Friday, September 30, 2011

2011 book 251

Edward Eager's Seven-Day Magic
Eager's books were some of my favorites when I was a kid (and still are, really)--I think they laid the groundwork for my love of books where magic comes into the real world.  I've been waiting and waiting for Kindle versions to come out (my copies are pretty worn) and was pleased to discover last week that three were available. Of course, they're a motley assortment; Eager wrote seven kids' books, and these three aren't connected at all (four of his books take place in the same universe, two in their own, and this one is a stand-alone that sort of relates to the first four). Anyway, my point is that all of them should be available.

If you were curious, this one is about a group of kids who check a magical book out of the library, except it's way funnier than that description makes it sound.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

awesome comics

Some awesome awesome awesome comics came out this week and I've been busy reading them, hence the lack of book posting. First up, Kate Beaton's Hark! A Vagrant book--I mean, ok, you can read all those comics online but the book format is great, just a really attractive package, and it's so nice to giggle over jokes about history and literature. And mystery-solving teens.

But what I am REALLY excited about is that Love and Rockets New Stories vol. 4 came out this week. Jaime Hernandez is just blowing my mind these days, between the stuff in here and the stories from vol. 3--moving along Maggie's story especially, but filling in these huge gaps in the story of her childhood as well. I cried three times while reading and am already reading the whole thing again. I can't wait till these stories come out in one of those cute little Locas books.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

2011 book 250

Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone
This much-hyped debut centers on a young art student in Prague, only it's a YA fantasy so she was raised by these weird demon creatures and can make wishes to like turn her hair blue (man, if it was only that easy!).  She doesn't really know anything about her past and is dealing with ex-boyfriend angst and hanging with her art school friends when an angel dude starts coming after her. I will say that I appreciated that, although this book is being touted as an epic romance type of deal, the author spends the first chunk of the book on world-building and developing the character of our blue-haired protagonist. And the romance rings pretty false at first, but as the story goes deeper and secrets are revealed more or less in a timely manner (hooray, I correctly guessed most of them), I was completely caught up. And then of course, it ends, and I have to wait till god knows how long for a sequel. A-.

Monday, September 26, 2011

2011 book 249

Jennifer Castle's The Beginning of After
I didn't mean to read two pretty sad books in a row, but this one was a real weepy, about a teenager whose parents and little brother are killed in a car accident, and like that's not enough to cope with, she's suddenly becoming closer to the neighbor whose father was driving the car. Also there are some awesome cats and dogs. Things aren't entirely believable but they are thoroughly engrossing. A-.

2011 book 248

Leah Hager Cohen's The Grief of Others
Lovely, lovely book about a broken family a year after their newborn son died from birth defects (the mother knew the child had no chance to live but didn't disclose that to her husband or older children).  Of course, they were kind of broken before that happened too. But with the passing of time, and the entrance of new people (and dogs) into their lives, can they be repaired? I loved the writing here, and especially enjoyed the character of ten year old Biscuit, who searches for answers in books. A.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

2011 book 247

Shannon Hale's Forest Born
The conclusion to the Books of Bayern is a satisfying one, though perhaps not as compelling as the previous three, with its brand-new protagonist who spends a lot of time being insecure about everything. Still a good read though. A-/B+.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

2011 book 246

Shannon Hale's River Secrets
Another great entry in the Books of Bayern series, as several characters from the past couple books travel to a neighboring kingdom to prevent another war. Action-packed with romance = always a good read. A.

Friday, September 23, 2011

2011 book 245

Shannon Hale's Enna Burning
The sequel to The Goose Girl departs from the world of already-existent fairy tales and focuses more on the previous protagonist's best friend, a girl who learns to control fire (handy and/or dangerous during a time of war). I have to say, Hale writes some badass heroines, and I like that there's romance but it's not the main plotline in either of these. Can't wait to read the next one (though I think that one's main character is a guy, but he's a likable guy from the previous two books, so that's okay). A.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

2011 book 244

Shannon Hale's The Goose Girl
I was in the mood for more fantasy-ish stories, and it turns out Hale has also written a series called the Books of Bayern that seemed interesting. The first is a reworking of the goose girl fairy tale, but really the only resemblance is that a princess becomes a goose girl for the kingdom of the prince to whom she's betrothed, and there's so much more to the story than that. There's some really interesting intrigue here, and our protagonist can talk to birds and her horse, which is always entertaining, and Hale even manages to touch on the iniquity of the feudal system (or whatever system this is, I mean, it's a fairy tale and not historically accurate). Anyway, A, and I'm off to read the next one.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

2011 book 243

Shannon Hale's Princess Academy
Amazon kept recommending books by Hale to me, and I knew I recognized the name but couldn't find any record of her on this blog. So a click on Amazon and I realized--she (along with her husband) wrote the awesome graphic novel Rapunzel's Revenge! And since this was also a Newbery Honor book, it seemed worth a read. And it was a super cute MG book where all the girls in a small rock quarrying village are sent to Princess Academy to be trained on lady-ship, since some priests have decreed that the prince is destined to marry a girl from there. Our protagonist, Miri, has always felt small and useless, but discovers some of her talents while there. I definitely saw some of the plot twists coming, but hey, this is an MG book. And it was entertaining enough that it really didn't matter anyway. A.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

2011 book 242

Ann Patchett's Bel Canto
I've been meaning to reread this since I read State of Wonder, and the yen suddenly hit me strongly tonight. Patchett is one of those writers who can create completely individual worlds, peoples, circumstances, in each of her books, and really, her masterful language is the only thing that ties them together (especially her most recent few). Anyway, this one definitely holds up, and it's broken my heart every time I've read it.

Monday, September 19, 2011

2011 book 241

Kirsten Miller's Kiki Strike: Inside the Empress' Tomb
The second Kiki Strike book is even awesomer than the first one.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

2011 book 240

Kathleen O'Dell's The Aviary
Wonderful, wonderful MG book about a little girl growing up in a big ol' falling apart mansion--her mother is the caretaker for the elderly woman who lives there, the widow of a famous magician, a kindly woman who loves her roses and her birds. When the girl hears a story about the woman's baby son being kidnapped many years ago, she decides to solve the mystery (with the help of a new friend). O'Dell doesn't drag out plot points that are easy for an older reader to figure out; the pacing in general is pretty strong. Great characters (especially the birds) and great resolution. A.

2011 book 239

Anna Solomon's The Little Bride
So it's the 1880s and a young Russian-Jewish girl is getting ready to get sent to America to be some random dude's bride (a deeply unpleasant process, if this book is accurate at all), but things are even weirder than she expected, as she suddenly has two stepsons who are right around her age. And it's South Dakota, and farming is hard, and winters are awful, and the story moves really slowly (though, to its credit, not always where you'd expect). B.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

2011 book 238

Kirsten Miller's Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City
I love this series and hadn't revisited it in a while, but according to Miller's blog, a third one will be coming out in 2012 (5 years since the last one! But she's been busy writing a YA paranormal epic romance series or whatever). Anyway, great, interesting, and very funny group of heroines here.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Sorry for the fewer-than-usual number of book updates this week--I've been busy exploring Pottermore while listening to new music (Wild Flag, Girls, Mates of State, etc) (plus Hopscotch was this past weekend) and have been less focused on reading. Plus fall tv season is starting which cuts into reading time. I was psyched to be managing a book a day for a while there, but that might be unrealistic.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

2011 book 237

Sarah Beth Durst's Drink, Slay, Love
Here is how I described this book earlier this evening, more or less verbatim: "So there is this vampire girl, and she's doing like vampire things with her vampire boyfriend, when a unicorn stabs her and suddenly she can be out in sunlight, so her vampire parents make her enroll in high school so she can lure a bunch of students to a feast for the vampire king of New England, only she kind of has a conscience now and is accidentally making friends and stuff, and there's a cute human boy who is way better than her douchey vampire boyfriend." Durst's writing is for the most part knowingly tongue in cheek and funny (there are a few too many instances of spelling out just what the protagonist is feeling, but it is YA) and the second half of the novel is especially entertaining. A-.

Monday, September 12, 2011

2011 book 236

Sebastian Barry's On Canaan's Side
Barry writes readable novels where past secrets are revealed and sometimes things are a little over-dramatic. This one isn't any different--elderly Lilly, in the aftermath of her grandson's suicide, recounts her life story (including her immigration from Ireland to America just after World War I). Barry's prose is lovely and like I said, it's readable, but the big plot twist is heavily foreshadowed (I couldn't tell if it was meant to be a surprise or not) and the sorrows piled on sorrows are a little much at time. B/B+.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

2011 book 235

Gabrielle Zevin's All These Things I've Done
So it's the near future (2083, by my reckoning) and it's a kind of dystopia where chocolate is illegal but otherwise things aren't too different for teenagers. Though maybe 16-year0old Anya isn't really typical--she's the orphaned daughter of a mob boss (chocolate mafia!) and her mother, who was killed in a failed hit on the mob boss. Anya and her dying grandmother are trying to hold the family together, but soon Anya is distracted by the new boy in school (who happens to be the assistant DA's son). I'm realizing that this sounds like super dramatic angsty YA and it's not--Zevin is a solid writer (I've liked all of her books) and Anya is a great character, trying to be tough. I especially liked her relationship with her sister. Anyway, the way it ends makes me think there's a sequel in the works--or at least I hope so, since I really want to know what happens to these characters next. A/A-.

Friday, September 09, 2011

2011 book 234

Heather Dixon's Entwined
This is just a delightful book--and at times, scary, intense, romantic, and hilarious--reworking the twelve dancing princesses fairy tale. Azalea (all the girls are named after plants) is the oldest of eleven--soon to be twelve--sisters living in a castle with remnants of magic in it. When their mother dies, and their strict father forbids dancing, and then they find a magical dance pavilion with a mysterious Keeper, well of course they go dancing every night. But obviously you can't just hang out with a mysterious Keeper all the time and expect things to go okay. Some plot points are easy to telegraph, but since this is a fairy tale kind of story, there's really nothing wrong with that. And I loved the ending. A.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

2011 book 233

Elissa Schappell's Blueprints for Building Better Girls
I'm not into reading books of short stories--I like something meatier, that I can really get into--but make exceptions for books of interconnected short stories like the ones in this book. In these stories, Schappel delves into the inner lives of women--well, the inner lives of troubled young girls and the women they become. And sometimes their moms. And maybe I shouldn't say troubled young girls, since these girls are actually pretty normal in my experience--aren't all young girls troubled to an extent? Aren't all moms sometimes frustrated with their children (even as they wholeheartedly love them)? Well, it's not like I'm an expert, but I am a woman and I give this an A. Very realistic and interesting characters. I'm going to reread it sometime soon so I can map out all the relationships better. Also, someone should make a personality quiz. "Are you a Paige? Are you a Heather?" (I am not serious about that.)

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

2011 book 232

Seanan McGuire's One Salt Sea
The fifth October Daye book is a little bit of a slow starter but heats up about 1/3 of the way in as Toby has to find two missing boys and stop a fairy war. The romance angle was pretty boring, but at least they finally mention her daughter again after forgetting she existed for a couple of books. I'm not really sure where the series is going from here--I think there are two books left--but I'll keep reading. B.

Monday, September 05, 2011

2011 book 231

Tricia Springstubb's Mo Wren, Lost and Found
The sequel to What Happened on Fox Street is a stronger book, though still on the light/heartwarming side, as Mo tries to deal with moving away from her beloved Fox Street so her father can pursue his dream of opening a sports bar. B+.

2011 book 230

Cate Tiernan's Immortal Beloved
OK, straight off I need to say that this book has a TERRIBLE title, the kind that makes you think it's some ridiculous paranormal romance about soulmates (I hate books like that). But actually, it's about an immortal girl who has gone through some dark stuff, and now she's fled to like a halfway house for immortals, where she's going to deal with her past and have some self-discovery while farming and meditating. There is a love interest, but the romance isn't really a main part of the book (such a relief). It does end really abruptly, but it's the first of a trilogy so I guess that's ok. Anyway, interesting world-building and I look forward to the sequel. A-.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

2011 book 229

Scarlett Thomas' PopCo
This is one of my all-time favorite books, and I'm not entirely sure why, since I've never been super into math and there is a fair amount of math talk. Of course, there's also codes, mysteries, toys, marketing, and a little romance. And some hilariously outdated tech talk (Hotmail! Being shocked by wireless!). I bought it for my Kindle since it was only like 6 bucks--some of the charts get cut off a bit but most of the non-text parts are intact. I just love this book.

2011 book 228

Chelsea Campbell's The Rise of Renegade X
Sometimes you just have to reread one of your favorite books about a teenage boy, raised by his supervillain mother, who finds out his father is a superhero. And there's romance and adventure and rayguns. So awesome.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

2011 book 227

Lisa McMann's The Unwanteds
This is one of those MG books with an interesting premise--it's a dystopian society where, at the age of 13, kids are divided into Wanted, Necessary, and Unwanted, and the Unwanteds are sent to be eliminated, only really they're taken to a secret world of creativity and magic NO REALLY THAT IS WHAT THE WORLD IS LIKE--but that's written in such a way that it's cheesy and obvious to adults (and I read--and love--a fair amount of MG/YA books, so I know they can be done well). The writing just feels sloppy sometimes, with a third person omniscient narrator focusing mainly on one kid, but very occasionally breaking into the thoughts of another character out of nowhere (this seems like it must be a shortcut to get to know the other characters, but it doesn't really work, and they all remain ciphers). Plus, like I said, cheesy and obvious. Too bad. I almost didn't finish but wanted to see if my predictions were right, and they all were. B/B-.

2011 book 226

Diana Abu-Jaber's Birds of Paradise
I've read a couple of Abu-Jaber's earlier books (though really only remember her memoir and how sumptuously she described food) so was looking forward to this one--it's about a family in Miami that's been falling apart at the seams since daughter Felice ran away when she was thirteen. It's told primarily from the POVs of the parents and daughter--I think the book could have benefited from more with the older brother (owner of a successful organic market) and with less of the father's work drama (development deals are boring) but I was very happy with how much there was of the mother's baking. Anyway, this didn't really disappoint--speedy plot and winning characters, and lots of delicious-sounding desserts. A-.

Friday, September 02, 2011

2011 book 225

Stephanie Burgis' Kat, Incorrigible
Very charming MG book about an early 1800s-era girl who discovers she's inherited her mother's magical powers--there's also lots of Austen-lite plot going on, as her detested stepmother is trying to marry her older sister off to a rich jerkwad, and her other older sister is trying to find her true love. And some other stuff. Very likable characters--the three sisters are especially great together. A-.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

2011 book 224

Kendare Blake's Anna Dressed in Blood
Cas is a teenage boy who, since his father died, travels around with his mother hunting--and slaying--ghosts. But when he heads to Canada to stop the famous Anna Dressed in Blood, he gets more than he bargained for--she's much stronger, and more aware, than any ghost he's faced before. OK, so the premise sounded a little silly to me, but the first chapter totally hooked me and it stays fairly strong from there (occasionally characters do idiotic things that no one in real life would ever do, but mostly the plot is good). It's pretty grisly at parts and something bad happens to a cat, so fair warning there. B+.