unexpected, and awesome. I read this all in one sitting and loved almost every second of it. A/A-.

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book will be released on January 30th.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

2017 book 212

Ann Patchett's Bel Canto
I have had three separate conversations about Patchett recently, which of course made me want to reread some Patchett! I am personally not into opera, but this story is so operatic (and I guess they did actually make an opera of it recently, to boot) that it makes me want to try and get into it! If you have somehow not read this book, it is the story of a group of South American guerillas who take a party of fancy people hostage. It is beautiful and tragic. State of Wonder is probably an even stronger novel, but this one really speaks to me.

Monday, December 18, 2017

2017 book 211

Jodi Lynn Anderson's My Diary from the Edge of the World
This is a perfectly fine middle grade book set in a world that is very similar to ours, except that it's also got a lot of paranormal creatures wreaking havoc--oh, and it's flat. The book is meant to be the diary of a middle-schooler but the narrative voice was not particularly authentic to me. Still, it's an interesting story of a family on the run, trying to escape a terrible fate, and maybe make it to the Extraordinary World--our world. I liked the family relationships here but wished for a little bit more, I guess? B/B+.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

2017 book 210

Sage Blackwood's Miss Ellicott's School for the Magically Minded
This was a very cute MG fantasy centered on a girl at the titular school, who has to band together with her friends to save the city with magic and heart and the occasional crossbow. The book doesn’t make light of the cost of war but there are some funny moments, and I especially liked all the little magical schoolgirls (and Anna!). I also liked that it talked about things like the inaccuracies of history lessons. Good stuff. A-/B+.

Monday, December 11, 2017

2017 book 209

Erika Johansen’s The Fate of the Tearling
The conclusion to Johansen’s Tearling trilogy improves on a second reading, when you can see her laying the groundwork for how things are going down. There is still a lot going on, but not in a bad way, and I appreciate how she humanizes (some of) her villains in this volume. Still a lot of sexual violence and rape threats, which I personally prefer less of in my epic fantasy. I’ve read that the author is planning more books set in this universe, and I’ll read them, or anything else she writes, because she has a deft hand with plot and characterization.

2017 book 208

Erika Johansen's The Invasion of the Tearling
Another gripping one, even though I have read it before! In the second Tearling book, the narrative is divided between the young queen, and a woman from our near future (a future that feels nearer every day, frankly), which answers a lot of questions about the world and how it came to be. Unfortunately this volume ramps up the sexual violence, which does make a lot of it hard to read. Still a solid story though.